Consulting in the Information Age
Technology has influenced all aspects of modern life for both businesses and consumers. Technology offers many tools that help consultants gather information and help their clients. The Information Age — the wide sharing of information using technology — has expanded knowledge and opened up opportunities for problem-solving consultants.
Here's an example of consulting in the Information Age. A successful direct marketing consultant serves clients throughout the United States without ever leaving her rural home in South Dakota. Her office is in her house, which has three incoming lines for telephones, faxes, and broadband Internet access. She has an answering system that sounds like she has a receptionist and a computer system that allows her to quickly develop graphic layouts for clients. From her office, she can simultaneously send her monthly newsletter by e-mail to thousands of clients and prospects. She sends and receives dozens of e-mail messages from clients and resources each day. She even does her banking and orders office supplies online. She recently installed a video telephone conferencing system for face-to-face meetings with her primary clients in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
The Internet that allows you to consult with out-of-town clients also allows your clients to develop business relationships with consultants in other countries — at lower fees. Make sure your service is not one that draws competition from consultants in countries where the cost of living is dramatically below yours.
Consumer consultants can also use the Internet to interface with prospective and regular clients. However, most rely on face-to-face relations, using the Internet as a marketing and communication tool. Their web page and e-mail addresses are included on business cards, but most of their consulting is done in person.
Computers and the Internet
The Internet has dramatically changed how all businesses manage their processes. It has been especially powerful in the past decade as consumers of all ages rely on the worldwide web and search engines such as Google to find useful information on any topic.
Computers are numerical machines, and the Internet began as a resource for sharing data. To help in decisions, data must be converted into information, then knowledge. That process requires knowledgeable human beings who can use data to develop solutions.
Fortunately, you don't have to be a computer wizard to use the power of computers and the Internet in your consulting business. This book describes and offers specific resources that you can use to help your clients. The Internet is one. If you are intimidated by the thought of using computers, you have two choices:
Select a consulting business design that doesn't require computers
Learn how to use computers, one step at a time
Remember that your competitors probably have an Internet presence and that not using the Internet may put you at a competitive disadvantage.