Is OD hard to explain?

In my last post on OD as a commodity, I received a comment stating that OD is  difficult to market, since it is hard to explain what OD actually does. In parallel, Change Management is far more “explainable” and user friendly for the client…..except that Change Management often does not deliver.

This comment deserves some elaboration.So this post will relate to the difficulty of marketing OD, and what I propose as a strategy to promote your practice.

I believe that OD is not a commodity and not marketable as such. Were OD to be a commodity, marketing OD would be easier. There are marketing experts who know how to package commodities and lessen “shelf time”. (Unsold hours are shelf time in the OD world). In many cases, these marketing experts succeed in perfuming the pig, passing off stones as pearls, as is the case with change management programs.

OD is a professional service and can be promoted as such. However, OD  has uncomfortable truths:

  • We cannot predict when an projects ends successfully.
  • We need to confront management all the time.
  • In some cases, we cannot work with the focal point with whom clients want us to work (HR).
  • Our output cannot be measured in KPI’s or by procurement folks.
  • You need a long term investment in OD to see results.

The above makes OD unmarketable in the traditional ways that professional services are promoted. So how do you spread the word and promote your practice?  Here are a few guidelines.

1-Do good work. This is by far the greatest thing you can do to promote your practice. The more “non commodity” OD work is, the more traction is created that will spread the word.

2-In OD, big is bad.Stay small to leverage your advantage and use your knowledge for clients. Experienced consultants need to spend their time with clients;  if the experienced consultants are running big businesses, their time is invested in teaching people who often do not meet client’s expectation.

3-Network with people you have worked with and maintain relationships. Look at your relationships like the only sales tool you have.

4-Price high. High prices sell-as long as you deliver value.

5-Stop trying to explain what OD is. Tell stories of what you have done, and have other clients explain the value you have brought.

To wrap up….this winter albeit a flu shot, I had a very violent case of the flu which knocked  the crap out of me, despite the fact that I am in very good shape. It took me a month to get back to my daily running. My doctor’s advice was not to focus on running, but focus on breathing exercises and stretching….then the ability to run will return-as it did. So…focus on doing great work and meeting people, and let’s put aside explaining our profession as a commodity.

Follow me @AllonShevat

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7 thoughts on “Is OD hard to explain?

  1. Hello Allon,
    I also had a nasty but short bout of flu. Knocked me down too. But since then, because of walking several miles per week, and daily practice of T’ai chi chih, I am feeling pretty good.
    To your main points, I fully support what you have outlined. The best way to “sell” OD is by the fruits of OD. That way, it’s the clients who do the marketing.
    I have always believed that the best measure of success is repeat business. I love it when a client says “Terry, Can you come back? We have another project for you…”

  2. Hi Terry,
    Thanks for comments.
    I was running 5 km (3.1 miles ) a day before the flu; now I changed the routine to running 3 times a week but walking 9 km (5.5 miles) 3 times a week as well at very brisk pace.
    As we both know, this pays off by getting us healthier faster after an illness.

  3. Not only does that recipe has been working well for me in terms of “marketing”, it also has “qualified” who my clients are. What and how I have done what I do attracts the very type of clients I Iove working with.

  4. Allon is a wise man. Allon. Contact me. We are ready to publish your work on line connected to the 4th edition of Practicing OD

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