Michael Wilkes Software consultant, Scrum Master, entrepreneur

Michael has done nearly ever job that exists in the software industry from programming to project manager to his current work as a Scrum Master. He was a self-employed Software Consultant for 15 years and had several jobs as a Software Engineer for 14 yrs before that. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy where he serviced radar and communication equipment. His clients have included American Cancer Society, Utilities Analyses, Mission to the World, Daugherty Systems, Friendship Force, Abel Solutions, Online Organizing and more.

Recent Answers

Your specialty is going to be a relationship-based sale, so I have two suggestions for you:

First, read the book Trusted Advisor. It will help you understand how to build gain credibility among those who would be your clients or referral partners.

Second, join a closed contact networking group like PowerCore or BNI. Once you have proved yourself and built some relationships, the members of these groups become your extended sales force.

I measured the ROI of my PowerCore networking experience at the five year mark and found that, while I had invested quite a bit of time, energy, and money... my return on that investment was 800%. That is, the business I received through those referrals (approximately one closed contract per year) paid back my investment eight times.

I don't know how recently you have added the B2B effort but if I had a product that five universities had signed up for, I would take that to every applicable university out there.

In the colleges, you've identified a smaller pool of much bigger clients by taking that route. It might be a good time to hire a B2B market strategist and make a big push on that front. I assume you're white-labeling the product in that environment and looking for related services that you could offer the students once they sign up. Textbooks related to the subject? DVD courses?

Be careful not to dilute your brand by trying to be too many things. That would run afoul of Rule #1 in Ries & Trout's book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Each brand (perhaps you have several) needs to have a singular, loud message in the marketplace. No confusion.

B2C is so hard because you have lots of competitors to deal with as well as a fickle consumer audience. If you have a good story going with the universities already in your portfolio, try doing a case study or two (if they will cooperate) and then market the heck out of those to the other universities.

If you decide to stay in the B2C market, take a look at Mark Schaefer's new book The Content Code to see if you are maximizing all your social media leverage.

Knowledge management is a broad category. It would help to know what you intend to use it for.

If you are a service company, for example, a product like ZenDesk or JIRA HelpDesk will contain the ability to log categorized answers, provide search features, etc.

For general wiki documents and searchable content, we use Confluence from Atlassian at work. If you don't know what you want or need yet, try one of the inexpensive products like Zoho Wiki in order to learn. After using that for a month or two, you'll be in a better position to pick out the right product for long-term use.

One way of skinning this cat is to bring the agency you admire most a piece of business that you dug up from your ability to sell. It's hard to say no to someone who is handing you money!

If you can rep the material privately (perhaps via a paper portfolio), then you can sell it. Of course, you'll need to know what they normally charge so that you don't get upside down in the deal.

Another method is to vet yourself with the agency as a lead source. Show your track record of selling either your own work or the work of others.

Finally, you can act like a college grad who can't find work and just volunteer. Ask them what kind of wholesale rate they can offer you to bring them work and make it clear that they have no risk or out of pocket expenses to get started.

I think it is a common understanding now that you have a person brand whether it's public or not. Your brand is your character and skills as seen through your behaviors and your professional image.

I think the point of your question, though, is whether or not you can promote your personal brand (using your name) outside of the company that writes your paycheck. I see no reason why not as long as it does not diminish the brand of the company paying you.

I ran my own consulting company for 15 years and building brand recognition was difficult. What I really leveraged to get clients was not a logo and catch-phrase but my personal reputation. I could easily have named my company Michael Wilkes, Inc. or some such and dispensed with the whole company name brand building effort. My attorney, of course, would probably disagree sharply based on the value of a corporate liability shield.

The introduction to the book "Brand You" contains this sage advice:

'You already have a brand. As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. The best way to market yourself is to build your brand.'

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