How To Identify A Consulting Leech

1. any bloodsucking or carnivorous aquatic or terrestrial worm of the class Hirudinea, certain freshwater species of which were formerly much used in medicine for bloodletting.
2. a person who clings to another for personal gain, especially without giving anything in return, and usually with the implication or effect of exhausting the other’s resources; parasite.

What is your definition of a leech? Perhaps you agree with one or both of the definitions above. I don’t. At least not when it comes to defining some consultants. My definition is a bit more harsh. Before I tell you what I believe best describes the current trend inching into the business consulting field let me explain how this thought came to mind.

I’ve been studying marketing and copywriting since I was a young teenager. In fact I launched my first ‘real’ mail order business when I was only 12 or 13 years old. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur and “professional transient” ever since. Since then I have launched, grown, and dissolved more small businesses from home than I can recall. And as a result I have personally created marketing plans for over 100 businesses plus advised over 500 other business owners.

Still, despite my many experiences and successes as well as failures over the years, I have not reached the overall success of many of my selected “guru” mentors. Why not? Because, as one of my mentors told me, I focus too heavily on delivering value to others to an excessive degree. As he said, I need to…

  • Cut back on what I deliver.
  • Put in place marketing packages that ‘string people along’. These packages must be partially self-directed to put more of the burden of delivery onto the client and less of the responsibility to deliver on me (i.e. convert as many of my ‘done-for-you’ consulting assignments as possible into done-for-yourself–by-yourself packages).
  • Lock people into paying hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a month ongoing indefinitely for fully or partially self-directed marketing packages– whether clients avail themselves fully of the packages or not.
  • Structure packages in a way that makes the pain of disconnect extremely high–so clients are locked in and only willing to sever the relationship when the pain of staying is too much to bare.

In other words charge more, deliver less, and make people suffer for attempting to detach.

That to me is the definition of a leech.

In truth, if I followed that advice I could probably increase my income an extra quarter of a million per month or more. That’s just 50 clients at $5,000 per month each or 100 at $2500 per month each. All I need to do is aggressively follow the advice to move clients to a monthly useless business model–even if that model does not present the best value for the client. And once that shift has been made charge for smoke-and-mirror effort, instead of actually deliver packages designed to meet client expectations without needlessly taking on an unexpected “partner.” And above all else…avoid all discussions related to potential results (ROI) of those efforts. Change the subject and focus only on efforts, activities, or vicariously walk through glorious scenes of bottom line objectives while promising nothing.

Would this work? Yes. At least in the short-term. And this would be good for business. Mine.

What a fool I’ve been. Who wouldn’t like an ‘extra’ $250k coming in each month? And think of all the good that could be accomplished with that kind of extra income. But that is just rationalizing.

Obviously it could be easy for many to justify ripping others off like that. As if convincing oneself that if ‘good’ can come from it that makes it right. It doesn’t.

So how would I feel about myself after operating like that? Like a scoundrel. A thief. A leech.

If you’ve been in business any amount of time, you are probably seeing more and more independent vendors and companies you’ve done business with in the past switching to recurring business models of some sort. This is good for their businesses bad for yours. Especially if there is no increased value added for the recurring billings.

Such a business model is akin to taking on a partner. You are in essence giving up a portion of your future business income to a third-party who likely has had nothing to do with your current success. Such people tap into the rewards of your successful history with none of the risk common to making a company grow. A leech.

How do consultants pull this off? Easily. Only two simple steps are required.

  1. Sell the value of time and ease of use.
  2. Avoid any discussions about the value and power of ROI, as if assuming everyone is ‘too stupid’ to understand the importance of considering ROI in discussions about working with a professional.

Here’s how this works…

In my line of consulting I work with companies seeking ongoing business growth. Let’s look at just one area of what I do as an example; reputation management.

To sell the value of time in the reputation management arena I could simply explain to the prospective client that each month I will check for negative remarks and reviews and help the prospective client manage and respond to those reviews where possible, no real work required of the client. Second, to offset any potential future negative remarks, we put in place ‘systems’ to get former, current, and future customers to respond favorably in your behalf. And third, we then legally and ethically distribute or encourage your client/customer/patient to distribute the positive remarks in your behalf. All the burden is on me and my team. No additional work is required of you the client.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

Here’s the thing, it’s a lie. When you hire a consultant to create a done-for-you reputation management system all the work should rightly be billed as a one-time process. That’s because the work of creating and setting everything up is done only once. Every aspect from then on is automated. Zero maintenance is required and little to no ongoing cost is required of you.

But in a recurring business model for reputation management you are led to believe that there is some kind of arcane mystical work being done unbeknownst to you by your consulting team in the background each month. Not true. The work of setting up such systems is one-time. Everything, I mean absolutely everything about this process is automated or otherwise self-managed. So why spend $999 a month, $5000 a month, or $10,000 a month or more every month for something that functions independently of any ongoing effort from your hired marketing team? You shouldn’t. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

The same is true of many other areas of marketing: client reactivation packages, new client attraction and acquisition programs, referral systems, etc. can all be automated. In each of these areas you can choose to hire someone to deliver one-time done-for-you marketing packages based on your specific circumstances or you can choose from among the ‘smoke and mirror’ packages…and pay-for-life. [I should be fair. There are a few justifiable exceptions to the rule…but not many.]

Why do I hate and rant about recurring business models so much?

I’ve seen that in the short-term scammers seem to win. I don’t like that at all. They earn big incomes, burn bridges, and dirty the water for everyone else before they leave. Fortunately it is easier to build long-term positive relationships as a consultant when you are honest and forthright. In fact, my mentor who’s promoting his ‘leech’ business model has admitted he is constantly scrambling to replace permanent ‘fall off’ each month. His average client only stays a few months–once they catch on they leave and never come back.

So sure, this particular mentor is making many many millions in the short-term. But at what cost? His own reputation is being damaged with those who’ve excised the leeching. No more bloodletting. Sure, they may leave being accused that failure is ‘their fault for not following through’ but inwardly they may suspect something was wrong with the goods they were sold. If this sounds familiar it’s not your fault.

The problem is they took on a parasite. One that had the ability to temporarily ‘numb’ the pain of an unhealthy attachment until the relationship soured.

Fortunately I’m not alone in developing a disdain for that business model. The world in general is waking up. They are seeing this unhealthy pattern for what it is. Some companies are opting for 100% in-house solutions. Others are seeking done-for-you custom solutions that do not amount to paying tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands a year unnecessarily. Ongoing billing must be accompanied by ongoing value. Real value. Not smoke and mirrors.

Pay once and be done with it. Of course, though, if you like the bloodletting go ahead and seek someone only too willing to charge month after month after month until you realize they are bleeding you dry. There are no shortages of such leeches. Heck, cut off the head of one and another pops back up somewhere else. That is, at least for as long as you have something left to pilfer. Soon as they cause things to go bad for you they’ll drop off and go after someone else. Such is the pattern and identity of a leech. It’s their nature. At best you can hope they’ve not left disease behind when they go.