June 26, 2012


maskThis can't be the reaction they intended.

I got invited to a webinar on a boring topic (computer security). The speaker has impressive credentials ... and sells security-related services. No surprise. The presentation probably shows us all the things we're doing wrong and offers solutions ... for a price.

Normally, you get sales pitches for free with refreshments as bait. This hour-long webinar costs $25.

Where is the money going?

The speaker is probably free. Running a webinar costs very little:
All these options are cheaper than renting a room and buying nice cookies. Perhaps the host organization is raising money or creating an impression of value by charging.

Google Says

Too often, technical speakers have content which is dull and overly-complicated. The delivery may be less than riveting ...

I did a web search for the speaker, expecting to find an impressive digital tapestry. As a minimum, I thought there would be media mentions, a blog and tweets. I was hoping for a live clip from an actual presentation. Instead, the only information available is from the speaker. That's not credible.

There are warning signs on LinkedIn
  • no photo
  • little detail
  • no recommendations given or received
Google also shows that this speaker does free webinars on this topic.
free for others

"Free" Offer

The first 25 tickets to the new event are free but the registration form shows no free option. Apparently you pay and get a refund later if you qualify. That’s unsatisfying.

A cynic might conclude there are two outcomes
  1. free for all: everyone is free (there’s no real cost for an extra attendee)
  2. all paid: everyone pays since there were no "free" tickets in the first place
It's easy enough to have tickets in different classes with different prices and quantities. You can with Eventbrite and Meetup.

There’s probably nothing underhanded in the ticket selling process. The speaker might be reasonably good. Even so, would you bother with the webinar even if free?

Your Clients

You might not evaluate speakers the same way but is my process completely crazy? (You're free to leave a comment below.)

Your potential clients evaluate you in their own ways. They may not even notice how. Yet they make decisions.

You can't tell how clients will find you or what they'll value. Since time and attention are limited, the first impression could last mere seconds. The safe solution is to be easy to find and have stuff worth finding.


PS What’s your decision process?

June 18, 2012


exceeding the goalIt's wonderful to think you've got an amazing idea. At some point you'll find out with clients agree. Conventional market research has limited value since we often don't know what we want until we see it.

The usual process is to Design-Make-Sell. You don't know if you have a winner until the end. That’s risky. There is another process: Design-Sell-Make. You’ll know if there’s a market before you start. You might as well fail early, cheap and in public. 

The Experiment

Today, Seth Godin ran an interesting experiment on Kickstarter. He wanted to raise $40,000 for his new book, The Icarus Deception. Within hours, he reached his goal. Here’s the page.

By the time I got online, the packages I wanted were gone. I selected the $111 No Brainer (8 hard covers, 2 signed copies of V for Vulnerable, and “the limited-edition, mammoth digital collection in print, a book heavy enough to kill a small mammal”). The option I wanted isn't available: ebook + audiobook. I guess I'll need to buy them separately.


Here are transferable three lessons from Seth’s experiment:
  1. Reciprocity works
  2. Attention precedes money
  3. Failure is an option

Reciprocity Works

Reciprocity is the first universal principle of influence, according to Robert Cialdini.

Seth's daily blog posts are free but very valuable. Readers with consciences will eventually feel an obligation to repay Seth in some way. There aren't many options. You can buy his books, attend his occasional live events and support his causes. You can also tell others about Seth --- which is probably most valuable in the long term.

Attention Precedes Money

The best way for an author to use the internet is to slowly build a following. Difficult, time-consuming and effective.
--- Seth Godin (Kickstarter, strangers and friends)
Attention matters. When your tribe/fans/network/audience pay you with attention, you're in a better position to get them to pay you with money later. It's important to grow your connections using the platforms of your choice. I focus on blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter.

How do you let visitors decide if you warrant their scarce attention? Show free samples of your work online. As you build your digital tapestry, you'll make ever-stronger impressions on subsequent visitors. As you find your voice, you'll transform from parrot to pundit for your connections.

Failure Is An Option

If I hadn’t made it, I would have kept my word and not made the book.
--- Seth Godin (Forbes)
With his large tribe, you might think that everything Seth does beats his expectations. That's unlikely. For his 50th birthday, he invited donations to a freshwater project. He didn't meet his $50,000 target but got 79.874% of the way there. Let’s call that 80%.

Seth has skeptics. On Quora, there’s a question about whether he writes all his own copy. He confirmed he did in 2012 and 2009 but there will be doubters. When he wrote about Ray Bradbury’s death, some thought he was ”shilling at a funeral”. Amusing.

Failure is an option when goals are ambitious.

Your Experiment

We can do what Seth did, though our results will vary.

I'm writing a book about Trust And You (why and how). I don't have a sense of the potential audience. I'm counting on my connections to buy copies and spread the word. After all, I’m writing for them.

I've already started the marketing. There are 147 tweets @trustandyou but only 13 Followers (down from 14 yesterday). That's disappointing since trust is an important topic that few tweet about. A Kickstarter campaign may be a good way to gauge the real appeal.

What are you doing that would benefit from estimating success in advance?


PS Maybe you have a side project. Try to earn attention.

June 12, 2012


mistakesIn an article about home insurance, the writer asks her advisor for the three most common mistakes clients make. Here they are:
  • buying too little
  • buying the wrong stuff
  • skipping add-ons
Yes, the list looks self-serving. Each item puts the blame on the buyer. Each fix puts more money in the seller’s pocket. Where’s the credible evidence to backup the assertions? Let’s ignore those biases.

Does the list get you thinking about your own coverage? Probably. That makes the list effective.

Your World

What mistakes do your current and potential clients make without even knowing? Make a list and share it with them. A list from a credible third party is even better. You can even take an article from a third party and add to it.

Can you contradict conventional thinking? For instance, Malcolm Gladwell argues that in 50 years Steve Jobs will be forgotten but Bill Gates will be remembered. You might not agree, but don't you want to know why Malcolm said that and perhaps give your opinion? Here's disagreement from Forbes. As a side benefit, Malcolm is getting free publicity.

Types Of Lists

You can make different types of lists:
  • the biggest mistakes
  • the biggest surprises
  • the most common ______
  • the newest ______
  • the most overlooked ______
You can use formats other than lists (e.g., articles, ads). Instead of three items, you could have less (“the biggest ______”) or more (“31 things you must know about ______”). You’ve got lots of options. Become a trusted resource and show your passion in helping your clients.

If you’re short on ideas, setup Google Alerts for relevant daily updates. All free.

Who's Fault?

If your clients aren't educated on what they need or may want, how can they make optimal decisions? They might buy less or buy wrong because they don't know any better. When the fire truck is at the door, it's too late to upgrade the home insurance.

If clients don't understand, they can't tell their connections to follow their lead. Buyer beware unaware.


PS If the biggest mistake is to buy what you're selling, reconsider what you offer ...

June 5, 2012


practice? make? listen?How do you put passion into your work?

Having passion is a good start. Let's say you do. Let's say money isn't your main motivator.

You might argue that passion is too expensive to include these days, that clients won't pay or value it. That's not quite true.

Who Has Passion?

Artists exude passion. Actors, painters, directors, poets, musicians, Olympic athletes, writers. They wouldn't put in the 10,000 hours on the path to mastery without a burning desire. Quitting is much easier.

Watch any "making of" documentary and you'll see how much takes place behind the scenes to get things just right. Steve Jobs is an extreme example.

Counting The Ways

There are different ways to be passionate (in a business setting). Perhaps you
  • pay extra attention to detail
  • practice longer
  • study more
  • simplify your sentences
  • use simple graphics (like Carl Richards in his napkin drawings)
  • include extras without charging extra
  • provide service which is better, faster (or slower), ...
  • create more (e.g. more prolific in writing)
  • answer more questions (like Guillermo del Toro and Neil Hetherington did recently)
  • use better ingredients
  • give more away for free
  • have a quality assurance process
  • guarantee satisfaction
  • show more patience
  • accommodate special requests
  • remain in touch after the sale
There are lots of ways.

Do your clients know?

Perhaps you have a peer review process to ensure that your solutions are precise and optimal. You're doing extra work that the client may never see, and hence never appreciate.

You might get better results by making mistakes and recovering quickly, though not as a deliberate strategy (see recovering from bad service at Mercedes).

Maybe your clients will notice your passion. If they don’t, are they to blame? Maybe you need to tell them what's special and help them appreciate the difference.

Do your clients care?

To help clients care, you can show the steps in your process and explain the reasons for them. The best place is online. Clients who value your extras can now communicate them to others. Going through the process helps you explain too.

Those who don't care aren't really your clients, are they? Rather than spending more time to win them over, maybe it's best to part ways.


PS If your passion is low or gone, can you restore the magic?