How to Value Your Services As A Professional Service Provider

Virtually every web designer or graphic artist I know undervalues their professional contribution. And as a result I get to listen to them bitch about how it's a tough field and competition is stealing clients and sales aren't what they should be and on and on and on. Don't get me wrong. They think they're worth more. In some cases, they even know it. But there's one thing holding them back from commanding the kind of fees that make.

It's them. Conventional wisdom goes something like this. First, establish how much you want to make per hour of your time. Then, check that figure against industry norms to make sure your competitive. And then, once you've honed your chops, price your services a little higher than the rest.

Conventional Wisdom Keeps You Thinking Like A Commodity

Are you tired of prospecting for business? Would you rather your prospects be begging YOU to design their logo, develop their website or take their wedding photos? Because the only difference between who gets the business and who doesn't is who has the commodity mindset and who's thinking like a rockstar.

Whether you're a graphic designer, interior decorator, software programmers, a home-stager or marketing consultant, we all facing the same challenges in the end: PROVING OUR VALUE. In the final assessment, it's the person who does a better job of proving and asserting their value, without a shadow of a doubt, in the minds of their prospects, who ends up with the business.

There's that word again: Value. What does it mean? Let me tell you my friends. You need to sell yourself on your value before you'll ever get anyone else to recognize it. But guess what? You can't prove your value to anyone unless your first willing to turn down business.

Let's imagine for a moment that there is a magic script that would make them turn over their wallets. Done imagining?

There isn't. But there's something almost as good. Mastering the mindset of valuing you're own work. And guess what, you're in luck, because if you're in an industry adjacent to mine, you're most likely SELLING to SELLERS...

How to Make The Mental Leap

Stop worrying about your marketing problems and start helping your clients solve theirs. Once you get it, you'll realize that real value of your service is the same whether you spend two hours or 20 hours doing the work. How can that be? It's because the "Value" isn't something you "put into" your service, it's what your client "gets out".

Try to think of a few ways your client's situation can be improved directly, or indirectly, by contracting your services. If you can't, that's ok. Begin by asking yourself: What makes your client's customers buy? What are your services worth to your client in additional sales, new business contracts, increased curbside appeal, repeat transactions, and so on and so forth.

Are you starting to get it yet? Whatever industry you're in, you've got clients who are trying to sell products and services to their own set of clients ... I gaurantee you they've got marketing problems they need help solving. You're going to help solve them. And since solving those marketing problems is worth a lot to your clients, you're entitled to a piece of the upside.

Remember this and never forget it: If you can show ANYONE upside, you can entitle yourself to a piece of it.

Burn it into your head the next time you're prospecting for new business. It is this mindset what sets commodities apart from professionals who can command any price for their work. It's also what separates amateurs from seasoned veterans who've been around the block a couple of times. What's their secret? I'm going to give you the shortcut to that level of confidence in, yes, three easy steps.

Step 1. Discover Their Profit Motive

First of all, your clients' profit motive is probably a whole lot higher--and more accutely felt--than yours is. We in the creative fields like graphic design tend to care about fuzzy rewards, not pure profits.

Instead, we need to be showing our clients how:

  • Their lackluster brand identity is standing between them and $100,000 in additional sales next year.
  • Their outdated web site is probably turning OFF more customers than it's turning ON
  • People would use their site more often and spend money more frequently with them if it was easier to use.
  • Designing their album cover will give their music more shelf appeal and, therefor, sell more records over time.
  • Staging their home will help them optimize profits by selling the home faster, and at a higher price then they would have otherwise.
  • A sizzling new corporate brochure will improve lead-to-conversion ratios by three times or more.

You should be getting the picture by now. By the way, their "profit motive" is not always best expressed in terms of money. It can be expressed in any way that's percieved to as valueable. But no matter how their profit motive is expressed, always correlate it back to clear, dollars and sense terms. Leave it to humans to create money so we can put a measure on fuzzy desires =)

To figure out their profit motive all you need is a basic understanding of how businesses in their industry make money. However, to really cinch the deal, I mean crisply and overwhelmingly telegraph the true value of your services, so you become the obvious choice, asking your clients the right questions will open up a wellspring of appeals you never even thought to look for...

These are abstract and emotional appeals. Appeals like appearing big, impressing their friends, outsmarting their competitors and keeping up with the latest trends. Ok, now that you've identified your clients profit motive...

Step 2. Get Them To Assign A Specific Dollar Amount To Whatever Motivates Them

The only thing better than knowing your value is having someone else recognize your value. The specific dollar amount we're going for doesn't have to be accurate. They could be flat-out lying to you, the point here is to get them thinking about all the money that's at the end of the tunnel, the decreased stressed and wonderful feelings they'll have after they hire you to solve their problems.

Ok, here we go. Memorize these killer questions. Some of these questions are rhetorical, meaning, not meant to be answered in words. They're intended to be answered in your prospects minds. If they say them out loud, all the better.

  • How much more will [profit motive] be worth to you over the next three years?
  • Do you see how much more [profit motive] you would be doing if you had done this last year?
  • How would things be different for you if you had [their profit motive] sooner?
  • Knowing what you know now about [profit motive], would you have done things a little differently in your business?

Step 3. Separate Yourself From the Flock

Merely talking about these things automatically sets your business above commodity status (and therefor above most of your competitors.) But we need to do better.

In merchandising we talk about "points of difference." The basic idea is that there are things you do on behalf of clients which you take for granted but actually warrant repeating.

Telling Graph of United States Budget and Gross National Priorities

Have you ever wished there was an easy way to tell at-a-glance how your taxpayer dollars are spent? I'd venture a guess that most Americans are unaware of just how much of our taxes are funneled into the military. A man after my own heart, Jesse Bachman spent close to a year in scouring official documents to get the facts where the American government spends our taxes. 

With the help of a graphic designer friend, Jesse produced this incredibly detailed graph you see below:

Death_and_Taxes__2007_by_mibi.jpg

I can think of no clearer declaration of national priorities than how a country spends it's budget. His extensive researching and number crunching has paid off in the form of this easy to read graph depicting how the Federal government allocates taxpayer dollars between it's various agencies. Jesse created it in the hopes that a visual will make people think and ask questions.

How our governement spends taxpayer dollars should be a concern for everyone these days. Why do we spend more on military jets than we do on public housing? Why is the Endowment for the Arts so small? What's with all this foreign military financing? Does all that military hardware really guarantee our security? And at what cost to education, science and human development?

I hope these are just some of questions going through your mind as you take a closer look at the graph.

Jesse collected the stats and figures  for his graph, available to purchase in poster form, from the Office of Management and Budget (Whitehouse.gov/omb/) with supplementary military data from the department of Defense (DoD.mil) and the Center for Defense Information (CDI.org).

All proportions are accurate. For the purpose of this chart, the Dept. of Defense is visually separated on the left side of the poster for contrast. The total budget is divided into military and non-military spending, with military dominating the left side of graph.

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/39894058/

What's the Point?

I'm constantly amazed at how my purpose for this site keeps shifting. MerelyHuman was originally intended to be my mental warehouse of sorts. The philosophical depths of which you could lose yourself in. As a professed blogger, the only thing I'm losing is my mind as paper keeps proving itself to be the more accessible medium. It'll get there, I suppose, I'm just coming to terms with the idea that it'll take time.

So on paper my best ideas remain, until I can master this particular juggling act. For now, I'm just going to have to settle for putting out average length blog posts. Don't cry, unless you're emo.

Blogging is hard. My advice to you if you have nothing to say: Don't Blog.

Breaking News: Will This Man Bring Legitimacy to the Blogosphere?

Ok, you might be wondering what this is about. Believe me, you don't want to miss this one.

Today the blogosphere welcomes it's biggest marketing celebrity since Bob Bly. Jay Abraham, one of the most respected minds in marketing is officially launching his blog.

The reaction in the blogosphere could, and probably should, be bigger than when Bob Bly, renowned author, copywriter and savvy businessman in his own right, started his blog. The difference it appears--and why "business bloggers" should pay attention--is that Jay is coming out of the gates with a game plan for making money out of this venture--and he has a really good track record of succeeding.

Will we pay heed and watch as one man co-ops the emerging architecture of the internet to geometrically expand his empire at almost frightening speeds? Will his efforts bring legitimacy to the dream that blogs can be richly profited from? Or will this prove to be another half-baked scam dreamed up by a marketer desparate for a piece of the action?

Whatever the case, the future commercial applications of blogging will be generously informed by the outcome.

Making Sense of the Blogging Phenomenon One Blogger At a Time

I have spent some time over the past two years researching blogging. And the longer I immerse myself the more convinced I become that blogs are merely a symptom of something much bigger happening on the web. No, let me restate that...happening TO the web.

Nobody's completely figured it out yet, but every day we are nearing closer to an approximate understanding of what their impact will be. The only thing we can conclude is that the question of what a blog IS isn’t so important as the question of what a blog CAN BE.

None of the conventional definitions of a blog are altogether wrong, but they are limited. And for anyone who has worked inside the industry, they will agree that the public advent of blogging represents so much more than just another distribution channel in a marketers toolbox.

In fact, I would venture to say, marketers at large are falling behind in their collective grasp of the evolving internet. Their pockets may be well-lined, but they have impoverished models of the new world.

Today, blogs are a still a blank canvas. Their uses are by no means set in stone, nor have all their possible applications been explored. I challenge people who think they really "get it" to stop concurring about what blogs are and start discovering what blogs can be.

Over the next couple of months I will be rendering my observations as lucidly as I can.

Making the Most of Yahoo! 360

What if someone handed you a network of high-quality contacts and prospects on a silver platter? Would you take it? Of course you would! Yet, day by day, business owners are signing up for Yahoo! 360 with the best intentions, only to sit on their account as if it's going to do all the work for them.

If you too are having difficulty deciding how to start building your presence, here's what I suggest:

  1. Invite ALL your friends and professional acquantances to join your Yahoo! 360 Network. Sooner or later they will be invited by someone. It might as well be sooner and it might as well be by YOU.
  2. Educate your contacts why it's in their best interest to not just grow, but groom their individual networks of contacts. Staying relevant is a low-key investment with high returns of ongoing attention.
  3. Don't try to host your professional or business blog on Yahoo! 360. Treat it strictly as a social networking tool to keep people informed about personal affairs and dealings. Social Networking is a HIGH TOUCH medium. If you're thinking about starting a business blog as part of your onine marketing strategy, email me and I can get you started on the right track.
  4. Take the initiative to chime in on other people's blogs. The best way to start any relationships is to say something. Yahoo has given us a preemptive head-start, if you'll just be proactive in taking it.

The sooner you start proactively building your network on Yahoo!360, the bigger your network will become.

I believe Yahoo is provisioned to become the d'facto social networking service on the internet. It's maintained its position as the largest internet property for years, and everything it touches turns to gold. It won't be long before all your friends and colleagues are invited to get their very own Yahoo! 360 account. But you can get in right now, and you can be the one to invite them.

It would seem Yahoo! replenishes your Invites as they get used up. In case anyone else is interested I have 70 more Invites to give out. You can email me about yours here.

Anyone Need a Yahoo 360 Invite?

Of course you don't need one. But you sure want one!

Yahoo 360 remains pretty unexciting at this point, but they promise a lot of cool features in the coming months. You'll probably want to get on the ground floor regardless, being that this is Yahoo! and they're almost certain to deliver a good combination of features and usability.

I only have 50 invites left to give out and I want them to go to people who appreciate their value. Please don't ask for one if you're only nurturing a short-lived curiosity.

Hopefully Yahoo! will replenish my Invites once they're all used-up, however since you can't be too sure you should think about grabbing yours now! If you like the idea of getting in on the action early, Email me. I would definately be interesting in getting back some links to Merely Human in exchange for free Yahoo! 360 Invites. 

Don't Pay For Philosophy

Blogs. RSS. Information aggregators. Human-friendly content management and delivery systems. These trends and more are a formula for the rapid proliferation of information and knowledge. Taken to it's logical conclusion, it's not hard to see how in the future all--or most--information will be freely obtainable from more than one media source.

There are too many gurus pushing the same information products. Too many books to read, magazines to buy, websites to check. Selling "make-more-money" information products is fast becoming a losing proposition because the information wants to get out.

What does that mean for people in knowledge-based businesses? Get out of the way and let it. People are suddenly in the market for execution. They're realizing that despite their best efforts to keep up with the knowledge curve, they aren't getting anything done by themselves. They want to bring in impact players who can do the things they read about.

Which is the basis on which I'm going to build my consulting practice.

Back to Square One

It seems like only yesterday that I signed up for a fledgling Squarespace and started writing for Merely Human. So many developments in the year leading up till now and yet I've done such a poor job reflecting them to my readers.

Well, it's back to blogging full-time. Three things have held my attention of late:

  1. Human Potential & Psychology
  2. Business Applications of Blogging
  3. Starting A Marketing Consulting Firm

Between these three items my focus is a fairly even split. I've been wanting to separate my business blogging and consulting conversations from my human potential related one for a while now. Trying to encompass all three conversations here, on a single blog, while giving each one the coverage it deserves has been very limiting. Therefore, I'll be partitioning these conversations into three separate blogs.

Insofar as the first is concerned, there are going to be some changes around here, marked by shorter, more frequent posting habits. I'm one of those people who suffers from too-much-to-say and sometimes my mind gets clogged up with a zillion disparate conversations all clamoring to come out first. Overlay my perfectionism you have a recipe for full-on writer's paralysis. So the only way for me to continue writing for Merely Human is to narrow down its focus.

My goal is to give you more high-quality information on this blog than you would otherwise be willing to pay for. My whole gripe is that certain people on the net are aggressively pushing lame products and unoriginal content onto ignorant markets, thereby doing a disservice to all of mankind. Thus the "Don't Pay for Philosophy" philosophy behind my latest activity. Certain institutions and gurus must be exposed and I'm ready to talk smack.

Then, very soon, I will be announcing two new blogs which will serve as companion sites to this one.

PS: In the future I will try and tighten up my paragraphs for easier reading. As I finish writing this, I realize mine are the Esuvee's of blog entries.

Trying to Be Everything to Everybody?

That's your problem -- Defining your industry as say "Media" is too broad and not specific enough. Taking the opposite approach would be more advantagous to your company in the shorter and longer term.

For example, spinning off a unique sub-category of  "advertising" will yield far better for your brand than broadly trying to encompass the concept of  "media",  which has already been divided and sub-divided into many distinct categories (err... industries) in the minds eye of the consumer.

Much easier to divide and sub-divide your market indefinately than it is to collapse it all together under a single brand, which is what you may be trying to do.  Don't.

Even if consolidating your industry is what you're ultimately driving at, you must know that a market can't be collapsed under a single brand until you own numerous positions within that market.

It can't be an accelerated process and it takes an extremely savvy strategist at the helm to execute. It's highly doubtful even the Big Two-or Three  in your industry have this person, yet it's the kind of undertaking you should fear most by your competitors.

Vast resources and mass market acceptance has placed your industry's top-guns in the enviable position of being able to deploy customized solutions as and when new market opportunities crop up. Before less developed companies can organize a response, big companies have subsumed all viable niche opportunities into themselves. Sadly, the majority of advertising agencies operating today belong to but a handful of holding companies whose evil purpose it is to control everything.

Small businesses like yours have no such initiative of scale. Fortunately for us guys, most attempts by large companies to consolidate the market in such a manner fail. Despite succeeding in advertising, trying to concentrate on too many targets usually leads to hitting none. Therefore your marketing mandate is to deliver a more complete argument to narrower audience.

Your absolute best chance of dominating anything is to paint yourself into a corner. Stake out a niche and own it. Do everything in your power to make competition with you impossible. You can't succeed in that if you're trying to be everything to everybody--you must patiently cultivate authority and trust within a small crowd possessing well-defined consumer needs. Only after you own your segment totally can you think about encroaching on someone else's.

Them Solutions Are the Magic Bullet

There is in fact a magic bullet in marketing that will virtually guarantee your sale. Pay attention. It is a performance-assured solution to an acutely felt problem or need.

A marketing message armed to the hilt with sensitivity to a person's pain hits home every single time. It's just that some professionals get so absorbed in the smoke-and-mirrors aspect of promotion that they neglect the simple notion of Supply and Demand (should be redubbed Demand and Supply for the modern era. More on this later) that has driven  commerce forward since day one.

Fortunately, it doesn't take exceptional powers of discernment spot a humongous need. The marketer's job has been simplified with the advance of internet technologies. Many and populous communities of people across the net have organized for the expressed purpose of telling you what's missing from their lives.

Don't do self-indulgent advertising. The magic happens when you're attentive to other people's problems.

Now you know -- lock and load.

Tip: Your window into the market's collective conscious are high concentrations of critics. If you want to tune into their frequency you are handicapping yourself if you aren't paying attention to Amazon.com and other feedback enhanced portals.

Pettiness Is A Corporate Condition Too

So, in todays news...That's some shit over at Kottke.org

I can think of more than one community besides the bloggers that could greatly benefit from an organization which supports individuals through incidents of corporate strongarming, much as the ACLU mounts efforts against government agencies and corporations which perpetrate social injustices.

As it is, almost noone emerges victorious from a legal battle against a large corporation without more than a few wounds. A watchdog organization, rallied for the public good, could grant individuals access to the kind of legal resources that give large corporations a decided edge in legal matters.

When push comes to shove, the public can and will mobilize heavy forces.

This isn't the last we'll hear about this sort of thing. Rather, it's a sign that the system is just starting to adjust to the integration of powerful new technologies into the cultural fabric. The Blogosphere's going to get very interesting in 2005.

Start Your Engines

Since business is so misunderstood, I feel it's the responsibility of people who 'get it' to take pot shots at the pravailing wisdom until something happens and then spread those ideas which promise to have profound positive implications for people in commerce. I'm going to try to do that here on this blog.

Plus I will even create some original works of my own: Practical programmes and procedures for growing your business enterprise and honing your business acumen. I'll release useful aids, dispense free advice and eventually launch a weekly periodical.

All here on this blog for your convenient access and timely edification.

In the coming weeks, the information rollout will be fairly swift. Don't get too excited if there are days when three or four bits of content get posted. This initial spurt of updates is meant to attract the search engines and establish some positive momentum. After that I'll relax my posting to a level that's comfortable for everyone.

Pearls From Her Pocket

Several days ago, while researching Squarespace’s competition, I happened on a most informative read.

If any of you have ever been to Rebecca’s Pocket you know that it’s author, Rebecca Blood, consistently puts out thoughtful commentary on her weblog there. Wanting to know more about the history of blogging, I saw her name come up frequently in my searches, so reasonably assumed she was among the net’s foremost commentators on the subject. Doing a little investigating turned up a terrific article written by her, on the origins and evolution of weblogs, and verified my guess that, after all, she was a recognized authority of the medium. She’s also the author of The Weblog Handbook.

So you can see why I’d think it would be really special to receive an email from her.Turns out, not only did I get a thank you note for the compliments I sent her but, along with it, some very useful advice for budding writers/bloggers, that she’s going to let me pass on to you. So, on with the good stuff. Here is what the widely acclaimed Rebbecca Blood — many more praises to her name — has to say about successful blogging:

1.) Read Strunk & White, “The Elements of Style.” Read it at least once a year. Strunk’s portion is here: http://www.bartleby.com/141/

2.) Read the best writers you can find. EB White and James Thurber are two that spring to mind. Rebecca Mead and Malcolm Gladwell of the New Yorker are two more. There are thousands, from all eras.

3.) Write in your weblog. Write every day or several times a week. It doesn’t matter what you write about, but every time you update your site, include one link to an article or another website, and summarize it in one sentence. you may add one sentence of opinion if you like, but it’s not necessary. Writing short is hard, and this practice is probably the one that improved my writing the most, the fastest.

4.) If you’re having trouble updating your weblog every day, think about refocusing your site on something you’re more interested in. See if the library has my book “the weblog handbook” for a consideration of some possible approaches.

5.) Learn to think critically. The Elements of Reasoning (2nd ed) by Edward PJ Corbett and Rosa A. Eberly is an excellent starting point. The essence of critical thinking is the willingness to be wrong. It requires the ability to genuinely consider ideas you know are wrong, and to question ideas you know are right, both very difficult practices. Remember, if you don’t care about the truth, it’s easy both to form opinions and be persuasive. Figuring out what’s really going on takes more work.

6.) Make time to pursue the things that genuinely interest you.

7.) Always be reading something - something that really interests you. This can be a novel, history, science fiction, a cookbook, comics, anything, just something you look forward to picking up every day. If you get bored, put it down and pick up something else. Live by these rules. Even if you are busy, try to set aside at least half an hour every day or several times a week.

8.) Always be learning to do something, something that really interests you. Whatever: fixing cars, baking bread, perl, swimming, tying knots, how to make the perfect stir-fry, a language anything at all, whatever you want to know. Allow yourself to learn slowly—if an hour a week is all you have, enjoy your hour every week.

Thanks for your nice note. good luck!

best regards,
rcb

Thank you Rebecca. I for one intend to start integrating your ideas into my writing life at once, even if #3 gives me some trouble.

Robotic Marketing

So I was cruisin' the information superhighway, seein' the same nondescript ol' sites, lookin' for purple cows and not findin' em, when I finally decided to pay a visit to my man Seth Godin. He operates a little "butcher shop" on the net, where he cuts through the fat about marketing, right down to the juicy bits, and I like to go there when I'm dry for inspiration.

So I go to the home of the old purple cow himself, and I read his last update for the fifth time in a row, and I run the compulsory product check to make certain he didn't release any new books while I was sleeping -- or rather not sleeping -- and then proceed to his About Me page where I am struck by what I find.

Much to my horror, I had caught the purple cow in the act of commiting a major publicity faux pas for unorthodox marketers.

His about page employs the same 3rd person format, the same sterile tone, used by boring people across the net. It's all very robotic. I guess I'm a little guilty of that at times. But he's important. He's written books. And he's one of the staunchest advocates of unusual marketing practices around.

So I emailed the elusive purple cow, on the off chance I could reach him where the sun smiles broadly, imploring him to walk the road less travelled by big-shot professionals, that we might catch a glimpse of his personality whilst navigating the synaptic trails of his mind.

So, today I feel very priveleged. I feel priveleged because Seth Godin responded to MY email. Yes, Seth Godin talked to Me. And it is confirmed: Seth Godin is a Robot. He told me so.

Yikes that's awesome. Who could you be making contact with that you havn't yet?

Oh yeah, and my point: Your About page shouldn't read like a product description.

Arm In Arm

It's been a long time since I posted my last update. We'll try not to let that happen again. It's awfully tempting to try to play catch up, but I have a feeling that won't be necessary as I'm sure the important stuff will find a way to resurface in my future writings.

A few things stand out about this week. My insolmnia for one. Distracted by the millions of little idea bugs dancing in my head, it was easy to overlook what all was causing me to be stressed.

As a result I havn't had occasion to dream much these past 10 days (except last night, which I'll write about separately). Furthermore, my productivity was shot. So today I treated myself to a nice long day of nothing. I barely got out of bed to make myself some tea.

Throughout this whole depression Tyler was demonstrably supportive. For a time I think he was more worried by my sudden insolmnia that I was. While most people I told weren't wholly unsympathetic, it was my boyfriend that really came through for me.

Typically it takes quite an effort to not sleep. By the time 5 or six am rolls around, if I havn't dropped dead from fatigue, I'm doomed to spend the rest of the day fighting off the "the zombie." And because it was so unusual for me to spend days on end not sleeping, I was starting to get concerned.

So Tyler made himself very available and attentive throughout all of it. He took a genuine interest in my well-being when I wasn't even aware I needed him to. And his interest paid off by helping me to discern and call out by name the various stresses in play that harrowed me.

I'm thankful to have someone who care's so much.

My thankfulness was affirmed later at a party that took place over a weekend, that Tyler and I both attended.

I remember being overwhelmed by the festivities. It was a razzle-dazzle birthday celebration for one of our attention-whoring good friends, marti-gras themed and populated by a colorful assortment of darlings all bedecked in glitter and beads. And a selection of food that disparaged all regard for the finest local eateries.

Of course, I immediately gravitated toward the "healthy" part of the kitchen, drawn by many tiny little fish filets each draped  separately over a finger of rice. So I indulged, dispite the fact that I was full when I arrived.

Next to the sushi were the fortune cookies, which were disappearing as fast as people could be dissatisfied with their fortunes. So Tyler and Jessica and I make for a fortune cookie a-piece, and read them out loud in subsequential order, adding the essential -- and every bit as much unavoidable -- "between the sheets" remark at the end of each. Mine read:

"You stand in your own light. Make it shine brightly." - between the sheets.

Boy, that sure is a lonely place to be. Was my first thought.

I think attention, acheivement, success in any endeavor is only worth the trying if you've got someone to share it with. Besides, in the context of each of our lives, we personally do not make it on our own. We each have supporting actors, key players, crucial members without whose influences we would not be as we are. To stand purely in one's own light is only to let their part go unrecognized.

So the night went on, and near the end of it, when all the couples were crashed out on every cushy surface I peeked my eyes open to see a sight which which very muchly affirmed my previous thought. The birthday girl strewn over a heap of affectionairs that didn't even pretend to include her boyfriend.

I foresee a very lonely future for this girl as this is common behavior for her. I'm just glad fortune cookies are merely a representation of what could be, not what is. I for one definately do not stand in my own light, as the fortune cookie said, but stand suffused in the warmth of those about me.

There is another relationship which I have come to appreciate more and more over the years, and that is the relationship I have with my mom.

Meet one of the most important people in my life. The teacher, the adventurer, the therapist, the business woman -- my Mom.

She and I got together this week, which is always a welcome treat. A meeting with her always portends to be illuminating in some aspect or another of my life. She is more than a teacher by profession. She's a natural insight dispenser. And we satisfy the little philosopher in eachother.

Apparently she has become quite the advocate for this book I have listed elsewhere on the site, "Leaving A Trace." She's recommended it to half her friends by now, which means the word will have spread to fully one-third of the world's population by May cause she's Mormon.

We touched on politics and poetry, two favority topics of ours, and spoke unendingly of best business practices. That is I spoke unendingly of business, while she listened intently, I think. I have developed a conceptual model to meant to illustrate business growth which I will post here soonly. Anyone with even the remotest interest in business will be interested to see it, since it will describe and show in perfectly clear terms what stages business go through and what needs to take place for a business to grow.

My mom seemed to think it was revolutionary. We'll see, won't we?

Well, stay tuned and be rewarded my loyal audience!

Ok, Don't "Sell" Anything

People who try to "sell" you their product represent one that was created without any sensitivity to their clients' wants and needs. And now, one way or another, they're going to convince you to buy it. How do salespeople ever expect to sell you something you didn't have a prior need for? The problem is, you don't want what they have to offer, but you want to tell them to shut their inimical traps even less.

The Salesman accost you with ditherings about this feature and that feature (don't they). They always seem to have a ready response to your objections (they do). But something just isn't right (You know it). No matter how much they try to appeal to your sensibilities, you still don't feel right about it.. So into their traps you are slowly and inexorably drawn until there's no escape. And you buy.

And you regret it the very next day.

Marketers are a different breed. They identify a need, and they rush to fill it. What the consumer wants is the center of their interest, always. They still want your money, but recognize that they must render something the consumer wants in return. They're into fairplay. Marketers are not there to convince you that you need it, but to remind you that you do. Respectfully and ethically. The dual nature of markets, supply and demand, have a responsibility to one another; Marketers acknowledge and embrace this.

Are you still "Selling" your wares? After you determine if there is still a future for your product beyond your warehouse exteriors, you need to reevaluate your proposition.

Your job when marketing your site is not to convince the prospect to buy your product. Your job as a marketer is to crystalize in your prospect's mind what they already knew they wanted. And then, to DEMONSTRATE to them, that your product does all those things they wanted. You must prove that your solution is applicable to their needs.

While one is the pursuer, the other is the pursuant. Salespeople will hunt you to the far corners of the earth for your business, and at the same time hordes of people will gleefully gather around the savvy marketer and his "compelling offer." The only thing compelling about his offer is that he answered to you call. No mystical charm. No mind control. There is a recurring problem somewhere in your past that the marketer now holds the solution for.

Now before you go galavanting off to dominate your respective industries, you need to be aware of one major obstacle amateur marketers run into when developing their proposition and crystalizing their intentions to the customer.

It's the misconception that  product features equate to value in formulating the proposition. Features are merely substantive to your offer. They are logical support. But Value you must seek in the customer's world. You must look for it in their dreams, in their aspirations, in their outlook and intentions. And most importantly, you must seek it in those places they are presently unsatisfied.

Would you care if I told you that the quality of your coffee depends on the fineness of its grind, the water's purity, and the period of absorbtion?

I would assume not unless you fancy yourself some sort of coffee aficionado... or you were involved in coffee production, or you know someone who might be impressed by such trivia.

At best, putting a comprehensive list of outstanding features on display will help you contrast favorably against the dilapidated grey of the design standards prevalent in your industry.

Unfortunately, your customers don't share a developer's appreciation for your products features.

All the care you've taken to reengineer your product might as well go unnoticed by the consumer if it does not pose some immediate application of value to their lives. If you are the product developer, you have understandable emotional attachments to the features you put so much thought and work into. The reality remains though, that even technical advancements that you think are revolutionary get clumped in with the "miscellany" until it can make the consumers life an easier, better place to live. What are we substantiating through our presentation of features? VALUE. So treat  features as such.

Now what are the concrete benefits inherent in a well proposed transaction?

One need only look to the Big Book itself for those. Benefits are nourishment to the seven sins. Laziness seems to be the most popular to feed. I'm not here to debate the sins with you, I'm just telling you like it is. Those Seven Sins are immutable in us anyways, so lets not get our panties in a twist.

Back to the point of my essay. It has to be YOU who translates your product's features into immediate, concrete applications of value for the consumer, because the consumer won't be able to do it themselves. While you may feel like you stand apart from your competition, in the eyes of the consumer, you might still be part of the multiplicity of crowds clamoring for their attention daily. And then you'll be just another marketing wannabe.

If you take nothing else away from this, remember one thing, you are a marketer, not a salesperson. You pay attention to markets. Market needs, market changes, market deficiencies.

When you can finally distinguish between being a salesperson and being a marketer, get over your features, and begin thinking in terms of  value, a lot of doors that were previously closed to you will suddenly be open.

Extra Productive, Off-Work

Ok, I have an admission to make. Instead of going to work today I let myself get stranded in a parkinglot with a Starbucks sitting right there in it, looking so inviting, beckoning me in for a drink, a hospitable refuge from the rain...

But keep reading, something good did come out of my irresponsible ways. An illumination in the storm.

It all suddenly made sense to me while sitting there, with pen in hand, gazing down at my too-expensive paper, my chicken scratch darting too-and fro like the selfsame bird on crack.

I'm an inveterate coffeehouse junkie. When I sit down inside a coffehouse, something magical happens to me, and it's not always the effect of the caffeine. My productivity blooms like hiroshima on a bad day in history. I see things with unheard of clarity. For just a brief moment in time, I metamorphosize into a brilliant proffessor of every-which-thing. I produce more work during these two to three hours sessions than I can in a whole day in front of the computer.

Inspiration occurs most reliably in these instants when my  active awareness is supplanted by ritual.

Everyone has their personal ideosyncracies which enable them to proceed with unrivaled fervor in regions of interest to them. If you have to start every brainstorming session with Mozart, start it with Mozart. If you can't write after 5pm, structure your day so you can accomplish your writings beforehand. If your effectiveness depends on something silly, any little thing, embrace the fact, don't fight it.

So, while I'm not especially proud of the fact I was harvesting ideas instead of signatures today, I know at least I maximized my productivity with respect to the latter. And maybe in the end, after enough applications, my little productivity epiphany will pay dividends to me -- far in excess of my day-losses.

More O' That Sweet, Science Fiction Flavor

This dream has no definite beginning or end. The earliest image I can access from the dream is a third-person view of me peering out through a window from inside a stone keep. A battle carries on outside.

In eerie narration of the dream, a voice remarks resonatingly off the castle walls about the summary destruction of the goblin hordes who laid seige. At the same time my vision falls on the castle courtyard which separates my window from the battle, and encircles a smoldering mountain of goblinoid corpses.

I wish I had recorded this dream three days ago, because then I'd be able to recount the contents of the narrative about the goblins to you. I remembered the narrative for a few hours upon waking, and planned to transcribe it immediately, but didn't. Or, actually, couldn't.

Anyways, from my window I return my attention to the interior of the room I'm in. It has the opulence of a kings' chamber. The realization dawns on me: It is a kings chamber. It is the sovereign king's bedchamber and adjoined washroom. And I'm in there to fetch something important on the kings behalf.

Dispatched to secure his family heirlooms on my person, I begin overturning array after gaudy array of cushioned trays and velvet-lined drawers. The contents having been spilled onto the washroom countertops, I proceed to pick the objects specified for me to retrieve out from the ensuing jewelry heaps. These I will restore to the kings possession upon reuniting after the seige has ended -- wherever and when we finally reunite. I suppose myself the king's most exceeding loyal retainer and servant, and pursue my instructions with fiery determination.

Meanwhile I'm wary of sounds that occur inside the castle's interior. I hear footsteps and scrapings, almost undetectable against the backdrop of war. I don't actually encounter them, but the dream sends glimpses of my enemy flashing through my subconscious. 

My enemies look like wraithlords out of Tolkien's saga: dark, ethereal, foreboding. It's imperative I act & retreat from the chamber quickly, as if at any time the seiging forces might penetrate the castle defenses.

I then prepare to depart the chamber, having collected every item specified in my instructions from the bedchambers. While leaving I spy a niche in the chamber walls. Two black, iron swords are propped up against one corner. One sword on the smallish,  the other immense.

The closing scene portrays a starkly determined me, slashing the smaller of the two blades through the air in mock combat making mental vows to gain proficiency and someday graduate to the bigger blade. Just then the king storms into the room and clamors up the nearby stairwell dismayed. He is Tom Wolfe incarnate in my dreams, who is the dad in a family that's very special to me.

Coming To Get You, Again!

I don't know what my fixation with aliens is lately, but I had another dream about them last night. Another dream involving a large-scale alien incursion. This dream wasn't a continuation of the last, so the aliens in this one are unlike those I had described in my other dream. They weren't in the same surreptitious stage of their offensive other. My latest dream begins in the midst of their all-out atttack.

I remember gazing up into the night sky, observing two fighter jets, barely detectable against the stars, playing tag-team with two airborne alien organisms, which appeared to be dragons from my vantage on the ground. They spat fireballs at their human adversaries, which returned with volleys of tracer rounds and missiles. It all faintly suggested some reenactment out of a primitive computer game against the pitch black backdrop of the sky.

I witnessed this exchange for what seemed like five or 10 minutes in dream-time, but what must have in reality been 10 or 20 seconds. Then the scene changes to the bombed-out residences of some city, right out of a WW documentary, except for the panicked crieds of people and the sounds of vehicle engines in the background.

Although I remember engaging in a lot of them, the dialogues themselves are forgetten to me. I can't recall their exact content, but I can recall the prominant images and feelings that accompanied them.

The dialogues were frantic and clipped. It was urgent that we evacuate the city. I remember thinking how unreliable my car is; being uncertain about the lengths to which I could push it down the highway. I also remember suspecting I would die, and that my companions would as well.

I remember the two fighter jets from the opening stages of my dream finally shooting down one of the "dragons". I remember watching as its exposed, incinerated flesh trailed off in embers as it plummetted towards the earth, and me being on the road near the place where it crashed belly-up.

It didn't resemble a dragon on the ground as it had in the air. The alien instead appeared to be a giant crab. It's shell was unmarred and intact. It immediately righted inself upon crashing, and scuttled over and up into the interior of an alien ship that had decended to save it.

And I don't remember much else. Just waking up, bemused.