Know Your Audience Part II

Back in September 2009 I wrote a post titled Be Sure You Know Your Audience Before You State Your Case. In that post, I talked about a guy that some people know quite well who went on kind of a wrong turn when commenting on something he should have known better about, then decided to write about it on his blog, seemingly with the thought that his readers would immediately take his side. Of course it didn’t happen because he’d forgotten an old adage; make yourself look like you’re superior to others in some fashion and they won’t like it.


by Jon Collier via Flickr

Round two comes with this brilliant post by a guy named Adam Justice on his eponymous named blog (kind of ironic based on the post) titled Viral Virus: Ocean Marketing Is Sunk. This is the tale of not one, but two people who seemed to have it all going on, ready to break through to big riches, only to sabotage themselves and their businesses because they had an inflated sense of self and deflated sense of fairness and common sense to others.

I hope you go read the article, but I’ll give you the quick down and dirty. On the first a guy wrote the company about something he didn’t receive to ask when it would show up and the owner of the company went off on him in an email, basically telling him he was nothing and that he was too important and knew too many other important people for this guy to be bothering him.

The guy goes to a tech reporter who does a follow up, the guy responds in kind and believes he’s in the right on how he responded, and all heck breaks loose, the company tumbles, and instead of acts of contrition he continues inserting foot in mouth.

On the second, a woman happens across a website that she realizes has been stealing her content, recipes. She contacts the woman to point it out, and says that she’s not upset but believes a donation to a college program would be a nice thing to do. The woman instead chews her out for bad writing, says everything on the internet is open for everyone to take as theirs, and says the woman should pay her for editing the content and making her recipes look better.

Of course that gets out, journalists and the like go after her, and her business folds within 2 weeks. Even with that she takes to the web and issues a condescending apology, opening herself up to more derision as well.

UCLA Bruins Women's Gymnastics - 1888
Creative Commons License Parker Knight
via Compfight

Both of these instances prove that sometimes people get a false sense of how important they are. Just because you’ve finally made it, or are on the verge of making it, doesn’t mean you get the right to treat others badly, especially in today’s world of social media, where anything can go viral in an instant if the right person puts the word out. The first guy actually knew he was in trouble when he wrote to the tech writer and asked him to stop the flood, which of course was impossible once the word got out.

I’m a small guy when it comes to business and social media, yet last April I got my bit of mess on when I had a major league affiliate complaint against Finish Line, who basically decided not to pay me a commission then closed my account for low sales on the same day. I posted the email here, the guy threatened me, I dared him to do something about it, and got it to Twitter where it not only got retweeted often, but a different representative of Finish Line contacted me.

Of course it never got resolved because I’m not a big enough guy to warrant any courtesy, but if I’d touched a real nerve with more people who knows right? I thought about taking it to the media but decided it wasn’t worth it; maybe I was wrong, but that one’s on me.

Here’s the thing. All of us have the right to rant. We also have the right to have a bad customer service experience, even if someone else is the customer. What we don’t get to do is put someone else down while building ourselves up, especially when we’re in the wrong.

That these two people couldn’t see that they were wrong smacks of elitism, and sends the wrong message about perception, which I wrote about last week. I write often that I want to be big, but not so I can try to bully others when I’m wrong, or potentially wrong. That’s the wrong reason to want anything; doesn’t anyone remember the lessons of Lord of the Rings?

If you want to ruin your career and any chance of making real money in life, learn the wrong lessons from people like this. I hope you learn the right lesson and condemn folks like this instead.
 

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Being Good In Business

I’m not a great business person. True, I did celebrate the 10th anniversary of my business this summer, so I have found a way to stick around for a good long time. But I’m not a great business person; sometimes I’m not even sure I’m a good business person. Let me tell you why.

Two weeks ago I had to go to small claims court to get money that someone owed me for work I completed. The thing is I made one of those crucial mistakes that probably hits all business people at some point in their life. I did the work before I had the person signed the contract, and then he decided that there was something about the work he didn’t like and he didn’t pay me all he owed me. I did the work because this is someone I’d known for a while and thought I could trust; Judge Judy would have chewed me out for this mistake.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened to me since I’ve been in business. It is the first time I was owed enough money to sue for. Luckily I won; yay! Or did I? What I agreed to is half that day and half the following Friday, and to also help finish the project, which this guy hadn’t finished even though in court he tried to tell the judge that he’d gone to somebody else to help him with it. Of course I knew better because there are very few people that do this particular thing I do. I did my part, and today if he does his part I should have a check in the mail. The thing is it’s five days later than I should have had this money. That’s being a bad business person.

On another front, I’ve been waiting to be paid by a company I did work for back in April. In this case I did sign a contract which said that I would get paid when they got paid. This was with another guy I have known for some years who told me that their clients usually pay them within 30 days so that I should have my money relatively soon. This could have turned out to be a very big contract so I went with it.

Instead, new players got into the game, the contract got cut short, and I have been waiting for my payment ever since. I had actually been told that I would have this payment a month ago and I’ve been looking for it for a while. Then last Monday the same guy contacted me and tells me there had been an error in the office that was finally corrected and I should have my check this week. Of course nothing has shown up yet.

If you’ve read this blog or my business blog for a while, you know that I basically have three tenets that I base my perception of every person I meet on. Those tenets are honesty, loyalty, and trustworthiness. Sometimes in business we tend to make allowances for things that we wouldn’t make allowances for in our personal lives. This sometimes impacts us negatively when it comes to business, whether we work for ourselves or for someone else. After 10 years I’m supposed to know better; I need to start proving it.

Here are five rules I’ve got to put into effect for myself if I’m going to stay in business. These wouldn’t hurt anyone else to follow if they needed business tips, whether your business is online or off-line, and in some cases whether you work for someone else or not. So here we go:

1. I will no longer do any business with anyone without at least getting a deposit up front. The amount of the deposit will vary based on how big the contract is, but it will be anywhere from 25% to 50%. Truth be told, on the first story I told you if I hadn’t got the amount of money I got up front I wouldn’t have been able to get the entire amount in small claims court, and I would have had to make a decision whether to take him to full court or not. That would’ve been really expensive based on the amount of money he owed me, and I could’ve lost out totally. So maybe I wasn’t such a bad business person at all.

2. I will stop lowering my price for most services I provide for someone else. I mainly do this for people I know, but that turns out to be a bad thing when I’m doing something that’s very technical. One of those things you start to learn is that people don’t respect you as a professional, even if they know you, if your price is too low. I was trying to do the first guy a favor which I thought could result in a lot of business on the back end, and he used it to his advantage by delaying the payment I deserved. Sometimes we need to realize when we do specialized services that we need to stick to our guns and our price and dare people to find someone else who can do the work for them. And if they go searching and can’t find someone, if they come back to you raise the price for their wasting your time.

3. I will better define certain terms of my contract so that there is a definitive as to when a project is completed. In this case I did the work in the time I said I would do it, but I never really indicated when I expected to be paid. I did write that I expected to be paid within two weeks of the end of the project, but that left him to interpret that the project ended when he thought it was over. That left me without being paid for seven months. That’s a mistake that won’t happen again.

4. I will better define what will be delivered and what the client can expect. When it comes to SEO work, clients need to understand that the only guarantee they can really get is that their presence on search engines will improve, probably a lot if they have no ranking, but if they have a presence already results might not be as drastic.

When it comes to the specific healthcare work I do, realizing that everyone can’t do it and those other people that do this type of work, which are mainly the very large consulting companies that charge upwards of three times what I normally charge, are someone that I can beat with a better price and better customer service attention.

5. I will not only work to maintain my integrity and the standards and tenets I’ve set for myself and people in my personal life, but I will hold people in business, whether it’s their company or themselves, to the same standards if I’m the one who’s going to be working with them. This is a concept known as “finding the type of clients you want to work with”. I will not work with just anybody for the sake of getting money. I have found that to be mentally draining and not much fun. True, work isn’t always supposed to be fun, but if work is beating you down get away from it and go do something else.

And those are my five things. Is there anything you’d like to add?
 

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