Friday, July 24, 2009

Marketing 101

It college I took some business classes because I thought it would help me in my career. Turns out I was right. In my marketing class we talked about the three P's: Product, Price, and Placement. In order to create a service you have to figure out exactly what it is you're offering, how you're going to make money on it, and exactly who you are going to sell it to.

That one piece of information has been critical to my understanding how to start a consulting practice. A few months ago I went to see a SCORE counselor and she spent time over a month driving home the importance of the first item, exactly what is it that you sell? You need to have a 30 second pitch that concisely communicates your value proposition, and if at the end of that 30 seconds your audience doesn't understand what you are offering, you've lost the deal.

During that same time I tried to pick up a family friend as a client by talking about helping improve his law practice. He has a history of giving people jobs just because they need them. He loves to help people out, but despite my numerous attempts to describe the amazing breadth of my abilities, he couldn't see any need for my services. That was a very educational failure.

I've always thought of myself as a jack-of-all-trades, I do very well at any assignment I'm given. My employers love it, my managers really appreciate my efforts. When a potential client ask's what do you do and you reply "Any thing you need!", the respose is quite different, "Stop wasting my time." That has been a difficult concept for me to really embrace.

So if they only want one thing how do I choose what my pitch? Surely I don't want to limit my options, surely I can't say no to other opportunities. Surely I'm wrong, but that doesn't mean it's been easy to accept. I've had to really think about what I enjoy and motivates me enough to go outside of my comfort zone and face rejection.

It has taken me nearly 2 years of reading and thinking to really understand myself and my interests to the point that I have a decent guess at what it is I have a passion for that meets a business need. I have a passion for enabling collaboration. For me that includes enterprise social networking and enterprise data mashups. It's at least narrow enough that I can pick a specific offering and change it later without too much problem.

I have so much to learn.


Tim Harper said...

I'm grateful that you're taking the time to post your thoughts and experiences.

How true it is about the "jack of all trades, master of none". When someone wants to shell out the cash for a consultant, it's because they really want something to be done right - guaranteed. Truth be told, most anyone with ambition can put their mind to something, learn it, and become reasonably competent in a short period of time. But since you become good at that which you spend time doing, and you tend to do more of that which you enjoy, you blunt your effectiveness by seeking to master everything (not to say that you still shouldn't strive for a degree of competence in all areas).

I'm passionate about automating things in such a way that it makes people's lives easier and helps them get their job done effectively. I passionately hate poorly-written software, and therefore am passionate about writing high quality, stable software. So, I made that my focus (I named my business "Foundational Software"). High quality software isn't for everyone, sometimes a quick throw-away app is right answer for the job. The beauty of capitalism is we all get to decide what we offer, and what we purchase, and through it all we get an intersection of opportunity for almost all offered services.

You're a stud and I'm looking forward posts to document your journey.

Unknown said...

Tim, Thanks for your words of support.

Ron Graham said...

The Take Back Your Brain blog - and I am sure you know of it - lists FOUR Ps, the fourth being "promotion." Does that rank differently with you, or perhaps separately?

Unknown said...


You're right. :). Just goes to show that it's been a while since my marketing class. Thanks for the correction.