There’s something romantic about the apocalypse

The apocalypse represents something we all desire in one form or another: a reset button. An opportunity to try something else in life. For the most part, that’s not something we can do. Our society has advanced so much, that it takes a ton of work to implement things that seem easy. Isn’t that a common refrain? That our government is useless and can’t ever get anything done? The same structures in place that slow progress in our communities also hinder our lives. Every milestone you reach in life is another anchor you’ve just added to hold you in place.

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Poor Marketing and Overselling – Part Three: Greed

“Under promise, over deliver” is advice in business that reflects an understanding that marketing alone cannot bring success. Yet despite this common knowledge, a brief tour through the Internet reveals mountains of poor marketing decisions. In this third part of a series on overselling, we look at how greed can lead to poor marketing decisions. See part two, here.

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Poor Marketing and Overselling – Part Two: Technical Failure

“Under promise, over deliver” is advice in business that reflects an understanding that marketing alone cannot bring success. Yet despite this common knowledge, a brief tour through the Internet reveals mountains of poor marketing decisions. In this second part of a series on overselling, we look at how technical failure can lead to poor marketing results. See part one here

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Poor Marketing and Overselling – Part One: Ignorance

“Under promise, over deliver” is advice in business that reflects an understanding that marketing alone cannot bring success. Yet despite this common knowledge, a brief tour through the Internet reveals mountains of poor marketing decisions. In this first part of a series on overselling, we look at how ignorance plays a part in poor marketing.

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An Eye on the Time

It has been a week since the New Year and if you are like most of us, you’ve already begun to stumble with your resolutions. Maybe it took longer to get to the gym or you decided to skip a leg day (don’t skip leg day). Or perhaps you’ve once again shelved your spiffy side project as soon as you were reminded to the reason why you still hadn’t finished it. And is any of this really a surprise? Let’s be honest, even if we kept the New Year momentum going year-round, it is only a slight defense against arch-nemesis procrastination.

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Reinvigorate Your Business During It’s Slow Season

If your business is like mine, then the months leading up to Christmas are slow. For me, it’s a period marked by significant idling and extra attention to those few clients who do come around. I would prefer to say that I take advantage of this free time to enjoy a vacation away from work, but being the workaholic that I am I can’t help but see it as an opportunity to make improvements. Truly, I can’t think of a better time to reinvigorate your business.

Regardless of where you stand on the subject of free time, I think this is a worthwhile subject to at least keep in mind. It stems from a key principle about business and personal development that I’ve learned over the years and have practiced since college. It’s “never stop working even when there’s no work.” Putting this into practice helped me get through those early months as a freelance writer right after college.

Taking advantage of the slow season to make improvements to yourself and your business (in many cases, the two are one and the same, more on that later!) allows you to make the necessary changes to be more competitive. My approach targets two goals: polishing my business and exercising my skills.

Polishing The Business

  • Take the time to study the market and any new competitors that showed up in the past year. Look at the spectrum of products and services you’ve sold and highlight movements in your market. Search for additional needs that you can target.
  • Use the information you’ve obtained to develop new marketing strategies, sales sheets, and other front-end material. Marketing backed by facts makes your campaign stand out in the crowd.
  • If you need to make a bit more to reach your financial goals, consider restructuring your pricing during the slow season to assuage losses. Offer discounts and other incentives to convince your clients to act now instead of later.
  • Take the time to reach out to your clients and thank them for their business. This simple act will keep you at the top of their list when the need arises for services or products you offer. Some of my clients have been with me since I started.

Exercising Your Skills

  • Although relaxation is essential for your wellbeing, the slow season puts your skills at risk. Don’t allow a slowdown in work to atrophy your skills.
  • Take advantage of the free time to engage in side projects and other passions that use your skills in unique ways. This will exercise what you know and allow you to test concepts and discover additional ways to leverage your skills.
  • Consider improving your portfolio by engaging in mock projects that showcase the full spectrum of your services. There isn’t much out there that will convince a potential client you are right for the job than for them to browse through your projects and find something that already resembles what they had in mind.

And for those of you that haven’t started a business, what are you waiting for?

The “Push, Publish, and Polish” Business Methodology

A business’ biggest enemy is itself.

Achieving Perfection

When I think of “perfection,” I envision Valve, Pixar, and Apple. In my mind, each has managed to deliver a product that has defined its industry. But at what cost?

I believe it would be safe to say these companies employ a “it’s ready when it’s ready” business methodology. That is to say, they won’t ship a product until they feel it meets their expectations, regardless of whether they are meeting their own deadlines. In “The Pixar Story,” we see the transformation of “Toy Story” and how far the team was willing to stray toward failure in order to deliver a winning product.

Pixar’s dedication paid dividends, but not everyone can claim the same fortune. This attempt to achieve perfection is often the very bottleneck that ends a business early during its development cycle or even when it has matured into a diversified company. It’s a problem that plagues everyone: Deliver a product too soon, and the quality may suffer. Deliver too late, and the your market may have moved ahead without you.

Apple comes to mind as a company I felt had mastered this approach during its early iPhone and iPad release schedule. They were so good at balancing between perfection and release speed that they were able to release products that felt fresh to the consumer, but were still not the very best the company could achieve at the time. This balance allowed Apple to rattle the mobile and tablet market for a number of years, until Samsung forced Apple to lose its balance.

Push, Publish, Polish

Samsung’s approach was simple. Since Apple had innovated beyond what Samsung may have thought consumers would want, they had to not only emulate Apple to remain relevant, but also do so while injecting their own ideas no matter how strange or awkward they may be in light of Apple’s “gold standard.” Yes, they created phones that were almost identical to the iPhone and yes they created horrendous monstrosities that went unsold, but within months they were releasing phones that began to attract consumers. Diving headlong into the idea that consumers may want larger screens, may want hybrid keyboards, and may want technical specifications that sacrificed battery life for raw computing power, they embraced Apple’s own business motto of “Think Different.” Their willingness to leave no stone unturned became the force that has allowed them to dethrone Apple from the #1 position in smartphone sales.

The Push, Publish, and Polish (P3) business methodology breaks development into three phases: Push toward some completion, Publish what’s been completed, and Polish what’s been published. It’s a development style that has been at the heart of Internet startups for years and has begun to take hold in other circles.

Not all businesses will be able to leverage P3 in the purest sense. In the publishing industry, the only way to “polish” a book is by releasing a second edition. And movies are rarely ever officially modified after a theatrical release. But what if P3 could be used? How would it manifest? Perhaps by watching how a product goes from concept to completion.

Behind the Scenes

Kickstarter has made it acceptable to open up the development process to the public. Games like Double Fine’s Broken Age and Chris Robert’s Star Citizen have pulled back the curtain to reveal the nuances of game development and are essentially employing a P3 business methodology. With each community update, they are Pushing toward achieving some deliverable piece of their product, Publishing it online for all to see, and Polishing it so it is even better during the next update. The successful Kickstarter projects (or those still in progress with the least complaints in the comment section) seem to follow this pattern well. Some developers have taken it a step further, by allowing the users to not only see, but also experience an imperfect product.

Prior to creating the game studio Mojang, Notch (Markus Persson) released his now critically acclaimed Minecraft during alpha for a reduced price. As it was perfected and moved into beta, the price went up slightly and so did the word of mouth of its unique gameplay. Eventually the game was officially released, but by that time it had already amassed millions of purchases—a rare feat for an independent developer. Mojang has followed a similar approach with its latest release, Scrolls. Other games like Prison Architect and Project Zomboid have embraced this development style, and the former has even made experiencing the imperfections a selling point.

Not For All

If it hasn’t become obvious already, P3 isn’t for everyone. For some, the idea of delivering anything less than perfection is the very nature of a failed product. And I can see how this can be the case. It’s hard to imagine watching “The Usual Suspects” or “Jurassic Park” multiple times during their development process and feel the way I did when I watched the movies from start to finish in their current, perfect forms. For some things, the illusion of immersion is a delicate part of a product or service experience that cannot be traded away, no matter the cost.

Then again, there is a certain joy in watching a stray line transform into a majestic mountain range with each additional brush stroke.

Don’t Turn Down, Counteroffer

A lot of businesses look at problems as one-dimensional. They see a pile of potential issues and have no choice but to turn down a client because the work is seemingly beyond their scope. This is a mistake. Never turn down work without making a counteroffer — unless not working is your goal.

There are a lot of reasons why you would turn down a job. Perhaps your potential client is working with a budget far below your pay rate or perhaps the scope of work is beyond what an individual can accomplish.

Previously, I described a client who came to me with academic work and how the ethical standards I follow led me to turn down the job. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a method of turning down work in ways that open up the potential for renewed interest.

Hi,

Unfortunately because this is for academic credit I cannot provide any help beyond edits. I understand this is a very difficult task for you, but I know you are capable of doing it — after all you were accepted into the program.

My suggestion to you is this:

  • Analyze your assignment, figure out what it is that you have to do.
  • Write a list of keywords that are related to your field and what you may want to write about. Create your idea. It can be far-fetch, it can be strange — but no matter what your idea is, it won’t be bad.
  • Search each term on Wikipedia — the content on the site itself is no use to you, but the links to the original sources at the bottom of the page are.
  • Scan through the sources and find ones that are most relevant and easy to understand. Things published the last few years are great.
  • Once you have your sources, connect what they have to say with your idea. Now write.

Writing is simply thinking and putting together thoughts. It will be difficult, it will take effort, but you can do it. I will do everything I can to perfect what you write, but you have to do the writing. They have to be your thoughts and your ideas.

No matter what you write, no matter how strange your ideas, they will be 1,000 times better than rewriting another paper. You’ll get the same or even a better score; you’ll have learned something; and you won’t risk your academic career.

Take the high road, sacrifice a few days for this project. I’ll be here to help every step of the way.

Best,

Yuse