So this is satire, just to be clear… John Frank Weaver, writing for the always hilarious McSweeney’s, offers a wonderfully hand-crafted glimpse into the imaginary life of an Artisanal Attorney.

Weaver opens his piece with the question, “Are you tired of large corporate law firms making the same cookie cutter litigation?” (I know that I am not alone in the construction defect industry that immediately thinks of one law firm in particular upon reading that question.

How is an artisanal attorney different from any other attorney? Like other artisans, I pay close attention to my ingredients and process; I am intimately involved in all stages of creation. Other attorneys print their documents on paper they buy in mass-produced boxes, tens of thousands of sheets at a time, using ink that mechanically jets onto the page. I make my own paper by hand, using the traditional methods of 14th-century book publishers, who printed their works on linen and vellum. The flax for the linen grows along the sides of a nearby swimming hole, and the plants’ growth is influenced by the laughter of children in the summer, when I pick it by hand. The vellum comes from the grass-fed cows of an area farm; to give the cows more agency in the vellum-making process, I let them choose the pumice I will treat their hides with after slaughter. I also make my own ink, using the ink of squid I raise myself in a PETA-approved salt-water aquarium in my office. You can meet all my squid during our initial meeting and pick which one you want for the ink on your will or healthcare power of attorney…

Don’t be lulled into a complacent life filled with more cheap, manufactured goods than you’ll ever need and lawsuits that don’t reflect your uniqueness. Insist on a life well-lived with food, experiences, and litigation that reflect people and skills, not factories and automation. The next time you need to settle a boundary dispute with your neighbor, consult with me – I’m your artisanal attorney. You can find me on Bedford Avenue, in between Ruby’s Fluoridation-Free Fire Sprinkler Installation and Otto’s Mustache Groomery.

Source: McSweeney’s

There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.

In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants. (more…)

I came across a wonderful quote from Steve Jobs on how great people and teams solve problems. What caught my eye was a tweet from user experience expert Jon Fox linking to a picture with text from Jobs’ quote overlayed on the photo.

The caption for the photo, and the body (if you will) of Fox’s tweet reads: The very definition of #UX Wisdom from #SteveJobs. Let me explain…

UX refers to user experience. According to Wikipedia, “User experience (UX) involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.”

Here is the quote from Steve Levy’s book, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything:

When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple with all these simple solutions, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. And your solutions are way too oversimplified, and they don’t work. Then you get into the problem, and you see it’s really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle, and that’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep on going and find the key, underlying principle of the problem. And come up with a beautiful elegant solution that works.

Source: Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything

What’s the Point?

The reason the tweet—and subsequently, the quote—caught my eye is that I am using a similar concept in the launch of a new brand and a new company offering project management or owner representation services to property owners that are designing and constructing new buildings. The theme of our new campaign: “The very definition of what an owner’s representative should be.”

Stay tuned…


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Image courtesy Wikimedia

Last week I was in San Francisco to attend the 2014 PCBC event for home builders. While walking to the Moscone Center from Blue Bottle Coffee, I saw that the line was wrapped around Moscone and was worried I would be waiting hours to get in.

Turns out, the line was actually for the Google I/O conference which was being held in Moscone West, which is a different building altogether from where PCBC was taking place. I didn’t have a chance to keep up with the announcement’s coming from Google’s event until after it was over, but apparently, I didn’t miss much.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the conference has to do with what wasn’t discussed, rather than what did get announced. The two Google properties conspicuously absent from I/O: Google Glass and Google Plus.

Martin Beck, writing at Marketing Land touches on Google Plus and its infamous status as a virtual ghost town:

As one Google+ commenter put it, “We seem to know that G+ is no ghost town. It is more of a social referral graveyard.”

It’s a bit of a puzzle, really. Why don’t more people click through from Google+ to publishers’ content? It’s an important question, one for which we don’t have a definitive answer.

Perhaps Google+ users are content with the content on the network and don’t see the need to exit. Perhaps it’s more of a platform for conversation than consumption of news and entertainment links. Perhaps there aren’t enough loyal Google+ users spending enough time on the network to move the needle.

Source: Marketing Land


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Image courtesy Wikimedia

Checking off one item on my bucket list, last week I had the sincere pleasure of seeing Gary Vaynerchuk speak live at PCBC 2014 in San Francisco. As usual, Gary covered a number of topics that are incredibly relevant to businesses everywhere. I want to highlight just a couple of those concepts here.

Gary Vaynerchuk is highly in demand as a speaker at business conferences, even though he regularly challenges the status quo. Plus, how often do you see an explicit content warning for a keynote speaker at a professional conference?

Stop being romantic about your company

In the clip below, from a previous talk, Gary tackles The Innovator’s Dilemma—the idea that once innovative companies lose their edge when they stop innovating. Businesses resting on their laurels, celebrating previous success, are ripe for disruption from others:

Most companies using social media act like a 19 year old dude…

…trying to close on the first transaction:

This is covered in much greater detail in Vaynerchuk’s latest book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Are you marketing in the year we live in?

One of the number one points that Gary makes—really the primary thesis of his talks—is that you have to go where your customers are. Perhaps more to the point, you have to go to where the customers you want to have are. In 2014, that means using social media. It means mobile, first. It means always looking to the horizon to find out what medium your (prospective) clients are heading to next.

The difficulty, of course, is justifying the time and money spent in such pursuits. This is the dreaded ROI of social media issue that so many marketers must unfortunately deal with. Here is a slideshow from Gary on the topic:

What’s the Point?

With his brother AJ, Gary has established an incredibly successful social and digital media marketing agency called VaynerMedia that caters primarily to large enterprise companies. VaynerMedia’s value proposition isn’t so much about the content produced, as much as it is helping brands understand the context within which it exists.

During the brief Q and A following Gary’s talk, one gentleman mentioned probably the number one topic on everyone’s mind. (PCBC is a builder’s convention, so everyone in the room is connected to the real estate/construction industry in some manner.) Here is roughly what he said:

Let’s say I want to connect with the president of Wells Fargo. I don’t think he is sharing what he ate on Twitter or SnapChatting away with his friends. So how am I going to reach him?

To which Gary replied, “what were you planning to do—take out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal hoping that he’ll see it?” Then Gary told a story about how he and the VaynerMedia team landed a multi-million dollar contract with an executive that was fairly old, and definitely not a big social media user. However, this executive’s children were active on social media and VaynerMedia targeted content at them with the hope that they would in turn share it with the old man.

The gentlemen in the audience asking the question then said to Gary, “that story was worth the price of admission for this whole conference,” and then walked away.


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Gary Vaynerchuk on stage at PCBC 2014

My father did a remodel of a piano and organ store when I was around six years old. As a bonus for his work, he received a discount on piano lessons for me. I never enjoyed playing the piano very much, but it served as a gateway drug that kept me hooked on music for many years.

One of the things that I recall about the piano store were the big grand pianos. Having watched my dad do a variety of woodworking projects, I could appreciate the craftsmanship of those instruments, even as a first-grader.

Steinway is widely considered to be the greatest manufacturer of pianos in the world. A top-of-the-line model can easily reach six figures. Unsurprisingly, Steinway doesn’t sell a lot of grand pianos. But when they do sell a piano, Steinway definitely knows how to make the most of it.

Mark Buckshon, of Construction Marketing Ideas explains:

What if you are selling a high-ticket item to a difficult-to-reach audience like an $80,000 grand piano? How does Steinway push beyond campaign towards action? When you buy a grand piano from Steinway, they will stage a private concert in your home. According to author Joseph Pine it comes with all the trimmings. Steinway helps with invitations, serves wine and hors d’oeuvres, provides valet parking and brings in a professionally trained concert pianist. It creates an experience for its customers. And you know that’s the best that piano will ever sound in the home. Pine spoke to a Steinway customer who had held a concert. Two of his friends bought a Steinway afterward.

Stacked like cordwood…

We bought an inexpensive Casio keyboard this year for me to teach my kids how to read and play music. Target had a deal on them during the holidays and there were dozens of these things stacked together as a sort of makeshift display case.

I forget how much I paid for the keyboard, but I do know that I priced out similar models at Amazon, Costco, Toys ‘R Us and elsewhere before making the purchase. It was truly a commodity purchase.

What’s the Point?

When selling consulting and other professional services, many companies make the mistake of pricing those services as a commodity. As Buckshon explains:

Consider that many of us are in fact “selling a high-ticket item to a difficult-to-reach audience”. The owners and decision-makers for AEC services can be difficult to reach, that is for sure, and even for simple residential work, the fees are high enough that most families would only think of calling on our services rarely.

So the lesson when selling premium professional services, in my opinion, is to treat clients to a true experience. Perhaps a concert with wine and hors d’oeuvres is a little much, but you get the point.

Source: Construction Marketing Ideas

Postscript:

If you are interested in learning more about how Steinways are made, there is an excellent documentary that was aired by PBS called, Note by Note


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Image courtesy Alexis Fam

In discussing websites, blogs, and professional branding with many of the professionals and business leaders that I advise, there is a phenomenon that I have observed, which I call Brian’s Paradox. The basic concept is this: Your website or blog probably won’t make you any more money – there is no guarantee that you will increase business, or even necessarily be able to calculate a clear Return On Investment (ROI). However, without a decent-looking, responsive (mobile-friendly), regularly updated online destination for you and your firm, you are going to work much harder to close deals.

This idea, that an effective web presence has more of an indirect benefit, is a topic that some folks I respect greatly have recently written about. Let’s take a look…

Matt Mullenweg: Bloggers make money because of their blog, not necessarily from it

As the fearless leader of the company behind WordPress (arguably the best blogging software there is), Matt Mullenweg obviously has some opinions on the value of blogging. In an interview with LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Mullenweg says that successful bloggers earn money because of their blog, not necessarily from their blog. Here is the full 50-minute video:

Kevin O’Keefe: Blogging is about relationships and reputation

The video above was shared by Kevin O’Keefe in a blog post he wrote called, Non-monetary benefits from blogging are greater than the monetary. O’Keefe is someone that I credit with having more to do with mainstream acceptance of blogging in the legal industry than any other single person, through his company, LexBlog.

In his article, he makes the following points:

Much like authoring a book or speaking at a conference, blogging is a reputation enhancer. You don’t make a lot of money from either (unless you’ve achieved star status). You make money because of being an author and speaking…

Blog because you have passion, care, expertise, and a desire to share not for immediate gain. By doing so you can achieve a lifetime of significant earnings doing the type of work you love for the type of clients you want to represent.

More recently, O’Keefe took apart some perhaps misguided statements about the value of social media made by a “Legal SEO Consultant” in his post, Social media for business development by lawyers is a big lie? (Considering the negative reputation lawyers have going all the way back to Shakespeare, and the nasty reputation that most SEO consultants have, a mortician seems like a livelier guest at a dinner party than a Legal SEO Consultant, but I digress…)

The best lawyers get their best work from relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. Not advertising or overt marketing. It’s always been the case and always will be the case.

It was true before legal marketing was permitted in 1974. It was true before the advent of the Internet in the mid-nineties.

Putting blogging and the entire social media “thing” in context for professionals, he says:

Social is all about relationships and reputation. If you’re not not nurturing relationships online, you’re going to lose opportunities for business. If you’re not building a reputation online that’s the equal of your offline reputation, you’re not getting that reputation in front of a lot of people that matter.

Chris Brogan: I’m not into social media – I’m into people and businesses

Another person who looms large in the blogging and social media space is Chris Brogan, author of several great books (speaking of which, he has a new one called The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators) and someone who just can’t seem to shake off the label of “social media.”

In his recent post, Shaking Off the Social Media Label, Brogan writes:

I don’t care about Klout. I find things like Facebook security updates boring. It doesn’t matter much how many people do or don’t follow me. None of that’s interesting. What’s endlessly interesting to me are human stories and businesses that treat people like they matter.

By treating “people like they matter,” it helps to build trust. Trust is the basis of any relationship, but is especially important when it comes to handing over our or our company’s hard-earned cash. Together with the amazing Julien Smith, Brogan wrote a previous treatise on the role of trust in business and how to build it in Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust

Mitch Joel: Trust. It’s what it all comes down to.

Founder of Canadian digital marketing agency, Twist Image, Mitch Joel is a blogger, podcaster and also the author of two different books. The first, Six Pixels of Separation deals with the fact that all people and businesses are connected in one way or another to all others online. His newest book, Ctrl Alt Delete, recommends that businesses and the people behind them reboot, and reassess their strategy in the wake of unprecedented change in the marketplace in order to remain relevant in the future.

In a recent post, Joel asks, Who do you really trust?

Trust is everything. Whenever I think about trust, I think about something that my dear friend, Jeffrey Gitomer, would often say in his public sales presentations: “All things being equal, people will do business with those that they know, like and trust. All things being unequal, people will do business with those that they know, like and trust.” Trust is a topic that isn’t approached or appreciated nearly enough in the business world, especially if you consider how important it is.

The statement above is how Joel introduces a video of David DeSteno speaking at Google on the topic of Trust, below:

What’s the Point?

Your website, blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, Google+ placeholder, or other artefact of your online presence, won’t likely make you any more money, but without it, you’re going to have to work a lot harder to close the deal with prospective clients. Why?

Trust.

Your clients hire you because they trust that you are going to improve their situation. They trust that you will have their best interests in mind. They trust that you know what you are doing and have the expertise to accomplish the task at hand.

Social media gives you an opportunity to demonstrate who you are to facilitate the trust-building process. But it is just a tool, in the same way that your computer and phone are tools.

Anyways, that’s my take. What are your thoughts?


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The challenge to building any business, especially when offering consulting or other professional services, is to establish a consistent and steady stream of work. Too often, the ebb and flow of a given marketplace becomes a cycle of feast or famine. Days or weeks without work producing revenue leads to marathon round-the-clock sessions when work does come in. The lack of balance—and with it, reliable revenue— is enough to drive any consultant (and their loved ones) crazy.

One of the problems with the so-called feast or famine cycle is its impact on our ability as business leaders to make decisions. During the lean times, we become more willing to lower our standards just to bring some work in the door. During the busy times, we work ourselves to the bone knowing that another famine is just around the corner.

Since going out on my own a little over six months ago, with the formal launch of both BLHill Inc. and mending wall (sg), I too have been caught in the feast and famine cycle. (In case you are wondering why there haven’t been very many posts lately, now you know.)

There’s only so much time in the day to handle client service, administrivia, marketing, and the demands of life. And it’s easier to focus on the work right in front of you than to find the mental bandwidth to think about the future.

The trap is that consultants get so immersed in delivering value to their current clients that marketing takes a back seat. When you don’t actively market your services, you unintentionally sow the seeds of famine. If you allow your market visibility to ebb, the result is a dwindling sales pipeline once your current projects end—which they always do.

The above quote is from Michael W. McLaughlin, who co-authored Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants: Breakthrough Tactics for Winning Profitable Clients with the late Jay Conrad Levinson, has some insight into this topic. In fact, his blog used to be called Beating Feast or Famine.

So how do you move beyond the feast or famine cycle?

Here are McLaughlin’s four tips for beating the feast or famine cycle:

  1. Create a Plan You Can Stick to
  2. Build a Marketing Road Map
  3. Be Consistent
  4. Allocate Marketing Resources Effectively

What’s the Point?

As consultants, our value comes from our ability to improve our client’s situation. Without clients, not only are we unable to create value, but we are also unable to put food on the table. The best way to bring in more work is to to position oneself as a thought leader, and demonstrate value to prospective clients.

In other words, through lean times and busy times, regardless of the ebb and flow of the marketplace, the job of a consultant is to consistently produce content of value.

A lesson that I continue to learn the hard way…


Link: Four Tips to Beat Feast or Famine

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Image courtesy spyderball