Insight for Independent Consultants

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    Jerry Lewis: lean development before lean was cool

    As you probably know, Jerry Lewis passed away this year.The New York Times obit had an interesting tidbit:—When they found themselves on the same bill again at another Manhattan nightclub, the Havana-Madrid, in March 1946, they started fooling around in impromptu sessions after the evening’s last show. Their antics earned the notice of Billboard magazine, whose reviewer wrote, “Martin and Lewis do an afterpiece that has all the makings of a sock act,” using showbiz slang for a successful show.Mr. Lewis must have remembered those words when he was booked that summer at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. When the singer on the program dropped out, he pushed the club’s owner to hire Mr. Martin to fill the spot. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Martin cobbled together a routine based on their after-hours high jinks at the Havana-Madrid, with Mr. Lewis as a bumbling busboy who kept breaking in on Mr. Martin — dropping trays, hurling food, cavorting like a monkey — without ever ruffling the singer’s sang-froid.The act was a success. Before the week’s end, they were drawing crowds and winning mentions from Broadway columnists. That September, they returned to the Havana-Madrid in triumph.—Sounds a lot like me to creating a minimum viable product first, testing the market’s demand, then moving forward only when the demand is validated.I wonder if you could apply this idea to your business? ;-)Talk to you soon,-P

    Reporting back on the daily question

    I think it was last week when I sent you a question about what (if any) relationship you’ve seen between daily effort and achievement.I’m reporting back on the results, because they’re interesting. Here’s a condensed summary of the responses:Examples of achievement without daily effort

    1. Getting a doctorate degree in “sprints”
    2. A product biz; think about it daily but actually work on it more like weekly
    3. Daily bad because of effort; systems and automation good because of reduced effort

    Folks who said daily effort is linked to achievement

    1. Daily writing = success, weekly = fail
    2. Daily helps with momentum rather than fits and starts

    Interesting Outliers

    1. $10k spent on BTC back when it was $6.66/BTC (currently worth $24,945,945)
    2. Other examples like Tim Ferris, patio11, etc.
    3. 2-phase things that like building muscle in the gym: daily effort required by split into a work and rest phase

    My takeaway from your responses?Overall: a lot of things can work to create achievement. I knew this already, but it was reinforced by the variety of responses I got from y’all.You should keep that in mind when you’re reading free advice online, including mine. :)Your personality and individual situation matters. It might be the most important part of the equation.Most people on my email list would rather eat a bowl of broken glass than make a cold call to a prospective client. That’s why you’ll almost never hear me recommend that approach to developing new business. It’s simply a non-starter for most of y’all, and I know that, and even if it was super effective I wouldn’t recommend it in a general, absolute way.Most people who provide testimonials for some kind of information product probably could have been successful if their only assets in life were a box of paperclips and a 14k modem. The product they’re recommending didn’t cause their success, it combined with their personality, work ethic, or drive to amplify success. In that way, every success story involving some kind of information product (book, course, etc.) is a collaboration between the customer and the information in the product.The same seems to be true of daily effort. Some personalities “collaborate” well with daily habits to create achievement. And some, it seems, don’t.If you’ve never tried a daily approach to marketing your business, it might be worth some kind of 30-day experiment. I think if you’re going to try it, you should commit to a minimum timeframe of 30 days. Whether you are writing daily blog posts, daily emails, interacting with people on some kind of social platform, or doing outbound prospecting, or something else, I can’t see how anything less than 30 days would let you really see for yourself firsthand if it’s a good fit. In fact for me, emailing every weekday was brutally difficult for the first 90 days. Then, it flipped and became easier to email every weekday than to not email every weekday. The habit was truly formed and reinforced only after about 90 days.Thanks to those who weighed in on my question about daily effort and achievement.If you’d like weekly support with your move from generalist to specialist, check out: It’s sort of like an intense mastermind, sort of like group consulting, and definitely something that could help accelerate your progress away from the generalist crab bucket.If you’ve been thinking about it and are curious about current availability, head over to: Know a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    Remember thin clients?

    Hey, remember when thin clients were a thing?You know, those inexpensive terminal-like computers that rendered an instance of Windows that was actually running on a multi-tenant server? Post mainframe, early post-PC, but pre-virtualized/containerized everything. They were going to revolutionize enterprise computing, if the hype at the time was to believed.Anytime you think that specializing in technology X is how you’re going to fend of commoditization and generate demand for your services, I want you to remember thin clients.It’s not that thin clients went away. You can buy them brand new on Newegg or used on Ebay right now.But the hype was definitely overblown. They didn’t totally revolutionize enterprise computing.”Specializing” in thin clients might have temporarily been a valid way to specialize, but it delivered short-lived value. Now any competent consultancy can deliver a thin client solution if it’s called for.Novelty often masquerades as value, but the two are not the same thing.The following do produce long-lived value for clients:

    1. Specializing in an evergreen business problem
    2. Specializing in helping a certain type of business apply technology

    There are other ways, and they are described in detail in Know a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    New TPC structure

    One of the projects I’m working on over the next few months is improving The Positioning Course.I thought you might enjoy seeing an overview of how I’m considering arranging the content:ImageFull-rez web view:,28.5,-4There’s little context and no explanation there, but maybe you’ll find it interesting anyway. That mindmap does a nice job of overviewing the whole specialization decisionmaking process from beginning to end.-PP.S. Know a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    Things you can’t expect

    Things you can’t expect from a blockbuster franchise film:

    1. Careful character development
    2. An intellectually-satisfying script
    3. Deeper layers of meaning that reveal themselves on further reflection

    Things you can’t expect from specializing:

    1. Overnight success
    2. Immediately higher profit
    3. A magic bullet

    That said, I know for sure that you can expect the following benefits from specializing:

    1. An easier time with your marketing
    2. More effective marketing/lead generation
    3. A more clear path to developing economically valuable expertise
    4. Higher profit in your business over the long haul
    5. Freedom from the “hamster wheel” of learning new tech every 3 to 7 years
    6. Greater confidence in working with clients and dealing with prospects

    Every year in the last 2 weeks of December, I run a sale on my products. Use the coupon code TAXWRITEOFF to get 30% off my products:

    Again, use the coupon code TAXWRITEOFF when you check out and you’ll get 30% off the price of any product. This offer expires at midnight Pacific time on December 31st, so do not tarry!-P

    Specialization examples

    I believe in “working out loud” ( this, I mean working at least partially in public view. This approach doesn’t come naturally to many (including me haha), but I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Most of the drawbacks are rooted in fear and “what if this goes wrong” thinking, which is a clear signal that you’re probably shutting down something that could be great if you moved past the fear-based thinking.Here’s a bit of a “Philip working out loud” update…I’ve started the process of restructuring some of the opt-ins on my site.Building an email list (still one of the most valuable assets you can build for your business IMO) is a fine balance between creating value and asking for an email address in return for access to that value. The key is alignment: aligning the purpose of your email list with the lead magnet/opt-in bribe/lead gen asset that you hide behind an email opt-in form.For example, on, I publish a table of lead generation techniques that I’ve profiled based on how quickly they build trust and how difficult they are to implement. Until very recently if you wanted to download the source data for that table so you could customize it, you had to opt in to my email list. I changed that. There’s still an opt-in on that page, but the table data is available without opting in.Why?TBH, it’s a feeling. A feeling that I could be more generous and less needy. A feeling that if someone needs the kind of help I provide, they’ll find their way to my paid offerings with or without me asking them to join my email list. A feeling that if they really want to hear from me, they’ll opt in for my email list even if the opt-in is not necessary to access the data table on A feeling that my email list will be better for everybody involved if there’s fewer people on it who joined only to get a CSV download.I’ve gotten 228 opt-ins from the form on that page, but somehow I believe my business will be just fine without asking folks to fill out a form in order to more fully benefit from the Trust Velocity data.That’s Philip Working Out Loud update #1.#2 is that I’ve started a research project I’ve had on my TODO list for a long time.Folks are always asking for more examples of developers that have specialized in some way. I have some examples in the case studies in The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms, but more examples would indeed have value. That’s the research project: find and profile as many specialized dev shops as possible.I’ve started publishing the results of this research on check it out, but temper your expectations. I’ve only got 3 on the list so far (but have 1457 more to go). Wish me luck 🙂 That’s a lot of websites to look at and profile, but I’m excited to get it done over the next 6 to 12 months, working out loud as I go.-PP.S. Know a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    Do you work at a SaaS (seed or Series A)?

    Normally in my daily emails and posts here I try to sell you one of my products or services, but there’s no rule that says I can’t try to sell you someone else’s service. :->List member Chris Cooper asked if I knew anyone at a seed or Series A-funded SaaS (notice that clear focus) to beta-test a new marketing service he’s created.God knows I’ve gotten tons of generous help along the way from others, so I figured I could try to partially return the favor by passing some info on Chris’ new service along to you. It might be relevant. Here ’tis:——I’ve recently productized my services and am looking for “beta” clients who are willing to go through the program in its current version. It’s called “SaaS Marketing Accelerator” and is designed to help software companies gain traction and dial in their marketing program in 10 weeks or less. Here’s an infographic that breaks the program down further: Perfect for SaaS companies with seed or series A funding who need to gain traction and kickstart their marketing program2. Builds a lead gen campaign AFTER putting a customized, proven framework in place.Again, more info here:——Hit up Chris Cooper at if you want more info on this.-PP.S. Know a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    Might’ve been picking my nose

    I recently was interviewed on a video podcast called Bet the Jockey, and now that I see the screenshot below I’m not totally sure I wasn’t picking my nose at one point. Pretty incriminating picture below:positioning services - Experiential marketing learning for independent consultantsDid I forget that this was a video podcast instead of audio-only?Possibly.Or maybe I was just adjusting my glasses. I’d like to think that’s all that was going on there.I do know for sure it was an interesting, wide-ranging discussion with the host Josh Wilson, who impressed me as a really sharp, friendly guy.Notice the somewhat provocative title: “If you’re specialized in iOS, you’re doing it wrong!”Do I really believe that? Well, you’ll have to check out the interview to find out: Know a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    What business are you actually in?

    I drove a lot of crappy cars earlier in my life.My first was a 1969 Jeepster Commando. The floorboards were rusted out and covered with 1/4″ steel plates, and I installed lap belt seatbelts in it myself with used belts from a junkyard and bolts from the hardware store.My second car was a 1984 VW Jetta that wouldn’t start if the motor was heated up until a mechanic modified it with a solenoid and extra-thick wire that bypassed the stock fusebox.As a result, I’ve developed a deep aversion to having to repair cars.If a car that I own has to be repaired more than once per year, I trade it in for a new one.In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to own a car (and the inevitable maintenance headache it represents) at all.I essentially “subscribe” to a car by leasing it for 2 years and then trading it in for a new one. During the warranty on a leased car, the dealer repairs pretty much anything that could happen to it and does all the required maintenance for no money out of pocket.I know that some people think I am crazy for doing this. I pay a real premium compared to buying a car, paying it off, and keeping it for 10 years.Why would I willingly pay this premium when there’s a cheaper way to have access to a car? Am I dumb and unable to do simple math?No, I can do simple math just fine. 🙂 I know full well the premium I’m paying to asymptotically approach the objective of a 100% reliable, maintenance-free car.I do it because it’s worth it to me. The difference between buying something like a 2-year old Toyota and keeping it for 10 years and what I do is insurance. Insurance against needing to be somewhere and not being able to be there because of car issues. Insurance against needing to do much at all to maintain the car.You get the picture, right?What business are you actually in?Are you selling code or are you selling insurance?Of course, to a degree, you’re doing both.But if your custom software had a built-in insurance policy, who would pay more for it? How much more would they pay for it?There are buyers like me out there. You find them by specializing. Identifying a strong market position is step #1. Learn how here: http://thepositioningmanual.comTalk to you soon,-P

    Overheard at the local coffee shop

    Overheard at my local coffee shop: “Nothing can happen to me that I can’t drive away from.”The guy was describing how he lives in an RV. While not technically true (try driving away from food poisoning sometime), I admire the look-on-the-bright-side attitude!Have I told you about my local coffee shop? Here’s a picture:ImageIt’s literally a shack that serves coffee, pastries, and the occasional wheatgrass shot. It has no website of its own.If you need to use the bathroom while you’re there, I hope you enjoy using a stinky porta-potty, because that’s what the facilities are!Their espresso is the polar opposite of the fancy short pulls and shot glass of soda water you get at trendy coffee places. It’s a loooong pull, which I personally like but I suspect coffee aficionados would find to be very pedestrian.I love this place, even though to a lot of people it looks like a dump.Marketers are often very concerned with what’s known as their service or product’s Net Promoter Score (NPS). This score is generally derived from responses to the following question:Considering your complete experience with our company, how likely would you be to recommend us to a friend or colleague?My personal NPS for my local coffee shop is 9. (It gets a 9 instead of a 10 because I wouldn’t recommend it to a known coffee snob friend 🙂 )That makes me a “promoter” because I score a 9 or 10 on that question. 7’s or 8’s are considered “neutral”, and a 6 or less is considered a “detractor”.A high NPS is often correlated with strong word of mouth for a product or service. I think it goes without saying that it’s worth trying to achieve a high NPS for your business.High NPS products or services are less interchangeable. I might recommend the flour I use in baking, but probably not because it’s very interchangeable with other flour as far as I’m concerned.How interchangeable are your services and your expertise?If you’d like help making them less interchangeable, check out: http://thepositioningmanual.comTalk to you soon,-P