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    Well that was easy

    “Coaching is just an inefficient, expensive form of project management.”See how easy it is to make a provocative but empty assertion?I just made that one up. It sounds like I have a bold point to make, but really I’m just being provocative with nothing to back it up.That’s the balancing act. Being provocative so that ______________. So that:

    • Busy CXO’s pay attention to your marketing.
    • Prospective clients change their thinking about _____________.
    • A client follows your lead during a risky or challenging phase of a project.

    Or something else. What other good thing could you accomplish by being thoughtfully provocative?-PKnow a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    Finding those top 20% buyers

    Yesterday I talked about Top 20% Buyers, companies that will pay a premium rate for your services.I got a great question that basically went like this: “How do I find those Top 20% Buyers?”Fan freaking tastic question!I have two top-level answers. 1) I don’t know (specifically for you) but 2) I have some ideas you might be able to try out anyway.Answer #1 is really me saying “it depends”. Maybe you have a well-connected relative and that is how you find Top 20% Buyers. Maybe you went to an Ivy League school and developed a strong network that yields lots of work you can price well.Most of us don’t have those advantages, so we have to find those desirable buyers ourselves. Here are some of the ways you might do that:

    1. Build up a flow of leads that is so strong you can cherry-pick the top 20%. If you need an average of 10 projects a year and you close 20% of the prospects you have a sales conversation with and you want to pick the best 20% of the leads that come your way, then you need to generate 250 leads per year, or a little more than 20 leads per month. Not just email signups for a list, but solid leads for project work.
    2. Look expensive to help repel price-sensitive buyers.
    3. Emphasize service offerings that appeal to less price-sensitive buyers.
    4. Publish pricing and use price points that are expensive.
    5. Package service offerings in more profitable ways.

    I think all 5 of those are fine options, but there’s a more fundamental issue to consider.What could you deliver that’s exceptionally valuable and therefore worth charging a premium price for?You can’t answer that question without first having a focus on a certain type of client. Your so-called “ideal client”.Value is all about context, and software developers (masters of abstraction that you are) can produce value is sooooo many different contexts. If you can pick a context for your services where they automatically produce exceptional value, then you’ve won half the game.The value of basic HTML skills in the mid-90’s was OFF THE CHARTS. High-school kids with those skills at that time could earn a solid upper middle class living with just those skills and enough hutzpah to market themselves a bit. Those same skills now are not nearly as valuable. They’re not worthless, but they’re not enough to earn a solid upper middle class living. Same skills, different context, and the resulting value is way different.After you have a vision for how your skills could produce exceptional value for a specific type of client, you might then think about how you could deliver your services in a way that’s exceptionally valuable.I can’t give you a 1-size-fits-all prescription for doing that. It depends too much on your ideal client. Some will value speed and predictable cost, for example, while others might value a custom experience that necessitates less speed and less predictability in cost. But if you can decide who you want to serve (that usually looks like a market vertical or a clearly-defined audience), then you can figure out how best to serve them–how best to create exceptional value for them.If you’re wanting help figuring out your who, then might help.-PKnow a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    We’ll take the premium option please

    The wildfires here in Sonoma County are contained, it’s been raining for the past week, and the focus now is cleanup of the burned-down houses.Each burned-down house generates literally tons of debris, and that’s before you account for potentially removing the heavy concrete foundation. (TIL that houses weigh ~200 lbs/square foot for single level homes, ~275 lbs/square foot for 2 levels and ~350 lbs/square foot for 3 levels!)I also recently learned that there are basically 2 options for debris removal. You can agree to let the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) do it for you and they’ll bill your insurance company up front for the work, or you can hire a construction contractor to do it for you. The FEMA option is less expensive, and because the homeowner doesn’t ever see a bill for it, it’s “free” to the homeowner. The hire-a-contractor option is likely to be more expensive for the homeowner, and they have to orchestrate the project.Finally, because the opt-in deadline for the FEMA option was yesterday, I learned that about 80% of homeowners went for that option.Looks a lot like the good ole’ 80-20 rule in action.I don’t have a lot of data to support this, but I believe the same applies to markets. 80% of the professional services buyers out there are going to go for the cheaper option, whatever that is. No wonder there’s a race to the bottom!But that still leaves 20% of the market happy to pay a premium rate to get something they value more than low cost.I know this might sound a bit crazy, but friends of ours who lost their house in Santa Rosa are not going with the cheaper FEMA debris removal option because they want more control. They want “bespoke fire debris cleanup”.Maybe the foundation on their house can be saved? FEMA won’t take the time to find out; the FEMA contractors are optimized for speed and low cost, so they’ll pull out the foundation regardless. A private contractor can afford to take the time to do it right because they’re not operating on a large government contract.Their property is on a hill, and they’re concerned that the FEMA contractors might tear up the terraced landscaping as they do their thing. The private contractor can work more slowly and less “efficiently” in order to take better care of the landscaping. (Oddly, their house burned down but all the oak trees on their property were essentially untouched by the fire.)There are tons of benefits that you might offer so that a “top 20% buyer” sees strong value in your more expensive offering.So as you’re assessing a market, make sure you get a sense of whether you’re dealing with a “bottom 80%” or a “top 20%” buyer. The bottom 80% buyers might seem like an unattractive market (because they are!) but the top 20% buyers might be very different to work with.Want help improving your positioning or marketing? I offer a small group program to help you do exactly that: http://positioningacceleratorprogram.comClick here to get more info on this program sent to your inbox:

    DSMB on Getting Started in Training

    On November 30th at 1pm Pacific time, I’m hosting a Dev Shop Marketing Briefing with Reuven Lerner. Reuven will be giving a brief presentation and taking questions on how you, yes YOU, can get started providing technical training services. It’s free, but you must register in order to attend and ask questions live. Register here: I have a soft spot for training because a big part of my background is in technical training for adults.So I’m always enthusiastic about the idea of devs diversifying their income and increasing profitability by offering training services in addition to development work.Reuven is the ideal person to teach you about getting started in training because he’s done it himself. He’s landed recurring training clients, some of which are household tech names. He builds and refines his own curriculum from scratch. He runs a Facebook group for devs who are interested in getting into technical training: a profitability perspective, training is very attractive because of how deterministic the pricing can be. Strictly productized services aside, training is priced more like a product than almost any other service I can think of except for services like massages, haircuts, etc. Pricing is usually set on a per student per day basis. For example, you might charge $300 per student per day, and collect $9,000 for a 3-day class with 10 students attending.Compared to a software project that might just as easily take 9 months to complete as 3, that is highly predictable revenue once the sale is made, and that predictability has a beneficial effect in planning your other revenue-generating activities.This Dev Shop Marketing Briefing is free. Anybody can attend; send the registration link to a friend or colleague who needs this info if you like. We won’t be pitching anything during this meeting. Just straight up, very useful info. These DSMBs are not like a typical webinar where presenters are on a digital stage and attendees are behind a veil of anonymity. Instead we’re all in the same digital meeting room and can talk and discuss freely. After you register, I won’t remind you a bunch of times to attend. You’ll register, you’ll add the event to your calendar, and you’ll attend or not. And if you attend, hopefully you’ll drill Reuven with lots of tough questions. Easy softball questions would be fine too, but Reuven is hoping for some tough ones. 🙂 I’ll publish the recording later, so don’t stress out if you want this info but can’t make the call. The recording will show up unannounced at within a week or so of the call. If you need this info but can’t make the call, sending questions to me by email ahead of time is fine too.If you want to attend, you need to register here: -PKnow a self-employed software developer who might benefit from specialization? Send ’em this free gift! Details here –>

    Maybe in Slidell I’ll find my joy

    —🎶🎶🎶—I don’t want you anymoreCause you took my joyI don’t want you anymoreYou took my joyYou took my joyI want it backYou took my joyI want it backI’m gonna go to west Memphis and look for my joyGo to west Memphis and look for my joyMaybe in west Memphis I’ll find my joyMaybe in west Memphis I’ll find my joyI’m gonna go to Slidell and look for my joyGo to Slidell and look for my joyMaybe in Slidell I’ll find my joyMaybe in Slidell I’ll find my joy—🎶🎶🎶—That’s part of Lucinda Williams’ song, “Joy”, from her Grammy-winning Gold-selling album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”.Finding the global maximum on this curve for your business may require some iterative experimentation:ImageMaybe in Slidell you’ll “find your joy”. In other words, you may have to try several different approaches to specializing in order to find the one that is a great combination of your interest and skills and your clients needs.Is it possible to figure this out without months or years of blind experimentation?I’m glad you asked, because I do have some methods for shortcutting the blind experimentation.Specialization Hack # 6: The List-Building Stress TestI credit David C. Baker for the genesis of this idea. I’m pretty sure somewhere down the line I heard him say that if you can’t buy a list of contacts that match your desired specialization, it probably isn’t viable.My modification of this idea tweaks it for the solo developer or small shop as follows: if you can’t build a list of prospects for a potential specialization, it probably isn’t viable (unless you have pre-existing access or can use networking, inbound marketing, or paid advertising to gain access). And further, if you’re trying to choose between multiple potential specializations, then building a list of 50 to 100 prospects for each potential target market will tell you a lot about how easy or difficult it would be to develop new business in that target market.Does this hack make things easier?Well… compared to eating a whole bag of Cheetos while sitting in a kiddy pool in your back yard, no. It does not make things easier than that.But compared to spending 6, 12, or more months pursing a specialization that’s a bad fit, spending a day or two building a list the old fashioned way (sifting through LinkedIn profiles), it’s dramatically easier! :)I’ve got a few more hacks coming your way, but if you are still feeling hangry to learn more about this stuff, check out the rebooted Consulting Pipeline Podcast at to you soon,-P

    Losing my virginity

    I remember my first time.He was a VP at a Fortune 1000 construction company. I was a lowly business writer, hired to write a case study for a client.I had never done it with someone so important at a large business.I had done everything I could to prepare for the interview, and made sure I called at exactly the scheduled time, and made triple-sure I was ready with good questions and the ability to effectively take notes for future reference.And that’s how I lost my “interviewing bigwigs” virginity.What about you? If it would benefit your business, would you be comfortable approaching a Director, Vice President, or someone even higher up the chain of command at a company that you want to learn more about?Specialization Hack #7: Ask Questions and ListenMy next specialization hack could be restated thusly: do effective market research.For some markets, everything you need to know is available online and you can learn what you need to know about the market through some dedicated Googling.For others, the crucial insight you need is concealed inside the organization, or inside the minds of key decision makers within the organization. For those markets, the best way to accelerate your transition from generalist to specialist is to interview the people involved in deciding to hire you (decision makers) or funding the project you’re involved in (buyers).The Market Research Handbook in the Complete Bundle package of tells you how to conduct this kind of market research.Talk to you soon,-P


    I learned a new word recently: e-peening.It’s apparently the verb conjugation of e-peen, and it’s a word that’s used to describe someone who shows off online, usually making themselves look ridiculous in the process.If you need more detail on this exciting new addition to the English language, Urban Dictionary’s got you covered.Specialization Hack #8: Test Your Value PropositionWhen I used to write white papers for Microsoft, I used to imagine the person reading whatever I wrote sitting in an aisle seat in the coach section of a completely full airplane flight with a screaming infant directly beside them and a bratty kid in the seat behind them kicking their seat back every 2 minutes and a rude teenager in the seat in front, suddenly reclining the seat with no warning and a lot of turbulence in the sky.I would try to write in a way that kept that person’s interest and avoided the cognitive overload of long, complicated sentences (like the one directly above this one hahahahah).I certainly didn’t succeed at writing well for a super distracted reader every time, but it was a great goal to help guide my writing.When I’m thinking about how you can get prospective clients to pay attention to you when you’re marketing online, I have a similar image in mind.I imagine a busy management-level or C-level person sitting at their desk. Papers are strewn everywhere, and every 8.9 seconds they get a notification from their smartphone for something that actually is important and that actually demands a slice of their cognitive budget for the day. There is a constant, low level roar of people talking in the background, and one of the rollers on the laser printer near their desk has a squeak so that every time it outputs a page it makes this annoying, impossible-to-ignore squeaking sound. Oh, and they’re looking at working another weekend because they’re behind on a ton of shit that needed to be done last week.I know this is an exaggerated picture, but you get the idea. You’re competing against a LOT of noise when you try to get attention for your services or products online.And the bad news is, there’s no “magic bullet” for this other than finding the right combination of the following ingredients:

    1. Relevant, compelling value proposition
    2. Audience that finds your value proposition compelling
    3. Marketing channel that provides reliable access to that audience

    The right combination of these ingredients will get your buyer to “look up from the stack of papers on their desk” and give you some of their most precious (and probably scarce) resource: their attention.I file this idea under the category of “positioning hacks” because if you’re considering specializing, you’ll find yourself in one of two situations:

    1. Previous client work has proven to you that there is demand for your new, specialized market position. IOW, the specialization you plan to move towards is a subset of your current client work, and therefore you know that there’s demand for it and you may have a rough idea of how to get more clients around this specialization. Your main question is whether you can successfully expand this subset of your current client work to be your primary marketing and business focus.
    2. Your new specialized market position is aspirational. You believe or hope that there is demand for it, but you have collected little or no evidence to prove to yourself that there is. Your main question is how quickly you would go out of business if you bet the farm on this new specialized positioning and your bet turned out to be wrong. 🙂

    It’s this second situation where some sort of test of your ability to get a prospects to “look up from the stack of papers on their desk” is a good idea before you go all in.I’ve described at least one way you could approach this in this article: It’s certainly not the only way you could do this.I can work with you individually to help you design a “market pentest” that’s customized to your situation. Reach out to me about that here: to you soon,-P

    Excuse me while I kiss this guy

    Apparently one of the most misunderstood popular music lyrics is Jimmy Hendrix singing “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” in his song “Purple Haze”.I get that. It really does sound kind of like “Excuse me while I kiss this guy”.BTW, if you’d like to have 20 minutes sweetly stolen from you, do a Google image search for Jimi Hendrix tattoo some time. If you’re looking for some ideas for psychedelic-looking full sleeve or full torso tattoos, the cover of “Axis: Bold as Love” is definitely underrepresented out there. I’m pretty sure your loved ones would think it’s awesome if you came home one day with one of these bad boys on your arm 😉Axis: Bold as Love tattooSpecialization Hack #9: The “Meetup Test”In-person meetups can provide a good opportunity to get feedback on positioning statements.Your positioning should be based on the most valuable combination of expertise and market demand available to you now, or one that you can “grow into” in a year or two. In other words, it’s a factual statement.I’m definitely not saying you should “crowdsource” your positioning statement from strangers at a meetup.But sometimes you’d like some feedback on wording variations. Sometimes you are wondering which of several variations will resonate best with real people. And sometimes you just want to practice saying your positioning statement in “live fire” situations before you use it in a sales conversation with a prospective client.That’s when you might deploy the “meetup test”, and attend a few in-person meetups for the specific purpose of getting to introduce yourself to multiple strangers, which is a great opportunity to try out multiple variations of a positioning statement.If you’re liking how it feels to do this kind of exploration but want the fast track to completely, then check out out If you want some information on this course delivered to your inbox, click here: to you soon,-P

    Knowing how vs. knowing why

    The value you provide your clients is based largely on your expertise.

    If your first thought was “but I can’t know everything about _________” then I want to sit down with you right now and talk about what expertise really is.

    The “but I can’t know everything” knee-jerk reaction is actually just conflating knowledge with expertise.

    They’re not the same thing.

    Knowledge is knowing how to do something.

    And once you’re past a fundamental level of competence with whatever your discipline is, you can easily and rapidly acquire additional knowledge, usually in a just-in-time fashion.

    If you’ve moved out of the world of a full time job into the world of self-employment, you may be stuck thinking of your value in terms of your knowledge. In terms of knowing how to accomplish tasks.After all, that’s pretty much how jobs are structured. For example:


    That job description is for a job with a lot of how but very little why.

    Expertise is having enough how knowledge combined with an understanding of why.

    Why you should choose approach A over approach B (and when approach B is the right one despite its apparent flaws).

    Why investing in custom software is sometimes not what’s best for your client (and why it sometimes is).

    Why your clients’ customers choose your client over the competition.

    Why your clients’ business works the way it does.

    Almost anybody can string together enough stackoverflow searches to find the answer to how.

    But your clients will pay a premium rate for someone who understands the reason why. What they’re paying that premium for is expertise.

    It doesn’t take long to figure out enough why questions to significantly increase the value you deliver to your clients.

    Once you’ve figured that out, the next step is:

    Talk to you soon,-P