Strong differentiator #6: Say no to bad ideas

When I moved into my new office in downtown Sebastopol in January, I had an opportunity to improve my video call setup.

I’m on video calls a lot, and one of the small annoyances that crops up has to do with a wide-angle webcam placed relatively close to your face.

In that situation, even small eye movements are exaggerated and it looks like I’m not paying attention to the other person on the call. It looks like I’m looking all over the place, not making eye contact with them.

One solution is to move the webcam further away from your face to decrease this effect. In my cramped home office, this wasn’t an option but in my more spacious new downtown office it was.

So then I started thinking… “how close to a professional TV studio could I get?”

I started researching webcams that could be placed literally on the other side of the room, to make it more like a TV studio. Webcams with optical zoom lenses that would let me zoom way in to compensate for them being placed so far away from me and that would blur the background because they were zoomed in so far.

There are some pricey webcams designed for large classrooms and large conference rooms that might have worked. They start at about $1k in price and go up from there.

I also could have gotten a Panasonic GH4 with a zoom lens, but then I would have had to get a $300 converter box to make it look like a webcam to my computer.

And I was seriously considering doing this! That’s when my friend Anthony, a digital video expert who had been answering some questions about this stuff for me, stepped in to intervene.

He told me that anything beyond a Logitech C920 and a decent lighting setup would be wasted money. The more fancy video setup would be a PITA to use and would be massive overkill for what I needed.

He broke the spell.

All of a sudden, I realized he was right, and I had been seduced by the rosy glow of a ridiculously overspecced setup. I could satisfy my goals of better video for video calls with a much smaller equipment budget.

That’s a good example of strong form of differentiation #6: Say no to bad ideas that your client doesn’t know are bad ideas.

Remember that weak forms of differentiation are claims that almost any of your competitors can credibly make. “We have a great process.” “We have a great team.” That kind of thing…

Saying no to bad ideas might be one of the more powerful differentiators you could use, but it’s also in that category of differentiators you can’t claim in your own words.

For example:

YourNextAppCo is an iOS dev shop for heavy equipment service companies. Unlike other iOS developers, we say no to your bad ideas.

An old saying about attracting more flies with honey than vinegar comes to mind…

But yet, so many custom software projects are held back by bad ideas and bad decisions a client imposes on the experts they’ve brought in to help them!

If you can get a previous client to admit–in a case study or testimonial–to being helped by you saying no to their bad idea(s), that’s one way to demonstrate this differentiator. In fact, that might be the only way to get this differentiator in front of prospective clients.

But it’s OK that there aren’t a lot of ways to claim this differentiator in your marketing. Because at the end of the day, it’s a powerful mindset more than anything.

If you can learn how to identify bad client ideas and help your client realize in a diplomatic way that it’s a bad idea, you have developed a powerful consulting skill. This skill is a big part of the difference between being hired to be a “pair of hands” vs. being hired to advise.

How do you develop the expertise you need to confidently say no to bad client ideas? Specializing is one way to do that quickly:

PS – Here’s the video setup I ended up with:

video call setup

and my much more spacious office…

office pic

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