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Do you sell results? or a product/service?

Is your ethics holding your business? how do you approach this?

     
3:30 pm on Oct 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I guess this is more a social and cultural phenomenon. I'm a webmaster/coder/editor and many things. I used to sell products and services. I notice the market now wants efficiency and results. I would say that's what I've been doing but that's not it. Today what most people in the market want are guarantees. Not the same (and not actually fair but the market is what it is). What I want to address is divided in 2 chapters.

Chapter #1
Example on results/guarantees VS services and products
: Jenny opens a small store selling cakes, she invest on the (1) location (2) furniture, (3) chef, (4) kitchen, (5) Inventory and POS software, (6) letter signs etc and (7) a website. All of that from 1 to 7 are expenses AND investment. Yet at certain point she actually demands what she paid for the website turns into profit, as if that's a rule, she desperately seeks a formula like "I invested US$300 on the website, I want US$500 per month, at least". We can argue about that but I guess you see my point (the point), she can have terrible location, terrible service but she puts too much weight on the website and my services).

Building a website is difficult (a small one is not) but a large one with constant updates demands photography work, video production, etc I do all of that. But the pressure of "I want results results results!" has increased over time in what seems to me unrealistic basis. Let's say the website, photos and video production costs US$300 in total just for the sake of the example. That opened a door to more work, YES, but also questions and also demands on results constantly. Let's compare that to building the furniture (I also work on wood), costs of that: (let's say) US$450 one time, a short period of questions and actually a picture to choose solves it all. You will never get your client complaining about sales, marketing or ROI, sounds to me smarter work compared to what I've been doing. Let's add this: everyone coming to the store will see the furniture.

Chapter #2
Selling promises and lies.
Someone walks in and says "for a budget of US$400 I can build a social media campaign on Facebook and make this business profitable". (I can already see you raising your eyebrows). Such things are really arguable and most times laughable. Yes I had experiences on social media, surprisingly with my own wood products and yes you can sell, but is the same: there are no guarantees. Yet such salesmen are selling guarantees.

Usually the first result (regarding my experience) is the client turns to you and starts asking and wondering about guarantees. This usually means a clash of opinions where if you are honest, you have to fight with honesty and truth against the lies of a salesman (quite difficult) more if you consider most clients don't understand about this. Most clients will get greedy or desperate and go the salesman way. An easy loss? to me: YES. If you are thinking we should give a fight I would say yes, I did so in the past, but I now avoid it and often I let the client go and play with children toys, why?

A. - Such battles are not fair (what is fair in this world?) but this is simple, the client wants guarantees, you can't have that, not even investing on adwords, FB advertising, etc, there is no such thing.

B. - Giving a fight mostly means opening your mouth and explaining why such things are cheap magic that doesn't work, and doing so also means exposing a lot of knowledge to do such explaining, it also means FREE COURSES, free training. This can turn into you and your-client or meetings to discuss strategies along with the new person. I gave a fight sometimes until I listened to myself, no free training, period, no long explanations on why such things don't work or what works and how much to invest.


My findings. With such experiences I had honest clients coming back saying "that was all a lie, it doesn't work, what we built with you really had measurable results". Others keep paying the other person for a while and then their online business stalls. Others (mostly) shutdown eventually and the business is lost (for the client).

I can't stress enough the always valid truths about content being king. I keep several of my websites still making money today, while many of the clients I meet today have goals, "plans" but most of them no content at all (at-all!) and still they want to sell, just like cooking a cake and putting it on a table expecting it to sell itself with no pictures, no content, no description, no nutritional data, etc, most clients don't have a plan. Would that be a business? (building content for them?) Oh yes, there is a lot of work there, but that's like telling your client how to dress properly. It's also a lot of waste of time.


If I managed to describe the situation correctly, I now battle selling services and products against people selling lies. And OMG a lot of people get on the boat and buy from them. Sometimes clients ask me about guarantees and just like most things in the market: sirs,there are no guarantees.
3:54 pm on Oct 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I feel you pain...

But as you realize, there is any way around this. You can simply conduct business in upfront, realistic and truthful manner but you will end up far fewer clients and that may not be able to sustain your own business.

The problem is that there are many competitors waiting on the sidelines willing to do whatever it takes to gain new business. That will agree to terms that you know are impossible to meet but they either are smart enough to realize or don't really care. Some of these, the honest ones, will try and deliver likely putting themselves out business and the others will just run off leaving the clients hanging. In the end most of the clients will have been burned in the past thus causing them to demand even more stringent terms. It is a vicious cycle.

What to do?
Business as usual, not likely to be successful, but if done correctly one may be able to get a sufficient number of good clients to survive and may be even thrive, but it isn't easy and it takes time.

Use the cunning salesperson approach, devise a guarantee that sounds great to the customer that knows nothing (be sure to include plenty of buzzwords) but most of all be sure that terms of the guarantee are in no way enforceable. If you are really good (salesperson, snake oil type) once things start to fall apart for the clients be ready to sell them even more services. Eg: start by providing service to build links, then when they get a link penalty sell them a service to clean up the links. This strategy should result in a large number of paying customers, not happy customers but paying customers.
5:15 pm on Oct 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Lying hugely can get you to the top..But ..If they find out it was lies ..and they will..sooner or later..it can land you in jail..

In my opinion, better to sleep every night thinking , "I did the best I could, I didn't lie, steal or cheat", might not get you rich, but as your time in this world is all that you have, don't waste it being dishonest..

Glad to hear the furniture is doing OK..stick with it, "head, hands, and heart"..and piece of mind.. :)

There are no luggage racks on hearses..
4:47 am on Oct 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Nick, yes that's exactly the case. I've seen plenty of people and articles also giving advice to that chain of selling, sell the car, goes broken sell the tires, go broken "sell better tires" etc, but I won't go that way. Yes I'm aware liars are building business this way in times where (ignorant) people think instant business can be build using FB or other stuff. They eventually end up out of the game but in the process they can also destroy other people businesses.

Sadly, as described in many ways regarding the programmer(coder) life and logic (tied to honesty) we are easier to tell things as they are, appearing less "salesman" like, while salesmen (specially the liars) will build an artificial bold with the clients. The result is often a relationship of abuse (psychology) where the victim might have issues breaking that friendly bond artificially built. In short, even if liars lie, a lot of clients might remain as "friends" or disliking more what an honest programmer tells them.

@Leosghost, exactly, I sleep quite well. And yes the wood stuff has worked quite well too, not to mention (as explained on another thread), built once, sell once (or many times) works better than websites (with continuous maintenance tasks and requests)
6:21 am on Oct 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Chapter one: "Honey, that sounds like pie in the sky. Bake one and I'll come back later."

Chapter two: "My time is X. Turnkey finish job is XY. If you need anything else it MIGHT be XYZ."

Closing statement on both above is: "There are no guarantees of income as that is not decided by you, me, or the mice in your cupboard. All that comes from third parties such as g. On the other hand, if you have a really desirable product, great service, and word of mouth you can get some traction but that's still no guarantee of income. Might have to throw some advertising dollars into the mix and that, dear person, is not my bailiwick."

If they insist on an income number I pull out my datebook, flip a few pages and sigh. "You know, looks like I can't even start your project for six weeks. Sorry."
6:25 am on Oct 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Clients with unrealistic expectations have always existed. What has also existed is coders who underprice themselves into untenable situations. The former are difficult to educate. The latter generally only make the mistake once or twice ... or go out of business.
6:37 am on Oct 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Last remark:

On two different occasions, for company/product with potential that I recognized and agreed with, I cut a different kind of deal. XXXX for basic code start up, XX-month for 3-years in exchange for 1.5% NET (not gross) sales for 5-years, updates as needed on last two years on billable hours. Required contracts and auditing by an agreed upon third party. One went bonkers great, the other just went bonkers.

Still do work for "great" from time to time, these 10 years later, at billable hours and no gimmes.

Bottomline, you can't guarantee anything and should do everything you can to tell them not to get into this mess! If after fully informed then go forward, you BOTH know they do so with their eyes wide open.
4:59 pm on Oct 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@tangor, there seems to be a never ending supply of more developers who are willing to underprice. Look at what some people charge on freelancing websites. Its not just people in low cost countries either.
10:36 pm on Oct 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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You can't fix greed or desperation, whichever may be the motive. If one wrestles with cheap you either go cheap to compete, go even higher for excellence (provided you can deliver it) or find something else to do.
4:20 am on Oct 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the comments. I sell services just like anyone else, no even doctors can sell you a guarantee (or I should say doctors are the less likely to do so while a furniture store sure can).

I've been growing apart from clients because it's taking longer and longer, and more effort. I'm not saying it takes more work because educating clients is not work, is usually a waste of time. Since a while ago people come to webmasters just like to doctors: with bogus self diagnosis and expect you to discuss a lot of details with them (sounds good but you know I mean more details than needed, including things they do-not-understand-at-all and shouldn't). Not to mention magic cures.

Being apart has proven healthier to me. Besides, most of those "businesses" disappear or are about to. It's just like ignorant people when their love relationships go bad and start approaching magic, that's a bad sign, time to move away. My approach on this lately has been "ok great, feel free to try anything, I can't help you" and I'm happy, the first result is quite funny, they expect me to fight over them... well that's not going to happen.
9:34 pm on Oct 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@explorador:

Yes, life is too short! There still are good clients out there, just as there are still good coders. The noise of the web has just made it more difficult for the two to meet.

Most of the silly none serious pie in the sky folks I politely turn down these days, or direct them to the "build a site in one hour!" offerings out there.

Then again, have to confess to simply getting old(er) and a little more particular about what I do with my time.
11:39 pm on Oct 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Amended to read: "If there ain't a buck in it I have other things to do."
5:14 pm on Oct 8, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks tangor. I know I have accumulated a lot of skills and info, so while it's kinda fun sometimes to make plans and discuss, I have adopted that line you mention in the sense of: "not a single buck, I'm outta here". Today people enjoy asking too many questions, demanding answers that are actually work and valuable information that can't be given free, I've been letting clients assume wrongful conclusions and positions because they are just clients, and bringing light can't be done for free.

Years ago I decided to invest on what I have learned, so instead of just serving clients I started serving myself, I became my own client, sort of saying. So I built my own projects that still bring money instead of just serving clients. The results are quite interesting, clients (and competitors) with wrong ideas and they just can't see it because it's assumed it works and want to sell them. On the other hand I already have projects with proven ideas producing money.

I'm sure convinced learning and working only to serve clients is not a good plan for webmasters.
 

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