Managing Expectations – what you promise versus what you can deliver

Nothing is more important in a client relationship than being able to deliver on the promises you make. As a young business man I tended to over promise backing myself into a corner and setting myself up for failure.  Having learned that lesson I am extremely attentive to managing my clients’ expectations.

Today, I had a great conversation with my client, the author.  He is very tangential and tends to push the boundaries of my role.  He’s asked me to edit chapters, devise and execute a strategy to get shelf space with airport vendors, write and distribute press releases, and even get on the Chelsea Handler show….no joke.  I like his enthusiasm but I promised to deliver on set goals within the realm of social media; followers, posts, properties and presences.  The more I work on the other stuff the less I deliver on the promises I’ve made.

Over the last few days I have hinted on this with statements about what my focus will be for this week and such but he still asked more from me.  So today I hit him right between the eyes with it.  I told him that every hour I spend on anything else is an hour lost towards what we are striving for with social media.  I told him that it boils down to keystrokes and clicks and the more time I spend on that the larger our audience will be and ultimately the more books we will sell.  He got the point.  I am now free to focus on what I am supposed to be doing and that is in both our best interests.

Going above and beyond to help a client is good but not to the point where you fail to deliver on what you promised.  Don’t be afraid to draw that line in the sand.  Rather than be disappointed, your client will usually respect you for it.

If These Walls Could Talk

I found out today that we get to keep the apartment.  My landlord’s job as a commission only salesperson charged with signing up businesses for some association lobbying against Obamacare (because it’s unconstitutional) didn’t work out.  It took some will power and a pretend cough not to laugh when he told me this.  So they are no longer moving to Savannah and no longer need us to move out.  Yay!  Call off the apartment search.

Or maybe not.  It turns out the dogs weren’t just acting up when they would go crazy, barking and scratching at a seemingly innocuous section of the floor or wall.  The last few nights I’ve been hearing scratching and squeaking in the walls and in the rafters and underneath the floor.  It’s all around us.  These guys aren’t small either…sometimes it’s so loud and intense that I am convinced they are about to break through the drywall.  So I get up, turn on the lights, grab a baseball bat, and search the areas where the noise is coming from, expecting to see a head poking through with arms flailing to pull the rest of the body past the threshold.  A neighbor of ours had that exact thing happen.  A squirrel had scratched through their ceiling and gotten stuck with its head poking out into the living room.  I figured we had the same pests judging by the intensity and loudness of the scratching and the size of the holes I found in our siding where they are no doubt getting in.  Plus, squirrels are literally in every tree in our subdivision.

Then yesterday my girlfriend went to take the trash out to the can in the alley when she saw a “big mouse” bigger than my fist lumber across the yard and into one of the holes in our siding.  Yep, rats!  Even worse, at least squirrels are kind of cute.

Luckily the landlord isn’t trying to down play or avoid the problem.  The exterminator is coming out tomorrow.  My fear though is that if they kill them with something they may die in the walls and smell.  Or worse yet, the costs to seal up the dozens of holes and cracks from warped boards and deteriorated siding on the exterior of this ‘lovely’ carriage home will be too expensive for them to afford thus making this a reoccurring problem.

Back to the Plan

Today I finally feel back on track.  The tasks at hand were actually related to what I am supposed to be doing in the first place.  No more press releases or editing.  I got the wordpress blog for the free chapter looking decent and even added a facebook like widget.  Since the widget only works in conjunction with facebook pages that made me create a facebook page for the book (which I intended to do anyways).  I also added a poll daddy poll asking, “Is this funny?” with yes/no options.  So far we are batting 1000.

Here’s a link to the blog if you want to check it out.  Criticism welcome.  http://jacksonvacation.wordpress.com/

I am not happy with the location of the facebook like button but I will work on that.  I expect I will have to change the theme again or delve into coding which despite my aversion to it seems more inevitable each day.

I also submitted the free chapter to digg.  No action yet.

The most successful thing I did was send the link to my friends.  A few read it out of support.  The hundreds of connections I’ve established on the author’s pages largely ignore me.  But that’s no shocker.  I knew it was going to be a hard fought battle in the first place.

We need to make them laugh and I’m not funny.  But the author is.  From now on the author is to send me something funny every morning and I will send it out to the right audiences at the right time.

Feels good to be back at it; finding and building his audience, making them laugh, and driving sales.

The Press Release Raquet

Most of my time during the last week has been swallowed up by learning about press releases; how to write one, SEO one, distribute it, and get a high ranking on Google News.  This falls outside my job description but my author client needed the help and why pass up a chance to learn something new?  If done right, a press release can create hundreds/thousands of back links to your website and a spike in traffic in the 10’s of thousands.  It could even land you a spot on the Today Show or Late Night circuit if your story is that news worthy.  However, the release of this book is probably wasn’t going to make the Today Show so I set our goal to getting a first page ranking on Google News.  Since our ultimate goal is sales I figured we should drive the traffic to the free chapter on our blog and have a click paths to the book on Amazon from both the press release and free chapter.   If they read the free chapter they’ll laugh and hopefully buy the book.

First step was to find an angle that was newsworthy.  Since corporate America is the bad guy in the press lately, I chose “New book exposes the real corporate America” for a headline to tap into that.  The word expose suggests something sinister.  Overhyped?  Of course!  But your headline has to stand out among an ocean of others and the goal is simply to get them to read the first sentence or two of your release.

The goal of the first two sentences is to get them to read the rest of the press release, nothing more.

“This is the stuff corporate America doesn’t want you to know.  The ugly truth about mergers, why high alcohol tolerance helps career advancement, and how a conversation with HR about head-gear policy goes down before an assistant is fired for wearing packing tape.”

Borderline out of context?  Hell yes!  But hopefully that’s intriguing enough to get them to read the rest of the press.

I am not a writer and don’t claim to be so the press release wasn’t written as well as I would have liked.  But it was formatted to standards, had the info we wanted, and just maybe had a good enough hook to get read.  It also contained the right amount of keywords (2.5% to 3.5%).  I chose corporate America as our keyword.  Hoping that it’s not too competitive like business or books would be but hopefully it’s a term that enough people search.  Also, the keyword was in the headline and the proper embedded links to the free chapter and book on Amazon were in the body:  Check.

Next step is distribution.  There are services such as PRweb.com and PR.com that most pr agents use to get their press releases out there.  These services have connections with 10’s of thousands of media outlets across all mediums.  These services are free but the catch is if you want to release a quality press release with a picture and links you will need to upgrade to one of their paid services.  PRweb wanted $200/each or a 1 yr subscription for up to 2 releases per month that’s almost $2000!!!

My initial plan was to splash the press release all over the place anywhere we could.  After doing some research I discovered that it will be regarded as spam if I do that.  The first “expert” recommended just releasing once.  Upon further digging, I found most experts recommend releasing it once or twice a month over the course of several months to climb the ranks of Google News.  You can’t release the same one either (that would be too easy).  No, you have to come up with a new angle every time if it’s not a developing story.  The release of a book is hardly a developing story unless I am going to release updates on sales which is hardly newsworthy…”You Can’t Make This Shit Up!! Corporate America just sold its 17th copy this month….really?

I presented this all to the client.  He didn’t like my angle.  He understood what I was trying to do but just wasn’t comfortable with words like “expose” which I totally understand.  That’s not the purpose of his work.  On the cost and problem of how to spin the same news of the book’s release for 6 months, he left it up to me to decide if we should do this or not.  I said no.

Given the awful cover of the book I would rather see that money go toward cover redesign first.  Then we can maybe look at a press release.  I think we need to see whether or not we can set of a viral reaction in social media (which costs $0) before we go dropping $2K on anything.  At least I learned something and have a new tool in my box.

Telling a Potential Client Not to Hire Me

I finally had my meeting with the interior designers yesterday.  In preparing a strategy I decided that the best strategy would to use social media and blogs to show off their design point of view.  This would be best done through pictures (lots of pictures) rather than writing and I suggested Pinterest, Tumblr, WordPress, and Facebook. I had lots of ideas on how to use each platform, build traffic, and all that stuff but we didn’t have time to get into it.  The catch of the whole thing was that to establish their point of view they would have to curate the pictures and create most of the content…..it’s their point of view not my point of view

Moreover, designers typically develop personal relationships with their clients so that they may serve them better by getting to know their tastes and preferences and because they typically work with clients over a long period of time.  And these girls proclaim to be especially big on that.  So it’s totally different than the pizza place around the corner where the transactions are wham-bam and are carried out fairly anonymously.  Their brand is different too because they are their brand.  So I suggested that they do most of the networking too….

What do they need me for?????

I saw this coming and was prepared to answer before they even asked.  I told them I would set everything up so it’s professional looking.  These girls don’t know anything about social media…not even Facebook.  So I stressed that it will save them a lot of time and frustration if I set it up for them and would also look better.  So that they could handle their end of the efforts I offered to sit down and teach them how to use each platform to get them comfortable.  Since they only wanted to spend 30 minutes a day on it I tried to explain to them how I would handle all the behind the scenes crap like photoshopping, peppering in some marketing messages, tracking the data and compiling a monthly report, guidance to reach goals, sending them content to curate, and resolve any technical problems that can and will crop up.  They didn’t seem to see what I would actually be doing….

They just didn’t seem to understand how much time I would be saving them if I did all the behind the scenes shit.  They don’t know what goes into it.  I tried to tell them that it can take several hours a day to do it all well and for them to get it done in 30 minutes they will have to have someone doing the dirty work so they can focus on just the blog post or adding new things to their Pinterest board.  I envisioned even sending them tasks to ensure they make the best use of their time.

They replied with oh no’s and sigh’s and groans because they don’t want to get into it.  I got a sense that they were somewhat afraid of it and one said how much she hated writing.  She told me that she was looking for someone who would just do it all for them so they didn’t have to.  I can’t blame her I guess but that just wouldn’t make any sense.  How could I speak for them on fabrics and curtains and shit?  I can’t…and like the all mighty Oz in the Wizard of Oz our charade would be exposed.  Imagine a client coming in and saying hey I enjoyed our conversation online about carpet and I really liked the one in such and such picture on your pinterest….uh, who are you?  What picture?

Anyways, they said they’d think about it which sounded more like nah no thanks but we’ll see.  Maybe they dive into it themselves and realize how much time it takes and how complicated it can get and how hard it is to grow a fan base across multiple platforms and they give me a call.

I could have gone in there and promised to do it all for them and taken their money knowing full well it wasn’t going to work out but I just can’t do that.  I don’t want that kind of a reputation.  I want to be the type of guy who will tell a potential client “this isn’t for you” if it’s not or “you need to do this on your own” if that’s the best way.  Damn I really needed the money though!

Selling a Book Online

The book is called, “You Can’t Make This Shit Up! Corporate America” and it is now listed on amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1468192094

I have six months to prove my worth.  My basic strategy to sell this book is an alchemy of online book reviews, social media, press releases, landing pages, and a blog.

The key is book reviews.  I will search out and befriend book reviewers through social media and on websites and blogs dedicated to book reviews.  This is a numbers game so the more the merrier.  I have read up on best practices for soliciting a book review and will approach it as establishing a relationship on common ground that takes time and real conversations to cultivate.  Book reviewers are often booked months in advance so I don’t expect much sales impact from them until months 4, 5, and 6.  However, book reviews can have a high virality. The right book review in the right place could be the spark to set this whole thing off.

I will have the press release on Sunday.  I plan to splash it all over the internet.  Anywhere and everywhere I can do it for free.

For social media, I have established presences on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ for both the author and the book.  I use G+ and Twitter to find others and am going to let people find us on Facebook.  I will refrain from spamming out calls to action to buy the book with a link to amazon.  Instead I just want to connect with as many people as possible, dozens per day, establishing real relationships along the way, to build an audience that has given us permission.  I just want them to find us funny and know that he is an author with a new book out.  Then, I want to send them the free chapter which is hilarious.  If they read the free chapter they will probably buy the book.  It’s that good.

I will set up a wordpress blog and promote it on social media.  The wordpress blog will be for people to share their funny stories like the ones in the book.  We want them talking to us more than we are talking to them.  We’ll see how that goes.

I will create some funny landing pages on sites like about.com, ehow, etc, etc with click paths to the book.  This is the idea I have fleshed out the least since it will come a month down the road.

That’s the jist of it.  The details of the execution are complicated and call for individual posts.  I will get to them as time permits.  Thoughts and criticism are welcomed.

“Reschedule? Sure I’d Be Happy To…”

It was going to be a day in hell.  Work meeting at 1:30, pitch meeting at 3:00, work at 5:00, conference call with the author at 10pm.  I expected disaster since everything had to fall just right for me to be prepared and on time to everything.  If the 1:30 runs long which it usually does then I am late for the 3:00 which means I’ll be cutting it close getting to work and if my last table at work is a couple that camps out until a half hour after close I’ll be an hour late on the conference call.

The 1:30 meeting is our quarterly meeting for the restaurant where they present the new specials and policy changes that marginally affect us.  In other words a complete waste of my time except for the free food involved but I have to go if I want to keep my job.

The 3:00 was with the interior design ladies (remember them?).  I didn’t want to reschedule because I didn’t want them to think that I was unprofessional, unprepared, too busy or anything like that.

However, I was unprepared or only half prepared.  I had spent all my time on the author.  I was hoping to wake up an hour early, review what I had done a week ago, polish it up, and draw up a contract so if they like it they can sign on the spot.  I woke up two hours late!  Damnit!   I scrapped putting the contract together and just focused on my pitch.  I started to feel like it was going to be alright and I’ll probably land the job.

Just before I am about to get dressed for the 1:30 pow wow, one of the designers calls and wants to push it back to next week since her partner “had to go on vacation.”  Sounds like bullshit since nobody has to go on vacation.  Nor do they spontaneously plan and embark on a vacation within 1 week.  A red flag would’ve gone up when we set up the meeting last week that hey I am on vacation next week.  Either something awful happened, like a family death, or I got bumped for a meeting with a client.  Either way someone is a bad liar.  But what do I care?  This is best thing that could’ve happened!  Hell yeah we can reschedule for next week!  See ya Tuesday!

The 1:30 meeting was thus refreshing because I didn’t have to stress about whether my bosses tangents would run us long and it was far less stressful than the home office.  By the way, it ended at 2:30 on the dot for the first time in a long time so I would’ve made it on time to the 3:00.  Instead I use the time to prepare for my conference call with the author after work.

Work is dead, meaning slow.  I don’t get any campers or any tables of any sort at the end of the night so when I’m cut I get out of there lickity split at 9:30.  That never happens.

Turns out the author was entertaining visitors so we didn’t connect until 11pm so I got to spend some time with the girlfriend watching the Savannah episode of American Idol, which made me a little embarrassed to be living here with the seemingly high ratio of nut jobs….

The call went well.  He likes where I’m going with things and we sold our first book.  Couldn’t have been a better day.  Things just don’t fall my way like that.