“What’s it for?” – the value of use cases

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There are two reasons to articulate your use case. First, it helps your staff, your designers, your marketers and your sales force get on the same page about what they’re building and growing. And second, it might be unrealistic. You might be hoping for a market that’s far bigger than it is, or to solve a problem that’s too easy (or too difficult).

From “Articulating your use case (what’s it for?)” by Seth Godin

Secret weapon that’s no longer secret: Blogging for business

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The excellent blog of SmallFuel Marketing is full of great information about how to do better marketing for small business. But iif you don’t have time to read through the whole site, you can at least check out this article on the whys and hows of small business blogging:

The big picture of blogging for business goes something like this. In
order to be successful with business blogging you’ll need to put in a
good amount of time. Blogs need to be updated regularly, most people
say between 3-5 times per week, so there is a lot of writing involved.
Also, blogging is a very social activity. This means that you should
read and comment on other blogs, as well as network and build
relationships with other bloggers. In summary, it takes time and
effort.

The result of your efforts, however, can be truly outstanding. A
well-designed and frequently updated blog can boost your website to the
top of search results (blogs are awesome from an SEO perspective), it
can draw in thousands of visitors, and it can help build your image as
an authority. A successful blog can serve as branding, advertising,
networking, and sales all rolled into one. And they don’t even cost
much.

The article is full of links to other useful resources too.

Bottom line: While a good blog requires time and effort, it provides excellent return on that investment.

(Link thanks to FreelanceSwitch.)

Handmade and digital

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Inspiring and original design: “26 Hand Drawn Websites” listed by inspiredology.com.

Obvious applications: a personal blog, a school or daycare site, an artist’s gallery, an architect’s portfolio.

Less obvious applications: a business marketing to a young or jaded audience, a venture capitalist (back of the envelope calculations or napkin note-taking), any business not automatically thought of as creative.

(Link via Coudal Partners Blended Feed.)

Good Stuff Elsewhere: Interview with Ivan Chermayeff

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Over at designboom, there’s a brief but insightful interview with Ivan Chermayeff, a designer who helped create the NBC peacock logo, among may other famous symbols.

could you describe your style as a good friend
of yours might?

it’s not really as easy as that because design is a service, you do what people need, not necessarily what they like but what you feel that they should have. if the client is clever and already knows that they have a particular problem and they come to us they already have an idea of what type of service they will get. we try not to have a style, perhaps the work is recognizable as ours but I think that it would take a very discerning eye to know that. what we have as a constant thread in our work is trying to boil things down to being strong and very simple and looking as though they happened very fast – which they may not have. (laughs)

sometimes it can be quite a struggle to get to what we end up going with. what a lot of people don’t understand is the process of distillation, that you can get paid for doing something that can be drawn on the back of an envelope in three seconds, but it can take a lot of work to get to that point sometimes. the most important thing is to understand
who your client’s audience is. it’s too easy to be too sophisticated for people to understand, too illegible or whatever else. it’s also important to understand your clients media, for instance you are on the web, a chinese restaurant is slipping flyers under doors, you have to know how it
works and act accordingly.

(Link via Coudal Partners.)

Robbin Steif No Longer Using Blogbeat

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Over at Increasing your website’s conversion rate, Robbin Steif writes consistently useful and interesting posts about figuring out how people are finding your site and what they’re doing when they get there, and about making your website effective.

Today she tells us why she’ll no longer be using Blogbeat, a service that tracks which searches people use to find a blog — or rather, she tells them, and we get to listen in:

What am I supposed to do tomorrow morning when I wake up and you aren’t there to tell me who visited my blog using the term “Price of Sitecatalyst” from King of Prussia, searching on Google even though this is his third visit? (I always thought King of Prussia was a shopping mall. You’d be awed at how many “price of SC” searches I get.) Do you expect me to use MeasureMap?

No, I know that you expect that we really will be friends and that we’ll be a threesome with Feedburner. But you know, I have my own special relationship with Feedburner and you don’t really measure up, no pun intended. The one thing you did so well, matching up the geo-location with the browser string identifier with the referrer and the search term and permalinks visited — that’s gone. You were a real man with me, Blogbeat. Now that you’ve married Feedburner, I need a calculator to figure out how old those visits from 23,532 seconds ago really were. And just to make this hurt even more, you aren’t offering cookies to exclude myself from the data.

“Never negotiate against yourself” and other key tips for negotiating well

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I used to be very uncomfortable in situations that require negotiation — which is almost any business interaction, especially fee and salary discussions. I was fortunate to have the chance at Sloan to take a course called “Negotiation and Conflict Management” from the wonderous Mary Rowe. The best part of the course was the exercises, in which we role-played to practice how we would react under various situations. Most importantly, we discussed each of these role-plays afterwards and discovered how the other party interpreted our statements and actions, what they’d have been willing to settle for, etc. Invaluable.

If you’re uncomfortable in negotiating situations and don’t have a chance to take a course, you can get the critical basics from this concise article: “Basic Negotiating for Fun and Profit,” by Steve Pavlina. Here’s an excellent excerpt:

Never negotiate against yourself.

If you make an offer, and the other party refuses, always wait for a counteroffer. Never say, “$5000? No? Ok, how about $4000?” It’s impossible to win when you bid against yourself, but I see this happen all the time. One publisher recently offered me a $5000 advance for a publishing deal. I told them that $5000 seemed a bit low. So they came back and offered $10,000. What if $7500 had been acceptable to me? I knew immediately that I was dealing with a very bad negotiator. They should have asked me for a counter-offer. I might have said $10,000, and we might have settled at $8000. Instead, the publisher has already pushed it up to $10,000 on their own, so if they’re done negotiating against themselves at that point, I can counter-offer with $15,000 or even $20,000, and we end up settling on a nice five-figure advance. I have to say I really love it when people do this. Whenever you are turned down, always wait to get a counteroffer first. A corollary to this rule is that you should always attempt to get the other party to name a figure first whenever numbers are concerned.

This is the mistake I most often made in the past. I’ve become worlds better at waiting during negotiations: waiting for the other party to make his intentions and circumstances known, waiting for him to make the first offer, waiting for a counteroffer. I’m much the richer for it.

One important point the article doesn’t emphasize it that you have to keep an open mind and open ears and eyes. Watch how the other party receives your offer. Listen to their diversions and preambles. Interpret what it is they really want but maybe can’t articulate or are afraid to express. These are keys to discovering the win-win scenario.

And of course: Never underprice yourself.

And even more important: Remember that “no” is just a request for more information.