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How the Little Guys Can Win In Today’s David-and-Goliath Business World

23a1ca5Before the internet, small companies didn’t stand a chance against the Goliaths, says Corrine Sandler, a globally recognized leader in business intelligence and market research.

That’s because no war can be won without intelligence and, before the digital era, collecting actionable data and information about one’s competitors, market and customers cost a lot more than most small businesses – the Davids – could afford.

“But today, the Davids are taking down the Goliaths,” says Sandler, founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp., a global business intelligence company, and author of the new book, “Wake Up or Die” (www.wakeupordie.us), a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment.

“Thanks to the internet, the boutiques and startups have access to all kinds of free tools for gathering intelligence. They’re also much more agile than the big corporations; they can make a decision and act immediately. That’s essential in a marketplace where conditions change quickly.”

In “Wake Up or Die,” Sandler applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” – the 2,000-year-old military treatise penned by one of the greatest commanders in history – to the modern business economy. Sun Tzu held that the goal in any war is to win without ever entering into physical battle.

“By gathering actionable data and acting on it immediately, by using it to predict next moves and spot opportunities, small businesses can and are taking down the big ones without a drop of blood being shed,” Sandler says.

She offers smaller business owners these tips for acquiring and using intelligence:

• If you lack resources, make use of free or inexpensive intelligence-gathering tools. Visit competitors’ websites and collect data about them. Many businesses put a great deal of revealing information on their sites, which can benefit you. Also, make note of any changes on their sites. Google Alerts can tell you when they’re releasing new products or expanding. Use Google analytics tools such as Google Hot Trends to tell you what’s in the collective consciousness – potential consumer demand – at any given time. Google’s key word tool will give you ideas for powerful key words in search terms, and use the traffic tool to measure global volume on those key words.

• Make intelligence-gathering part of your company’s culture. From the manager who overhears a conversation in the grocery checkout line to the clerk obsessed with Twitter, every employee in your business is a potential intelligence resource. Encourage employees to pay attention as they interact with others outside the company. They may discover a nagging issue that no other company is addressing, allowing you to create uncontested market space. Or, you may learn critical information about a competitor that allows you to seize an advantage. Make intelligence gathering a company lifestyle.

• Appoint a Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) to coordinate and analyze information from a variety of sources. In smaller companies, leaders tend to rely on pipelines of internal information provided by employees who don’t understand how to use intelligence to make empowering decisions. That can render important data inactionable (unusable or simply not used). A CIO can oversee and coordinate the collection and analysis of intelligence, and brief you – the business leader – daily so that all data is actionable.

“What enables you to make smart, timely decisions is access to precise intelligence,” Sandler says. “Your advantage, as a smaller business, is that you don’t have the corporate processes and protocols that inhibit fast action.

“As Sun Tzu wrote, ‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win 100 battles without a single loss.’ ”

About Corrine Sandler

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” (www.wakeupordie.us) a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine’s company was ranked No. 2 on Profit Magazine’s list of top 50 fastest-growing companies, and Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.

 

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Can Word Games Make Us Smarter?

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When older generations complain about reading and writing skills among today’s youth, they point accusingly at technological advances, says award-winning author and college teacher Daniel L. Wick.

But older generations would do well to embrace the changing landscape of language, says Wick, whose newest book is “An Epidemic of Epigrams or an Avalanche of Aphorisms,” (http://tinyurl.com/pzsqnza).

“Historically, the English language is probably the most open major language, a testament to the different cultures that have interacted with English speakers. Generational contributions to culture have been an important influence,” he says.

“We still use the colloquialism ‘cool’ from the jazz age and rock n’ roll and rap lyrics continue to add words and phrases to our vocabulary. Likewise, word-use limits such as those on Twitter have more of us thinking about economy of language, which can be a good thing.”

Rather than deny the power of culture and technology, Wick suggests to both educators and older folks that utilizing today’s trends is a great way to promote the joy and education of language.

“When you think about the engaging possibilities for wit, wonder and wordplay, language today has plenty of potential to educate expanding young minds and exercise aging brains,” he says.

He offers fun language exercises that can help both the young and elderly:

• Explore the wealth of possibilities with aphorisms/epigrams. What are they, and is there a difference? Wick says no. “Epigrams are aphorisms and vice versa: brief, usually witty, occasionally profound observations on life, love, death, phi-losophy, religion and virtually everything else,” he says. They tend to be thought-provoking, truthful and funny – or all three, including one from Wick: “We are as good as we are compelled to be and never as bad as we would like.” Or, put a new spin on an old cliché: “She was dressed to wound.”

• Assign lyric writing. Often, when asked about one’s favorite music, the real challenge is narrowing down the choices to those an individual doesn’t like – and even then there are exceptions. A student can share his or her favorite lyrics, and a second portion of the assignment would be to share his or her own lyrics, in the style of their favorite genre. There are many directions a teacher can take this, including applying a parts-of-speech tree to a student’s favorite lyrics. For older individuals, the creative component of the task can be stimulating – and they may even discover a previously hidden talent!

• Bringing the generations together: good old crossword puzzles. Challenging one’s mind is one of the most reliable ways to maintain our memory as we age. A challenge can include taking an alternate route home, reading material that we aren’t used to or that old-fashioned brainteaser, the crossword puzzle. It’s a great way for a grandparent to participate in a mentally stimulating activity with grandchildren, who may have never seen a crossword puzzle. These puzzles offer clues and answers that can be as clever as a well-written aphorism.

About Daniel L. Wick

Daniel L. Wick is an international award-winning author of books, articles and plays. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of California and has taught at the college level for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

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The Only Thing Worse Than the Super Bowl Is the Puppy Bowl: Against the tyranny of cuteness

BY RYAN KEARNEY -

 puppy-bowl-2013

Before your eyes widen with rage and your temple veins burst, before you leave a profane comment at the bottom of this article, before you tweet about how I should be euthanized, and before you photoshop my face onto Hitler’s body and upload it to the Facebook page “Ryan Kearney Is Worse Than Michael Vick,” know this: I think puppies are cute. Cuter than kittens, cuter than bunnies, cuter than ducklings and piglets, penguin chicks and panda cubs. Infinitely cuter, also, than human babies, whose cheeks cannot compete with puppy fur, whose eyes are as unmoored as puppies’ are expressive, and whose limbic flailing make a pouncing puppy look like an NFL-caliber wide receiver.

But puppies are not wide receivers, not of any caliber. They are dogs, and as such, they don’t have two feet and two hands but rather four paws that seem expressly designed to prevent carrying round objects, let alone catching airborne footballs. And yet, every year since 2005, the cable network Animal Planet has let loose a motley crew of these toddler-dogs in a stadium—actually an enclosed pen measuring roughly five yards by two yards, painted to resemble a football field—and broadcast the action as “Puppy Bowl,” complete with an NFL Films narrator (originally the legendary Harry Kalas, RIP, and now Scott Graham). The only “bowl” here is the one from which the thirsty dogs lap water with their coarse little tongues, and the “action” has nothing to do with methodically moving a ball down the field and scoring. Instead, puppies chase and sniff and mount each other, lose interest, nod off, wake up, gnaw plush footballs, and sometimes lift one in their mouth and trot into the end zone, adorably unaware of the significance of this act.

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It’s unfair, of course, to compare the Puppy Bowl to its ostensible inspiration, the Super Bowl. One features puppies; the other features some of the world’s most impressive athletes. But what’s wrong with one is what’s wrong the other—and you, the viewer, ought to consider the moral consequences of watching either.

The Super Bowl is America at its most steroidal, figuratively—if not also, in some cases, literally. The pre-game shows are longer the game itself, and the game is hardly short. Last year’s lasted 4 hours and 14 minutes. That was partly due to a half-hour power outage, but over the past two decades the game has averaged 3 hours and 35 minutes. That’s about 20 minutes more than the average NFL game, which itself is too long considering that it requires viewers to sit through more than 100 ads, spread over 20 commercial breaks, all to watch a grand total of 11 minutes of action. But the game isn’t just overlong. The in-game TV graphics, already too bright andembarrassingly elaborate during regular-season games, are cranked up to epileptic proportions for the Super Bowl. International conglomerates drop $4 million on 30-second commercials that are never as funny or interesting as Twitter would have you believe. And then there’s the always forgettable (well, almost always forgettable) halftime show, which reliably features either a senescent rock band (The Who, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones) or an insipid pop act (Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, The Black Eyed Peas) performing what amounts to a Girl Talk medley of their “greatest” “hits.”

But the worst thing about the Super Bowl is that it is a game of football, a brutal sport suspected of causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is science for “rotting brain” and associated with “memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.” The NFL has long denied any such link between football and degenerative brain disease, which makes watching games doubly troubling: It’s hard enough to watch men get concussed, break bones, and suffer “stingers,” all in hi-def slo-mo; in doing so, you’re also supporting a business that, out of greed and survival instinct, has covered up the horrific damage being done to its employees. In a recent New York Times magazine piece titled “Is It Immoral to Watch the Super Bowl?,” Steve Almond writes that…

…medical research has confirmed that football can cause catastrophic brain injury — not as a rare and unintended consequence, but as a routine byproduct of how the game is played. That puts us fans in a morally queasy position. We not only tolerate this brutality. We sponsor it, just by watching at home. We’re the reason the N.F.L. will earn $5 billion in television revenue alone next year, three times as much as its runner-up, Major League Baseball.

Put that way, it’s not much of a quandary at all, is it? Not for Almond, who vows not to observe that “secular holiday,” the Super Bowl. He loves the “grace” and “tension” and “chaos” of football, “but can no longer indulge these pleasures without feeling complicit.”

This is what makes the Puppy Bowl, on its face, a genius act of counter-programming. The relative simplicity of its production and conception are a welcome respite from the pomp and circumstance and bone-crushing, brain-damaging violence of elite football. Also, it stars puppies. Everyone loves puppies. Compared to the Super Bowl—where you’ll get only a brief puppy fix—the Puppy Bowl looks like the most harmless, lovable program on TV.

But it’s not. The Puppy Bowl has become a cultural behemoth in its own right, abiding by the American business ethos that if you don’t keep getting bigger, you die. This year’s Puppy Bowl, played in the “Geico Stadium,” features no less than 66 pups between the ages of 12 and 21 weeks. The halftime show features Keyboard Cat and Lil Bub, and there’s also cheerleading penguins, fan voting for the Bissell MVP,overpriced merchandise, a fantasy draft, and news broke Tuesday that Michelle Obama is going to perform a touchdown dance during the show. The two-hour show begins at 3 p.m., but will loop on repeat, with new content every hour, until 3 a.m. That’s 12 straight hours devoted solely to puppies being puppies. (Maybe they should just become the Puppy Channel? Maybe not.) And if that’s not enough, you can watch a live Puppy Bowl “practice” on your computer right now.

I’ll wait.

Cute, I know! But can we be sure that this puppy football is entirely safe? Not that the Puppy Bowl needs a concussion protocol, or to test for PEDs—though I did pose those issues to spokeswoman Melissa Berry, who replied, “All the puppies are safe and well taken care of.” All players receive a pre-game veterinary checkup, she said. A vet is also on site during filming, as is a monitor from the American Humane Association—an organiztion the Hollywood Reporter recently exposed in an investigation into “troubling cases of animal injury and death that directly call into question the 136-year-old Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit’s assertion that ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ on productions it monitors.” What’s more, Mother Jones this month raised questionsabout the Animal Planet show “Call of the Wildman,” alleging “evidence of a culture that tolerated legally and ethically dubious activities, including: using an animal that had been drugged with sedatives in violation of federal rules; directing trappers to procure wild animals, which were then ‘caught’ again as part of a script.” So while I doubt that Puppy Bowl players are harmed, it’s not inconceivable.

The Puppy Bowl’s heart is in the right place. The puppies come from animal shelters and rescue groups across the U.S., including The SATO Project, which rescues dogs from Puerto Rico’s infamous Dead Dog Beach. (Google it, if you dare. As Berry says, “It’s a pretty nasty situation.”) Having already performed in the bowl, which was taped in late October, those puppies that weren’t already in the process of being adopted or weren’t adopted by Puppy Bowl crew members have been returned to their keepers, ready to be adopted by one of the Puppy Bowl’s 12 million heart-melted viewers.

That’s a lot of people, especially for basic cable, and they’re all tuning in to watch something they could watch live, in person, for free, at their nearest pet shop. Does our obsession with puppies specifically, and cuteness generally, know no bounds? The internet replies: Nopeno bounds! We will look at puppies ad infinitum and sine nauseum, because evolution: The New Republic‘s Alice Robb noted earlier this week that “a team of psychologists led by Jessika Golle at the University of Bern argue based on students’ reactions to babies’ and puppies’ faces that there is a universal mechanism underlying our appreciation of both animals and babies.” Hard-wired this way or not, we are a race of slack-jawed zombies, stalking cuteness. It’s a human weakness that’s worth fighting—especially if you love puppies.

There’s a reason we have thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups in America: Some humans cannot resist “saving” a sad puppy they’ve spotted through a pet store window, impulse-buying it for themselves, a loved one, a child. That purchase may have temporarily freed one pup—at least until little Jimmy grows bored of it—but it also implicitly supported large-scale commercial dog breeders, otherwise known as puppymills. All you really need to know about them can be found on Google Images. “There are about 10,000 puppy mill facilities in the United States pumping out three to four million dogs per year,” says Melanie Kahn, senior director of the Humane Society’s puppy mill campaign. That’s around the same number of homeless, adoptable dogs that are euthanized in shelters every year, she said.

Christmas is an especially popular time for puppy purchases, and around now—late January, early February—says Kahn, “We tend to see a flood of puppies being given up to shelters by owners. A lot of them end up in shelters because having a puppy is like having a child…. They’re a lot of work. You have to train them. They’re up every few hours at night when they’re young.” (Sixty percent of dogs in shelters were surrendered by owners. The rest are strays—abandoned by individual owners or puppy mills, or the offspring of the abandoned.) If everyone listened to the Humane Society and Animal Planet’s pleas to adopt dogs rather than buying them—or, if you insist on paying for a dog, using responsible breeders—then it would not only put puppy mills out of business, but possibly solve the crisis of dog overpopulation in America.

There’s a reason, though, that it’s not called the “Dog Bowl”: We are not nearly as obsessed with dogs in general as we are with puppies, and it stands to reason that Puppy Bowl viewers would crave ownership of a puppy, specifically. But most dogs, in shelters or elsewhere, are not puppies for a simple biological reason. “Lest we forget, puppies grow up,” Kahn, who has never seen the Puppy Bowl, says. “At some point they won’t be little tiny and cute.” That’s easy to forget when you’re strolling around your local mall, looking for a gift for your teenage daughter or newlywed husband, or not looking for anything at all, and you pass a puppy bowl of a different sort—a glass tank with cedar shavings scattered thinly across the floor. Your human eyes meet a puppy’s eyes. In that moment, for reasons evolutionary or cultural or some combination thereof, it’s all over. You are sold. As Berry says, “I don’t know anyone who could not smile looking at a pile of puppies.”

I know one person, anyway.

I

 

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8 Tips for Entrepreneurs Finally Launching Their Business

 by Justin Beegel -Justin-Beegel-Headshot-300x384

There will be a rising number of start-ups in 2014 due to a steadily improving economy and the fact that there are now an unprecedented number of start-ups valued at $1 billion.

This is encouraging for all would-be entrepreneurs, founders and first-time CEOs. However, the thought of quitting a full-time job with a steady paycheck to finally launch a business is undeniably terrifying. How does an entrepreneur know if the time is right?

8 tips for those finally launching their company:

1.      Make sure you have an amazing support system in place: If you don’t, go find one. I don’t mean just your parents. While a big part of it, they are only a portion of this system. Make sure that you have a few people in your life that you can go to, who know what you’re going through, that you can bounce ideas off of, have them point out things you’re doing wrong, and just talk to in general. Without the support of my father and a best friend of mine who started a company a few years before me, I probably wouldn’t have made it out of my first year in business alive.

2.      Expect Utter Hell, and You’ll be Just Fine: Any glamour you see in movies about entrepreneurial success, just do yourself a favor and pretend you never saw it. Taking the leap to start a company sets you up for the most indescribable rollercoaster you can possibly imagine. When it’s your company, you live it and breathe it, every day, all day. The day has no beginning, and it has no end. It’s just always there, as it will likely consume your thoughts all the time. When things go wrong, you will feel like you are a failure and that the world is crashing down. I know this because I’ve experienced that feeling about a dozen times in the five years running Infographic World, half of those times coming in the first 18 months, as it’s the most turbulent period. So while nothing can prepare you for this journey, just expect a rocky ride, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

3.      Have Passion and Perseverance: Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, was famous for saying, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day of your life.” This has tremendous significance in the start-up world. In order to succeed, an entrepreneur must find a business they are passionate about because it will consume their entire life. Confucius knew what he was talking about, as while there have been trying times since starting the company, I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. Nothing in the work environment is more fulfilling than owning a company.

4.      Bring the Best People Together: This may be the most important part of growing a business. Bring in the most talented and hard-working people possible and keep them happy. At some point, you will not be able to do everything yourself (nor should you) and your business will be only as good as its people.

5.      Take Advantage of Unprecedented Digital Reach in 2014: The digital and social media landscape in 2014 offers businesses the ability to reach an exponential number of customers at no cost on a global scale. Major social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as digital marketing such as infographics, can take a garage business global in a matter of minutes with one click of a mouse. This has greatly reduced the amount of start-up capital needed to launch a business, as has the cloud revolution and the ability to work remotely.

6.      Set Realistic Goals and Timelines: Most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by March or sooner. Typically, they were great ideas at conception, so it is critical to regroup quarterly and make sure your business goals are on track. Set goals that are realistic and measureable. This may be the difference between success and failure.

7.      Make Time to Read a Little Each Day: This is something I’ve made a point of doing the last six months or so. I get the New York Times delivered every day, and on my way out I’ll grab just the business section, and read it over the course of a day. Reading through it does a great job of sparking ideas that you can apply to your business and helps you keep in mind things that caused failure in others.

8.      Just Jump: The time will never feel quite right. There will always be reasons – real and imagined – as to why you should wait. The problem is that waiting gives the devil time. If you have a good idea, believe in yourself and are prepared, you should take the leap. Make this the year you change your life.

# # #

About Infographic World:
Infographic World is a leading information graphics company based in New York City. The company, which launched in 2009, made 1.5 million in revenue in 2013 and is experiencing triple-digit annual revenue growth. Infographic World’s long list of world-class clients includes 30 Fortune 500 companies who represent $1.8 trillion in revenue, such as Google, Intel, ESPN, P&G, Discovery, McGraw Hill, Pepsi, Intuit, and McCann. The company has a proven track record of creating graphics that go viral – reaching hundreds of thousands of websites as well as creating highly engaging visual communications for brands across the world. For more information, please visit www.infographicworld.com.

About Justin Beegel:
Justin is the 28-year-old founder of Infographic World, a leading information graphics company based in New York City. The company, which launched in 2009, made $1.5 million in revenue in 2013 and is experiencing triple-digit annual revenue growth.

Justin is the author of Infographics for Dummies, a Wiley publication, set to be launched in March 2014.Justin attended Binghamton University, where he earned his undergraduate degree and his MBA in entrepreneurship and marketing. Before starting Infographic World, he was the social media marketing manager for Hachette Filipacchi Media, which was the publisher for Elle, Car and Driver, and Woman’s Day, among others. He was charged with driving traffic to their websites and displayed a unique ability for creating content that went viral and increased traffic.

 

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New US farm bill proposal expected to contain $9bn cut to food stamps

• Cut to programme could affect nearly a million households
• Bill could go to House vote as soon as Wednesday

Food banks food stamps
The contents of a specially prepared box at a food bank in California. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Both Democrats and Republicans claim their parties will this year put a new focus on alleviating poverty in America. But not even a month into 2014, Congress is preparing to cut around $9bn from the food stamp programme – a measure that will take food out of the shopping baskets of nearly a million households.

The reduction is contained in the Farm Bill, a giant piece of legislation that sets spending levels for federal agricultural and food policy and was expected to be unveiled as early as Monday.

In November the food stamp programme, which enables almost 50 million Americans to exchange government-provided credits for food in supermarkets, underwent what was effectively a $5bn cut.

Now, changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are one of a raft of cost-saving initiatives in the $1tn farm bill, which sets federal policy on everything from dairy prices and farm subsidies to crop insurance and the labelling of beef livestock.

After almost two years debating the farm bill, lawmakers on the Senate and House agricultural committees have reportedly reached a deal which will save around $23bn over 10 years, compared to existing funding. Lawmakers from 41 mostly rural constituencies were being given given a run-through of the huge bill, prior to its release. It could be subject to a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as Wednesday, after which it would move to the Senate.

President Barack Obama will then be required to either sign into law a bill that dramatically cuts food assistance to the poor, in what he has promised will be “a year of action” against economic inequality, or to veto it, and by doing so risk the wrath of rural voters in states and districts where Democratic lawmakers risk losing their seats in midterm elections later this year.

If passed, the food stamp cuts will be the first legislation affecting America’s poor since Democrats and Republicans both began pledging to address the country’s growing inequality gap. A proposal to restorelong-term unemployment benefits, which were cut last month, has stalled in the Senate.

The food stamps programme is among the most contentious provisions in the farm bill.

Previous attempts to pass the bill were foiled by opposition from right-wing Republicans who advocated deeper cuts to food stamps. In June 2013 a House vote on the bill unexpectedly failed, after the speaker, John Boehner, a Republican, was unable to muster sufficient support from the conservative wing of his party.

House Republicans were pushing for a radical overhaul of the programme that would have cut $40bn from its budget over the next decade. Democrats advocated a much smaller reduction, of around $4bn.

Although the details of the draft bill remained confidential before its formal unveiling, the Washington Post and other media outlets reported that lawmakers had reached a compromise that will see $8bn or $9bn cut from the programme. The reduction will be achieved by tweaking rules relating to a heating assistance programme that is used by some states to determine a person’s eligibility for food aid.

Supporters of the move say it closes a loophole that allowed some states to provide nominal heating assistance to households in order to automatically increase their federal entitlements under the food stamp programme.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the measure would save $8.7bn but result in 850,000 households losing, on average, $90 a month.

The number of people receiving such benefits has grown sharply since the 2008 financial crisis, from about 26 million in 2007 to nearly 47 million in 2012.

November’s $5bn cut occurred with the expiration of a special provision, contained in the 2009 stimulus bill, which was designed to offset the economic hardship caused by the recession.

Feeding America, the leading network of food banks in the country, says food banks do not have the capacity to accommodate the extra demand that would be expected in the event of these cuts.

The charity’s outlets provide for people who are either ineligible for food stamps or who find that their allocation does not stretch far enough to feed their families. Feeding America, which has doubled its capacity since 2007, says that demand is constantly growing.

 

 

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How to Tell A Client How Much Something Costs

It seems like telling your clients how much your services cost would be a fairly straight forward process, but a lot of freelancers get jammed up when the question is put to them, and for good reason.

If you answer without asking a few questions of your own, you run the risk of either underpricing your services for the client’s needs or scaring the client away with too big a price tag.

Here’s how to handle the question of “How much do you cost?” with finesse and a ninja’s negotiation skill.

First things, first: you need to understand what anchoring is.

By andy castro via Flickr.com

By andy castro via Flickr.com

Anchoring is what happens when one person names a number in a negotiation. Regardless of whether that number is well informed and thought out, or thrown out off the cuff, it will now inform how both parties view all other offers.

An example:
Let’s say you have a computer you’d like to sell and I just happen to be in the market for a used computer. I call to learn more about the machine, and you say, “I’d like to sell it for about $500.” You’ve anchored.

$500 is now the most you’ll be able to get for the computer (it makes no sense for me to counter with a higher number, unless I have a deep desire to rid myself of cash). But what if I had more than $500 to spend? You’ll never know because you anchored at $500.

Let’s say I then respond by saying, “Oh, my budget was more like $350.” I’ve now anchored as well; that is the lowest price the computer will sell for if we do the deal. You know I’m willing to spend at least $350 so there is no point in you accepting less than that.

So: sellers generally anchor the highest price and buyers generally anchor the lowest price. You or I might try to move the price in our favor beyond the anchors we’ve dropped but it will be verydifficult to do.

Another way of thinking about anchors is as setting expectations. Once those expectations are set, they are very hard to rearrange.

When a potential client writes and asks, “How much would it cost for you to build me a quick website?” anchoring and expectation setting happen almost immediately.

You probably key in on “quick website” and have an idea of what that means to you. You use that idea to come up with a number and shoot it back to the client. You’ve anchored on the price and they’ve anchored on the complexity of the job.

By Steve Snodgrass via Flickr.com

By Steve Snodgrass via Flickr.com

This isn’t good for either of you.

Neither of you have enough information about the job and what it really involves to anchor effectively. If you anchor this early in the process it increases the likelihood that you’ll both be disappointed and frustrated with the result.

So what do you do?

Don’t anchor.

When a client asks you how much your services cost, respond by asking questions about what they need.

You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty, but ask enough questions to understand how big a project they’re talking about, how complex it might be, and how quickly it needs to be done.

If there are things that will increase or decrease the price of the job, mention that. “This estimate is assuming we don’t have any problems with the database; if that were to happen it could increase costs by $500-$600.”

Don’t be afraid to ask about their budget.

It’s OK to ask about money; they’re approaching you about the possibility of paying you in the future. You’re going to talk about money eventually; might as well get started early.

If you understand their budget you’ll be in a better position to present relevant options. You don’t want to show them your Rolls Royce options when their budget is more of a VW Bug. (Or vice versa!)

If they shy away from sharing their budget, explain why you’re asking. Let them know you want to make sure you’re presenting them with options that are realistic given their needs and expectations.

When you do talk numbers, use ranges not specific figures.

You can’t dance around price forever, so when it comes time to talk about numbers, use ranges instead of particular figures. Ranges give you flexibility; if the project is more involved than originally thought, you have room within what they expect to increase the price.

When you offer a range — $3,000 to $5,000 — it’s in your best interest for your current estimation of the project to fit somewhere in the middle to lower portion of that range. If you think the job will cost $3,500, $3,000 to $5,000 is a good range to use. If you think it will cost $4,500, it’s best to give them a range of $4,000 to $6,000 to consider.

By digitalurbanlandscape via Flickr.com

By digitalurbanlandscape via Flickr.com

By taking the time to ask questions, gather information and strategically respond to potential clients’ questions about how much your services cost, you increase the likelihood of happy customers and better negotiations.

How do you talk to your clients about how much your products or services cost?

 

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California Drought Photos Show What Happens When It Rains Just 4 Inches In 13 Months

California has seen its share of droughts, but — at least in recent years — it hasn’t seen something like this.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last week, shorty after it was revealed that 2013 was the state’s driest year in recorded history. San Francisco saw a low record-shattering 5.59 inches of rain (compared to the previous low record of 9 inches), while dry Los Angeles saw just 3.6 inches of precipitation in all of 2013.

To make matters worse, there isn’t a drop of rain in sight. At the time of publication on January 24 — when snow and freezing temperatures battered the rest of the country — the forecast was a sunny 77 degrees in Los Angeles.

While those bundled and shivering on the East Coast might have little sympathy for the Golden State’s January beach weather, take a look at what the drought has done to the water supply across the state:

A bathtub ring around the San Gabriel Reservoir in the Angeles National Forest reveals the low water level.
california drought

Girls walk on rocks that normally make up the water’s edge at Folsom Lake.
drought

Forestry experts feared the drought would prime the Sierra Nevada mountain range for a major fire — a prediction that sadly came to fruition during the devastating Rim Fire that burned through hundreds of acres of Yosemite National Park. 
tahoe

This month’s Colby Fire, which destroyed several Southern California homes, was also worsened by the drought.
colby fire

Signs opposing California lawmakers — seen by some as responsible for worsening drought conditions with legislation — are common in the inland Central Valley and display the increasing tension over water rights in the state.
california drought

A fish washed ashore on the banks of Folsom Lake.
folsom lake

California Governor Jerry Brown compares satellite photos of the Sierra Nevada snow pack from 2013 and 2014 at a press conference to declare the state in a drought emergency. 
california drought

Researchers at the Department of Water Resources look over a meadow that is usually covered in snow during the final survey of the 2012/2013 season in May. 
california snow pack

Researchers at the Department of Water Resources measure snow levels near Echo Summit in January, 2014. The readings showed the water content in the snowpack was at 20 percent of average for this time of year. 
dry california

The drought isn’t limited to California: the low water level can be seen at Hoover Dam in Nevada, as well. 
california drought

 

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