A conversation with a (potential) client

I had a disjointed conversation over the last few days – with a good sized company that was considering engaging me in consulting. It went something like this:

Them: “We are excited to work with someone that understand real business needs, yet grasps “Web 2.0″. As you know, out goal is to extend our brand into new markets, using Web 2.0, Widgets, and whatever else you can think of”

And YES – alarms did go off – using the term “Web 2.0” in this context isn’t appropriate, and told me they didn’t exactly know what they were looking for.

Me: “I’m interested in seeing how you can use new media to extend your brand – but what exactly are you looking to do? There are a lot of ways to get involved in Social Networking. You could, for example, start a corporate blog. There is no better/cheaper way to enter this medium. Of course you need to be committed to it – a blog allows comments – and comments need to be addressed. Someone will have to manage that”.

Them: “No, we are NOT interested in a blog. We are more interested in things like getting on MySpace and Facebook.”

Me: “So you are looking to use something like a widget to get your message out? Unlike “Field of Dreams” if you build it, it does not mean they will come. You cannot just transport your message – you need a compelling reason that engages users. You need to get your users involved in your message – to make them part of your process. Involving customers in Social Networking is a two way street – they need to get something in return from you.”

Them (two days later): “I’m sorry. We have probably wasted your time. You are possibly too much of a generalist for what we have under consideration. You might want to focus on just one thing. Searching Google returns a lot of results that are not really pertinent for our current needs. I’ll keep your info in our database though, in case something comes up in the future that is more suitable to your varied skill set”

OK, this was weird, but it didn’t bother me. I am busy as it is – but complaining that I am a “generalist”?!? Honestly, this is, in my opinion, my greatest selling point! I know a little bit about a lot of things. I can build websites, if I must. I know databases and can manage them (if I am forced to). I know hosting companies, developers across the globe and am a member of over 250 Social Networking web sites (yes, even one focused on knitting). Being a generalist is what I have planned for my entire career!

It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, this company rolls out in “Social Networking”.

But the bottom line is that you can’t sell your message online – you need to create a message that is compelling enough that people don’t want to just hear it – they want to subscribe to it, and get involved in it. Your message needs to be to be two way, or it will end up “no way”.

That’s my “generalist” opinion, anyway.