(Past illustrations) Responding to macro market changes

(This past illustration describes something that I performed in my career, either for a Bredemarket client, for an employer, or as a volunteer. The entity for which I performed the work, or proposed to perform the work, is not listed for confidentiality reasons.)

PROBLEM

A large, worldwide event affected multiple markets in multiple countries. While this event had negative ramifications in some of the markets in which a particular company competed, it had positive ramifications for markets that the company could conceivably enter.

SOLUTION

As part of a team, I analyzed potential new markets that the company could enter. The analyses included addressable market size (with assumptions documented), existing and potential competitors, risks, and other factors. While the analysis must of necessity remain confidential, I can state that a number of new markets were analyzed: some within the company’s core capabilities, some within the company’s identified growth areas, and some in entirely new areas.

RESULTS

The analyses were forwarded to others within the company. The results must of necessity remain confidential.

A love letter to a competitor?

There are different ways in which a company can position itself against its competitors. No one way is right; the company has to choose its own method.

On one extreme, the company could simply refuse to mention the competitors at all. In this case, the company would market its claimed superiority solely based upon its own merits, without comparing against others.

On the other extreme, the company could trash its competitors. I don’t need to find examples of that; we already know them. (I personally abhor this method, because it doesn’t reflect well on the company doing the trashing.)

Between these two extremes, a company can state its own merits and, without trashing the competition, claim its superiority by comparison.

For example, a company could write a love letter to its competitors.

Seriously.

As in “Welcome, IBM. Seriously.” The famous ad that Apple ran when IBM entered the personal computer market.

By Rama & Musée Bolo – File:IBM_PC-IMG_7271.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94784371

But I have a more recent example.

If you are following the Bredemarket LinkedIn page (you ARE following the Bredemarket LinkedIn page, aren’t you?), you’ve seen a couple of recent mentions of the company Volley. The company is planning to release a new communications app that it claims will improve communication over all of the other communications apps.

In that vein, Volley’s CEO Josh Little wrote a “love letter” to Slack entitled “Dear Slack, You haven’t solved the problem…” It starts off in a positive tone.

First off, thank you for trying. It was a valiant effort and someone needed to take a solid stab at the problem. Our hats are off. You’ve built a great piece of technology and a faster horse.

But after that, the rest of Little’s article gently explains how Slack’s solution hasn’t really solved the inherent problem. (TL;DR Little asserts that Slack’s emphasis on text does not provide a complete communications solution, and ends up with people devoting MORE time to using Slack.)

Little ends the article by asserting what Volley will be. Because the app is not yet released, we can not see for ourselves what the app does. So Little creates a picture of Volley as occupying the middle position between Slack (text-based asynchronous communication) and Zoom (conversation-based synchronous communication). Volley occupies the “conversation-based asynchronous communication” position, and claims to include features that will actually REDUCE the time that people spend on Volley, rather than having Volley become yet another time sink in our collection of time sinks. For example, communications from others can be played back at 2x (or 1.5x) speed, reducing the amount of time needed to consume the content.

I’m not saying that marketers have to be like Volley, or that marketers have to be like Steve Jobs 1.0 Apple, or that marketers have to be like Steve Jobs 2.0 Apple.

A company needs to adopt its own tone for addressing its competitors. And everyone communicating on behalf of the company, from the CEO to the factory worker, should ideally adopt the same tone.

When a business should use a (non-driving) independent contractor

In my previous post, I talked about the recently-passed California Proposition 22, how it relates to Assembly Bill 5, and the three criteria that Assembly Bill 5 uses to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. As a reminder, those three criteria are as follows:

(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

So when does it make sense for a company to contract with an independent contractor, rather than hire an employee?

The most obvious reason for a company to use an independent contractor is when the contractor provides services that are outside what the company usually does.

I could provide a whole list of examples of what those “services” could look like, but let me focus on a single example.

Wendy’s Widget Company has been manufacturing round green widgets since 1969, from a factory in Columbus, Ohio. (For various reasons, foreign or overseas round green widget manufacture was not desirable.)

One day, someone in a quality circle (Wendy’s Widget Company was old school) suggested that the company introduce square blue widgets. Square blue widgets had been around for a while, but Wendy’s Widget Company had never produced them.

By Down10 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3279986

The company decided to produce a small run of square blue widgets, and then get someone to market them.

But the company’s existing marketers were all accustomed to round and green things, and were incapable of marketing the square blue ones. (Not that they didn’t try, but the marketers did not understand the concept of 90 degree angles, so the effort was doomed to failure.)

The company could have hired an square blue widget expert, but what would have happened if the small run experiment was a failure, and the expert would have been terminated in a few weeks?

So the company hired an independent contractor to complete a well-defined project. This project required the contractor to develop marketing materials for a possible Wendy’s Widget Company square blue widget. The contractor would go off and work on the assignment, checking in with Wendy’s Widget Company at well defined checkpoints.

But when the company lawyer found out that the contractor was based in California, the lawyer asked, “Does this meet California AB5 criteria?”

Let’s see.

  • In this case, the contractor was NOT under the direct control of Wendy’s Widget Company. The contractor was not told to work from 8:00 am to 5:00 am Ohio time, was not assigned a Wendy’s Widget Company computer, and did not get matching contributions to the company’s 401(k) plan.
  • And, in this case the contractor was performing work outside the usual course of business for Wendy’s Widget Company. The contractor not only had in-depth knowledge of 90 degree angles, but also had a deep appreciation of the music of both Bobby Vinton AND Eiffel 65.
  • Finally, in this case the contractor regularly worked with a variety of companies to provide marketing materials for widgets of all shapes and colors.

The lawyer was satisfied, the contract was completed, and the contractor went on to help another company with its red octagon widgets. Everyone was happy.

OK, that whole example was made up. (But now I’m hungry for a hamburger.)

But there are times when a company wants to pursue something outside of its comfort zone, but doesn’t want to dedicate an employee to do it.

If your company has such a need, and if my experience (in biometrics, identity, and other areas) suggests that Bredemarket can help your company meet your goals, contact me.

California Proposition 22 and non-driving independent contractors

In case you haven’t heard, Tuesday was an election day in the state of California, and throughout the rest of the United States. There were a number of candidates and propositions on ballots throughout the country, but for this post I’m going to concentrate on a single California proposition, Proposition 22.

By Alexander Torrenegra from Secaucus, NJ (New York Metro), United States – On my first @Uber ride in Bogota heading to a Startup Weekend. Priceless easiness and safety. I love disruptive innovation., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37982760

In ballot legalese, this proposition’s title was “EXEMPTS APP-BASED TRANSPORTATION AND DELIVERY COMPANIES FROM PROVIDING EMPLOYEE BENEFITS TO CERTAIN DRIVERS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.” What that means is that if the proposition passes, drivers for “app-based transportation and delivery companies” (think Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc.) will be exempted from the provisions of California’s Assembly Bill 5, and therefore will NOT be classified as employees.

And for the record, it looks like Proposition 22 has passed.

However, Assembly Bill 5 still applies to people who are NOT drivers for app-based transportation and delivery companies. Specifically, Assembly Bill 5 provides the following test to see whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor.

 Section 2750.3 is added to the Labor Code, to read:

 (a) (1) For purposes of the provisions of this code and the Unemployment Insurance Code, and for the wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission, a person providing labor or services for remuneration shall be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor unless the hiring entity demonstrates that all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

When AB5 was passed, a lot of attention was focused on the need for companies to properly classify their workers as employees, when warranted.

But not a lot of attention was focused on the times when companies would PREFER to use independent contractors instead of hiring employees.

I’ll talk about that in a future post.

A comparative (and hopefully persuasive) description of various writing types

When Bredemarket writes for our clients, one or more different writing types is employed. While there are a variety of definitions of the four, or eight, or nine writing types (rhetorical modes), only some of these are important to Bredemarket’s potential clients.

By Jean Le Tavernier – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74516

One of the more common writing types used by Bredemarket is the persuasive writing type. This is where the text persuades you to, for example, set an appointment with a client to discuss buying the client’s products.

Expository writing is also used often, since it is employed to lay out a set of facts. And the expository writing style could be employed in conjunction with the persuasive writing style; this is how white papers are often constructed. (One important point: multiple writing styles may be used in the same text.)

Bredemarket clients may also desire some comparison/contrast, either for internal or external use. When comparing/contrasting for internal use only, the client may want to obtain a true picture of how the company or its product stands up against its competitors. When this is for external use, there is a good chance that the comparison/contrast writing style may be coupled with a persuasive writing style. “Our widget is 25% bigger than their widget, so you want to buy our widget.” (Again, multiple writing styles may be used in the same text.)

In some cases, a descriptive writing style is needed. Tell me about this concept, or about this product. This post, for example, describes different writing styles…and also compares/contrasts them.

And finally there’s the good old process, where the text lays out the steps to follow to get something done. For example, what are the steps used to convert a writing idea into a final product?

While some other writing types may be called upon from time to time, the five types listed here are the ones that tend to be the most important for Bredemarket clients.

When you’re writing something, or hiring someone such as Bredemarket to write something, be sure to think about what the goals of your writing project are. Is the project primarily persuasive? Expository/factual? Comparing/contrasting? Describing? Laying out a process?

And regardless of the writing type or types, what do you want your reader to do AFTER reading the piece? For example, do you want the reader to learn about a short, medium, or long writing service offering? Or do you want the reader to contact you to request more information?

Obviously I’ve applied this to MY own situation in the paragraph above, but make sure that you apply this to YOUR own situation.

Five recommendations for remote remote work

I am writing this from Bredemarket’s worldwide headquarters, which is located in a corner of a bedroom in a home in Ontario, California. (My city business license allows me to conduct work from here, provided that I do not install any signage advertising my business and I do not host clients here.)

But I haven’t always conducted Bredemarket business in this location.

  • For a little bit over a week, I was conducting business from an unused bedroom from a home in Alabama. During this time I worked on multiple projects, was interviewed, took care of some non-Bredemarket paperwork, and participated in two webinars (one of which included the classic line, “John Bredehoft, you’re NOT on mute”).
  • One recent morning, I spent a half an hour editing a document while sitting in a car parked in a parking lot.

So I guess this is remote remote work.

But I need to step up my game.

Sacha Connor’s father is currently practicing “work from anywhere” from his RV throughout the United States, and The Lost Two continue to practice “work from anywhere” themselves; despite COVID, they recently returned to their native Canada from a trip to French Polynesia.

When practical, I could probably conduct Bredemarket business from places other than bedrooms and parking lots. But for serious remote remote work, there are some things that I’d need to take care of first.

First, it would be nice if there weren’t a pandemic raging throughout the world. Some of my younger readers may not remember this, but way back in 2019 people would actually go to a Starbucks, sit at a table, and work. Obviously we can still conduct remote remote work during the COVID pandemic, but our options have become constrained and will remain so (at least in some areas) for some time.

Second, you need electricity. These next two recommendations don’t apply that much if you’re working off your smartphone, but I don’t write white papers off my smartphone. Unless I’m writing a really short piece, my laptop will need charging at some point.

Third, you need some type of network connection. A sole proprietor needs to communicate with clients, access data, redundantly store data, and keep track of things. The days in which you could manage your business from a daily planner book are, for the most part, long gone (Day Runner Inc. was rendered obsolete by the Palm Pilot, if you can believe that). You have to access outside cloud-based services even for the management tasks. (Oh, and if you find a Starbucks with tables and wi-fi, you need a VPN also. There are VPNs with free options.)

Fourth, you need headphones. These were a necessity in the days that you’d work from a Starbucks, because they tend to crank up the music so loud that you can’t think. But they help in other situations also. While I was still employed but working from home, I bought a headphones-mic combo that I’ve consistently used since for audio and video calls. (And the one time that I DIDN’T use the headphones-mic, there was a barking dog in the room.)

Fifth, you need some semblance of security. The aforementioned VPN isn’t enough, especially if you’re in a high traffic area where the laptop work that you’re performing for a client may be valuable to someone who happens to be looking over your shoulder. If you can’t close the door, you need some other method to protect your data.

So Bredemarket CAN work in other locations, provided these conditions are met. I promise that if I manage to find a Bredemarket work environment that is more picturesque than a bedroom or a parked car, I’ll share it with you.

Well, unless I’m in Area 51, at the “Bureau of Public Roads,” or somewhere else where picture-taking is discouraged.

On social distancing

If you aren’t following the Bredemarket page on LinkedIn, you may not have seen my share of a LinkedIn article from my former coworker Mike Rathwell.

Rathwell, like many of us in California, has been working from home for some time; at the time Rathwell wrote his article, he had been working from home for 7 months and 11 days. I haven’t kept count myself, but I’ve been working from home for a similar amount of time – first as an IDEMIA employee, and then on my own.

While my experience hasn’t been the same as Rathwell’s, it’s interesting to note the progression that he described as he and his coworkers adjusted to the WFH environment. At first, things were novel and exciting – using online channels to talk about pets, joke about what day it was, and joke about work attire. This novel way of interacting, and making sure that everyone interacted with each other, had an interesting effect.

We were not just a company’s employees; we were a community.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-world-7-months-mike-rathwell/

But as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, the novelty wore off. People concentrated on work and ignored the virtual “water coolers” that were set up in Slack.

Even those who had been working from home for years were adversely affected, because their regular outside activities were constrained by the pandemic.

The title of this post is taken from a paragraph toward the end of Rathwell’s article. Here is an excerpt.

When all this started, many took umbrage at the term “social distancing”. “No!” we cried. “We are physically distancing and the wonders of the modern age are keeping us socially together!”. Unfortunately, however, many of the “outlier” groups…have already seen true “social” distancing in action and are “outside”.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-world-7-months-mike-rathwell/

My personal experience has been a little different. For the first three months of working from home, I was interacting with my IDEMIA colleagues via Microsoft Teams, email, and other avenues. My boss was based in Massachusetts, so I was used to interacting with him remotely anyway.

Then came “free agency,” and the regular interactions with my work “community” were lost.

Actually, not entirely. I’ve still been interacting with my former coworkers, both those who became “free agents” at the same time that I did, and those who remained. In fact, I’ve contacted my former boss (who became a “free agent” at the same time that I did) a few times over the last several weeks, and now I don’t have to prepare my weekly report before our meetings!

I’ve obviously been interacting with my Bredemarket customers on various levels, both business and personal. Some of these customers happen to be former coworkers from either IDEMIA or from its corporate predecessors, so I’ve had some catching up to do. One Printrak coworker moved to Northern California a decade ago, and I didn’t even know it.

I’m also interacting with various freelancing groups, including one managed by Jay Clouse, and an Orange County group associated with the Freelancers Union. Both of these groups have both text-based “boards” (I date myself with that word) and online interactive webinars.

It’s not the true equivalent of an in-person water cooler (or Flavia machine), but it helps.

The Bredemarket mailing list is live

Remember nearly a month ago when I wrote a post about my use of HubSpot? Well, you may or may not have noticed a little parenthetical comment in the middle of the post.

(For those of you who have seen references to Mailchimp on my home page, that is for a separate mailing list not associated with the CRM.)

Well, today-nearly a month later-I finally got around to sending out my first mailing to the Bredemarket mailing list. It’s a fairly short mail that talks about what Bredemarket does, who Bredemarket is, and why Bredemarket has a mailing list in the first place.

Two of those three questions are also answered on the Bredemarket website, on the What I Do and Who I Am pages.

To get the answer to the third question…well, it was addressed in the email that was sent to the mailing list.

If you’re not on the mailing list, you can view that email here.

And get on the mailing list already by clicking here!

You go back, Jack, do it again

Creating content can sometimes be hard.

Repurposing content, however, is usually easier.

Your basic message has already been created, and the only additional effort that is required is formatting. For example, if you decide to turn a textual list post into an infographic, the primary task would be the graphic formatting. The content is already there.

Why repurpose content?

To reach audiences that you didn’t reach with your original content, and thus amplify your message. (There’s data behind this.)

Let me provide an example.

Repurposing example

While researching a potential client, I found an informational webinar that the client was promoting. Without giving anything away, let me just say that the webinar was outstanding, and that the primary speaker effectively addressed many of the questions and concerns about the client’s offering.

But all of this information was locked into a webinar. A one-hour plus webinar. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to take an hour out of my day to listen to a webinar unless the speakers or the topics are REALLY important to me.

The client realized this barrier, and has worked (and continues to work) on repurposing the main themes that the primary speaker addressed in the webinar. The content is now available in formats that don’t require you to sit and listen to something for a good chunk of your working day. You can now consume the information in much less time, and in a format that is more attuned to your needs of the moment.

Repurpose…or don’t

Now before I address the question of who can help you repurpose your existing content in textual form (you already know how THAT question will be answered), take a moment and start to think about some content that you may want to repurpose.

And perhaps you don’t want to pursue the all-out repurpose route. Perhaps you just want to reshare a link on another platform. For example, I usually reshare the links to my Bredemarket posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

But sometimes I actually go ahead and repurpose the content. Some of the informational brochures on my website are repurposed blog posts. The Facebook ad that I recently ran was a shortened version of a brochure that started as a blog post. (In retrospect, I didn’t shorten it enough.)

Let me go off on one little tangent

A few of you may have seen the title of this post, and now you have a particular song running through your head.

Well, you have the wrong song in your head.

You see, Steely Dan’s song has been covered by a number of artists, including Waylon Jennings.

Waylon Jennings promotional picture for RCA, circa 1974. By Waylon_Jennings_RCA.jpg: RCA Records derivative work: GDuwenTell me! – This file was derived from:  Waylon Jennings RCA.jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17091525

And Waylon’s version is outstanding, and is just as good as his covers of “Gold Dust Woman” and “MacArthur Park.” That growl on “ROUND and round” really gets me, along with the instrumental break.

OK, back on topic

By the way, that was an example of repurposing. If you’re not going to invest three-plus minutes of your time to click on the link and listen to the YouTube recording of the song, at least you know that the song contains a classic Waylon Jennings growl. The critical information has been imparted in your preferred medium.

But you’re not looking for someone to textually describe your songs. Well, maybe you are. But it’s much more likely that you’re looking for someone to convey critical marketing messages via text of short or medium length. Or, for that matter, long length.

If this post has inspired you to have Bredemarket help you repurpose your existing content in textual form:

By the way, while writing this post, I was inspired to pursue a repurposing project of my own, distinctly different from the repurposing that I mentioned earlier in this post. I’m not ready to announce anything yet, but stay tuned for (potentially) an announcement.

On negative engagement

One of the benefits of running Bredemarket is that I can try out all sorts of things which may be of benefit to my clients in the future. For example, not only have I acquired SEVERAL ADDITIONAL HOURS of CRM administration experience, but I also took out a small Facebook ad this week. In retrospect, the ad was too dense with text, but it’s a start.

When you take out a Facebook ad, you can set parameters for the audience that you want to reach, and you can also specify your priority. In my case, I wanted to target small businesses in the Ontario, California area (a possible market for Bredemarket’s writing services), and I set a priority of engagement.

As of today the ad is still running on both Facebook and Instagram, and I’m getting some engagement on both platforms.

In fact, Facebook recently informed me that I received some comment engagement on Facebook. So I went to view the engagement.

Now I know that Facebook counts this as an engagement, but I made the decision to NOT pursue the commenter as a potential Bredemarket client.

By the way, the one like on that comment is from me.