(Bredemarket Premium) Bredemarket tips for aspiring biometric freelancers (the 8/23/2021 11:45am edition)

So I just wrote a post that contained general tips for freelancers. But before launching into the meat of the post, I said the following:

I almost considered putting the Bredemarket Premium tag on this and making you pay to read it, but I’m not THAT much of a freelancing expert. (Yet.)

After I completed that post and shared it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, I returned to my Bredemarket Premium idea. While my tips in the other post can help general freelancers, there are some things that I can share that are specific to BIOMETRIC freelancers.

This is NOT an example of biometric enrollment, but the entry device is secure from network attacks. By Rita Banerji – flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18222218

So, here goes.

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Why is Kaye Putnam happy that I’m IGNORING her marketing advice?

This is the cover art for the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by the artist Simon & Garfunkel. The cover art can be obtained from Columbia. Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2184092

A few hours after finishing my revision of Bredemarket’s work process, I attended this month’s Orange County (California) Freelancers Union SPARK webinar. I’ve shared some things from SPARK meetings in the past (July’s happy hour, May’s AB2257 discussion), and I’m going to share some things from the August meeting also.

Jung and the restless

This meeting (which also happened to be the national Freelancers Union meeting for the month; our chapter rules!) was led by Cara Raffele, who spoke about “The Power of Storytelling.”

From https://www.freelancersunion.org/community/spark-events/#spark–monthly-theme, although it might have changed by the time you read this.

I’m not going to talk about the ENTIRE meeting, but will focus on the last part of the meeting, during which Raffele discussed “understanding your brand for maximum impact,” or brand archetypes.

The idea of archetypes started with Carl Jung, who defined them as images and themes that derive from the collective unconscious.

Jung claimed to identify a large number of archetypes but paid special attention to four. Jung labeled these archetypes the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus.

In modern-day marketing, this “large number of archetypes” has been boiled down to twelve, and it was these twelve that Raffele referenced in her presentation.

Twelve archetypes. From https://www.kayeputnam.com/brandality-archetypes/. More about Kaye Putnam later.

Raffele encouraged all of us freelancers to listen to all twelve, and then to select multiple archetypes (not just one) that seemed to reflect our freelance brands. So I iterated a first cut at the archetypes that I believed applied to Bredemarket; my preliminary list included Sage, Creator, and Explorer.

Why Sage? That particular one resonated with me because of my experiences with my clients (educating on benefits vs. features, expanding the understanding of law enforcement agency stakeholders), and because of the way I’ve been marketing myself anyway. After all, when I self-reference as the biometric content marketing expert and the biometric proposal writing expert, then it’s obvious that I can add the sage to my clients’ parsley, rosemary, and thyme. (Sorry, couldn’t resist, even though I know it’s bad.)

But after guessing that Bredemarket is Sage with a pinch of Creator and Explorer, I realized that I might not know myself as well as I thought, so I asked if there were some type of online “archetypes test,” similar to the online Meyers-Briggs personality tests, that could help you semi-independently discern your archetypes.

Raffele responded by pointing us to Kaye Putnam and her online Brand Personality Quiz.

(One aside before moving on to Putnam’s test. A few of you realize that I did not come up with the section title “Jung and the restless” on my own. Yes, I stole it from a Steve Taylor song title (and he stole it from a soap opera). I used the title even though Taylor is frankly not that positive about secular psychology. But he did say “some of my best friends are shrinks.” Oh, and that’s obviously Gym Nicholson of Undercover fame on guitar.)

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JNOMb_IG8I.

My “Brand Personality Quiz” results, and Kaye Putnam’s recommendations

If you’ve taken an online Meyers-Briggs personality test, or any other similar online test, the process of the Brand Personality Quiz will seem familiar to you. Putnam’s quiz asks you a series of independent questions, some of which have as many as twelve options. It then tabulates your answers against attributes of the twelve brand archetypes, and produces a final result listing a primary brand archetype and some secondary archetypes.

Here are my results.

So if you take Putnam’s quiz as gospel, I was somewhat accurate in my initial self-assessment.

  • Note that “Sage” came first and “Explorer” came second in the quiz results, and those were two of the archetypes I initially tweeted about before taking the quiz.
  • Considering the personal writing style I use in my blog, tweets, and elsewhere, “Entertainer” wasn’t much of a surprise either.
  • Upon further personal reflection, “Royalty” makes sense also. (So bow before me, serfs.)

And after reading Putnam’s description of “Creator” and its emphasis on visual presentation (rather than textual presentation), I can see why this was NOT on the list.

I did not draw this myself. Originally created by Jleedev using Inkscape and GIMP. Redrawn as SVG by Ben Liblit using Inkscape. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1692938

Along with my results, Putnam provided a link that allowed me to download a brief description of my primary archetype, Sage. Now this brief description doesn’t include all of the detail found in Putnam’s 12 Brandfluency courses (one for each archetype), but it does include many actionable items.

The “Sage Inspiration Kit” provides useful tips for Sage businesspeople to include in their brand marketing. The kit asserts that if the tips are followed, the results will produce emotional responses in potential clients that will increase brand attractiveness, thus allowing businesspeople to win more business (and win better business).

Tips are provided on the following:

  • Color.
  • Typography.
  • Words.

Obviously that’s a lot of stuff to absorb, even in this brief kit. (The paid course offers tips in additional areas.) And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t change all the colors and fonts in my marketing overnight.

But I could look at Putnam’s word suggestions.

Ignoring the expert

Now Kaye Putnam’s word suggestions are freely available to anyone, but I’m not going to just copy all of them and reproduce them here. Request them yourself. (The link is for the Sage archetype)

But I’ll offer comments on a few of the 18 words and phrases in the kit.

From https://xkcd.com/386/. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.5).

First off, I’m NOT going to use “think tank” in Bredemarket’s marketing. Perhaps this phrase may resonate for a larger firm, or even for a smaller firm with a team of people addressing their clients’ needs. But it would take a lot of stretching to describer a solopreneur think tank.

Another term that DOESN’T make sense for Bredemarket is “engineering.” Now obviously engineering is a good thing, although I’ve seen cases where engineering is overemphasized. But it doesn’t really make sense for my business, in which I make a point of emphasizing my ability to communicate engineering concepts to non-engineers. The same issues apply with the phrase “the code.”

I won’t go into all of my concerns, but there are several “Sage words” in the list that I would never use for Bredemarket, or would use very sparingly.

And that’s…OK

Remember, of course, that Stuart Smalley is not a licensed practitioner. By http://www.tvacres.com/words_stuart.htm, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31855280

When someone gives you advice, whether it’s Kaye Putnam or John Bredehoft, you have to judge whether the advice is good for YOU.

Even if you narrow a brand down to one archetype, there are innumerable differences between individuals who align with this archetype. One size does not fit all, and I personally may love the term “experiment” but hate the terms listed above.

Now perhaps I may be wrong in rejecting Putnam’s advice. Perhaps there’s a really, really good reason why I should sprinkle the phrase “think tank” through all of my marketing materials.

But in the end it’s up to the recipient to decide whether or not to follow the advice of the expert. That applies to people giving advice to me, and that also applies to the advice that I give to my clients. (If a client insists on using the phrase “best of breed,” I can’t stop the client from doing so.)

But several of those words and phrases DO seem like good ideas, and I’ll probably make a concerted effort to sprinkle the GOOD words and phrases throughout Bredemarket’s website, social media channels, proposals, and other marketing.

Even though this might require me to re-revise the content creation process that I just revised.

Oh well. It’s good to…experiment with things. After all, Bredemarket is in effect a laboratory in which I like to try solutions out myself before I try to make a case for them with my clients. It’s easier to speak to research-based proven solutions than ones with which I have no experience at all.

By Rembrandt – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=157824

Did that paragraph sound sage-like? I got six of the words/phrases into that paragraph!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a Royally Entertaining and Exploring Sage…

Bredemarket offers clients deep experience in content marketing, proposals, and strategy. I can offer expert advice to biometrics firms, since (as noted above) I am a biometric content marketing expert and a biometric proposal writing expert. However, this expert advice can also be provided to other technology firms, and to general business.

You can read here about how my content creation process ensures that the final written content (a) advances your GOAL, (b) communicates your BENEFITS, and (c) speaks to your TARGET AUDIENCE.

If Bredemarket can fill a gap in your company’s needs (NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY. DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY. DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY.), then feel free to contact me and we can discuss your needs and possible solutions.

Communities, selling, and service offerings

The infamous content calendar says that today is proposal day, but I’m going to ignore the infamous content calendar and talk about a bunch of things other than proposals. (Well, I’ll mention proposals once, I guess.)

First, I’ll talk about the new glasses that I received yesterday.

In addition to a new frame style, this new set has the transition sunglass tint but WITHOUT the computer tint. (The Costco optical person said that I didn’t need a separate computer tint these days. I don’t know if he was right, but I trusted him.) My last set of glasses had both the transition sunglass tint AND the computer tint, which meant that they had a purple color at times. Now my tint in the sun will be brown rather than purple.

But enough about that.

Let’s get to the meat of this post, in which I’ll talk about the communities that I’ve joined since starting Bredemarket, what led me to purchase something from one of those communities, and one of two actionable items (and an action) that I took from that purchase.

Communities

Before I became a free agent, I was an employee of a multinational firm with thousands of employees throughout North America and thousands of additional employees throughout the rest of the world. One of the company’s VPs established an online community to support her nationwide organization of people, including myself in California, my direct supervisor in Massachusetts, and a bunch of people in those states, Minnesota, Tennessee, and everywhere else under the sun. I was able to participate in that online community even after I moved out of that VP’s group due to a corporate reorganization. (Thanks Teresa.)

With free agency and sole proprietorship came the loss of that community. (No, the VP obviously wouldn’t let me engage with that community when I was no longer an employee.) But over the next several months I joined three other communities. As it turns out, I interacted with all three of these communities over the course of the last two days.

  • On Thursday at 10:00 am, I joined the weekly “town hall” for the employees and associates of SMA, Inc. I am officially an associate of SMA, albeit with a very specialized skill set (more on that later). To support its people, SMA convenes a weekly “town hall” that addresses company issues and also addresses the interests of SMA’s leadership. Every week, for example, there is an “art talk” that delves into a particular artist or artistic topic.
  • On Thursday at 6:00 pm, I joined the monthly meeting of the Orange County, California chapter (“SPARK OC”: Facebook, Instagram) of the Freelancers Union. This monthly gathering happened to be a “happy hour,” although I disregarded the injunction to bring my favorite cocktail.

  • Finally, today at 8:00 am, I joined a paid workshop hosted by Jay Clouse of the Jay Clouse empire of entities. The topic? “Invisible Selling.” Due to early hour, I didn’t have a beer, but had a Nespresso instead. The rest of this post deals with that workshop and the results from that workshop.

The invisible selling of “Invisible Selling”

I’m not going to recount that Clouse covered in his one-hour workshop. After all, I paid for the course, and (most of) you didn’t. But perhaps it would be helpful if I described how I was invisibly sold on “Invisible Selling.”

I first encountered Jay Clouse via LinkedIn Learning. (Another thing that I lost when I was no longer an employee was access to my employer’s online courses from Udemy and others, but LinkedIn Learning has filled the gap.) I had long since forgotten which Clouse course I took and when I took it, but I checked my LinkedIn profile and found that I had taken his “Freelancing Foundations” course back in September 2020.

After taking the course, I ended up joining his “Freelancing School” community, participating in various online meetups, and engaging with Clouse’s offerings in other ways.

All for free.

Then I received a couple of emails from him about his (then) upcoming “Invisible Selling” course.

I deduced from the description that it would meet my needs, and figured that $40 was a reasonable price. Plus, I trusted Clouse based upon my interactions with him and his community over the last several months.

So I signed up.

The results of my attending “Invisible Selling”

As I said before, I’m not going to recount Clouse’s presentation. But in my particular instance, I derived two actionable tasks within the first 30 minutes of the workshop.

  1. The first task, which could potentially be worth between five dollars and tens of thousands of dollars to me, was to make sure that I am anticipating potential client objections up front, and addressing them. I’m going to devote some time to that in the future. And as you can see below, I started to address one objection even before I heard of Clouse’s workshop.
  2. The second task is one that I cannot discuss publicly at this time. However, it could potentially be worth more than tens of thousands of dollars to me. Maybe I’ll talk about it someday.

Service Offerings

One potential client objection that I’m already addressing is that my offerings do not fit my potential clients’ needs. I’m addressing this by broadening my offerings.

Many of you will recall that when I started, I came up with a bunch of packaged “services” that I could sell to potential clients as is, or with some adaptation to meet the clients’ needs. Over the first few months of Bredemarket’s existence, I sold various clients my Bredemarket 400 Short Writing Service, my Bredemarket 2800 Medium Writing Service, and my Bredemarket 404 Web/Social Media Checkup. I still sell these services today.

But much of my business today doesn’t derive from these prepackaged services. Well, technically it does, if you read the description of my Bredemarket 4000 Long Writing Service:

The long writing service does not have a “standard” offering per se, because of the variability of what may be needed. Work is billed at an hourly rate.

Some of Bredemarket’s more lucrative work comes from ongoing hourly relationships that I have established with several clients. They use me as needed, sometimes more frequently, sometimes less so, but I’ve kept them happy.

“I just wanted to truly say thank you for putting these templates together. I worked on this…last week and it was extremely simple to use and I thought really provided a professional advantage and tool to give the customer….TRULY THANK YOU!”

Why do these customers work with me? Well, while I have a number of customers employing various technologies, the vast majority of my customers are focused on biometrics. And I am the biometric content marketing expert and the biometric proposal writing expert, because I said I am. (The other John Bredehoft, the one who owns Total Plumbing Services, taught me the importance of self-promotion.)

But what if a client wants to pick my biometric brain and not pay hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to do so?

Well, for the past month I’ve been addressing that price point also via Bredemarket Premium. Certain posts on this Bredemarket blog delve deeply into my quarter century-plus of biometrics knowledge. These posts are only available to subscribers, at the cost of $5 per month. Here’s an excerpt from the public view of one of these posts:

So to my mind I’ve covered the “Bredemarket doesn’t address my price point” objection. (Prove me wrong. Please.)

As I said before, I need to do a better job of anticipating and addressing other potential objections to using Bredemarket to help you communicate your firm’s benefits. And I’ll work on that.

But if your objection is that you don’t like my glasses, I can’t help you. You can’t please everyone.

And a reminder that if I’ve brilliantly addressed all of your potential objections, or even if I haven’t, and if you’re ready to talk about how I can help you:

Biometric RFP writing experts, to a point

As part of my effort to establish Bredemarket as a biometric proposal writing expert (I eschew modesty), I researched some documents that weren’t about proposals, but about REQUESTS for Proposals (RFPs).

One way to write biometric RFPs

There are various ways to write RFPs, including RFPs for biometric procurement.

I don’t think I’m giving away any deep dark secrets when I state that biometric vendors want to influence the content of biometric RFPs. I know of one blatant example of this, when (many years ago) one U.S. state issued an RFP that explicitly said that the state wanted to buy a MOTOROLA automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). So it issued an RFP to Motorola and several other vendors asking for a Motorola AFIS.

Luckily for the state, Motorola chose to submit a bid. (The bid/no-bid decision was a no-brainer.)

As a Motorola employee (not in proposals, but in product management), I was pleased when that state, after evaluating the RFPs, selected Motorola to provide its AFIS. (Are you surprised?)

But the other bidders didn’t give up and cede the victory to Motorola. Via FOIA requests, Motorola was able to read the proposal of competitor Sagem Morpho, which I can paraphrase as follows:

Your state has requested a Motorola AFIS. Well, Sagem Morpho has provided systems that replaced Motorola AFIS in two states when these states became dissatisfied with their Motorola systems. Since Sagem Morpho AFIS is by definition better than Motorola AFIS, Sagem Morpho EXCEEDS your state’s requirement. So award us extra points for exceeding the requirement and give US your AFIS contract, NOT Motorola.

It didn’t work, but it was a good effort by Sagem Morpho.

Some of you know how this story ended. Motorola subsequently sold its Biometric Business Unit to…Sagem Morpho, I was transferred from product management to proposals in the new combined company, and two of my new coworkers were people who wrote that very proposal. I was therefore able to tell them personally that Sagem Morpho’s proposal was better than Motorola’s. The reaction of the two states who founded themselves back with “Motorolans” again was unrecorded.

(Actually, the new company MorphoTrak and its corporate parent that was eventually named Morpho were big enough that they could get around the concerns of dissatisfied customers. So I’m sure that, at least for a time, those two states were probably visited by ex-Sagem Morpho folks rather than ex-Motorola folks. And I know of at least two instances in which MorphoTrak either bid on or implemented systems outside of MorphoTrak’s geographic territory, just because the customers had relationships with MorphoTrak that they didn’t have with Morpho.)

Back to Motorola’s win of an RFP that requested a Motorola system. Usually, the RFP writing strategy of “write a proposal that favors one vendor over all the others” isn’t always the popular course. Some RFP writers prefer a better strategy, in which the overall needs of the customer are carefully considered.

A better way to write biometric RFPs

Enter the Law Enforcement Standards Office, a division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In 2013, this entity released its “Writing Guidelines for Requests for Proposals for Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems” (NIST Special Publication 1155), a copy of which can be downloaded here. (For historical interest, an earlier draft version is online here. The draft is somewhat longer than the final version.)

I should mention that the committee that created the guidelines included some clear experts in the AFIS world. Let me just mention three of the names:

  • Peter T. Higgins, who was at the time a noted consultant for agencies writing AFIS RFPs and who had previously worked on the FBI’s IAFIS system;
  • Peter Komarinski, another noted consultant and a former key AFIS person for the State of New York; and
  • Mike Lesko, who was at the time employed by the State of Texas as one of their key AFIS people. He has since left the state and has a new job.

And the rest of the committee exhibited similar experience, so these people knew AFIS and knew what agencies needed when they procured an AFIS.

One of the key issues that concerned the committee was latent AFIS interoperability. I don’t want to spend the time to discuss the topic in detail here, but for now I’ll just say that when you have multiple vendors providing AFIS (there were three major vendors and several other vendors in 2013), there is often a challenge when latent (crime scene) prints are processed on one AFIS but searched on another. To sum up the story succinctly, there were methods to overcome these challenges, and the committee was clearly in favor of employing these methods.

Beyond this, the committee was concerned with two topics:

  • The process to procure an AFIS.
  • The process to upgrade an AFIS, which includes steps both before and after procurement.

Regarding procurement, the committee identified four specific phases:

  • Phase 1: Establish Leadership and Align Resources
  • Phase 2: Develop the RFP Requirements and the Document
  • Phase 3: Evaluate Proposals and Award a Contract
  • Phase 4: Manage Procurement Implementation

The meat of the guidelines, however, covered the upgrade itself.

First, the agency needs to explicitly state the reasons for the upgrade.

Once this is done, stakeholders who have a vested interest in the upgrade need to be identified and given assignments; consultants need to be selected if needed (did I mention that at least two committee members were consultants?); and plans to govern the upgrade process itself need to be created (did I mention that one of the consultants had federal government experience?).

Then the procuring agency is ready to…plan. Where is the agency going to get the money for a new AFIS? What should the new AFIS do? What do the latest AFIS do today that the agency’s (older) AFIS cannot do? Are these new features important?

Once the procuring agency has a high-level view of what it wants, and the money to do it, it’s time to solicit. (I’m talking about legal solicitation here.) This involves the creation of a draft of the Request for Proposal (RFP) that is eventually finalized and distributed to bidders. Perhaps a Request for Information (RFI) may be released before the RFP, to solicit additional information to flow into the RFP. This can be an involved process, as is shown by this one example of something to place in an RFP (I’ll return to this example later, and don’t forget that this example was released in 2013):

Form and fit requirements (type, make/model, or physical size/capacity), such as specifying an Intel® dual-core processor that runs on Windows 7® with a 500-gigabyte hard drive and a 20-inch monitor…

Once the vendors get the RFP, the procuring agency has to manage the bidding process, including questions from the bidders, perhaps a bidder’s conference, and then final submission of the proposals to the agency.

Then it’s time for evaluation. The committee includes this statement at the beginning of the evaluation section:

The evaluation of submissions must be fair and consistent.

I don’t think the members of this committee would have authored an RFP that stated “we want a Motorola AFIS.”

And the evaluation would similarly not favor one vendor over another, and would use a previously-defined Source Selection Plan in which each bidder is graded on specific criteria that were prepared well in advance.

Eventually a vendor is selected, and while the original RFP is still part of the package government the implementation, it is usually superseded by subsequent documents, including plans jointly agreed upon by the vendor and agency that may differ from the original RFP.

But is the “better way” truly better?

In general I am in agreement with the guidelines, but as a former employee of a biometric vendor, and as a present consultant to multiple biometric vendors, I have one piece of advice.

Concentrate on the WHAT rather than the HOW.

(By amazing coincidence, this is something that the engineers liked to tell ME when I was a product manager. Live and learn.)

A biometric RFP should state an agency’s biometric needs, but shouldn’t go into excruciating detail about how a potential vendor should meet those needs.

Take the example above. Would the world end if the hard drive only had 400 gigabytes, rather than 500? (Again, I’m thinking in 2013 terms; in 2021, it’s possible that the computer may not have a hard drive at all.) Every time that an RFP includes a low-level requirement that is not met by a vendor’s offering, the vendor has to take time to create a special offering just to meet the requirements of the RFP, an effort that increases the costs to the agency.

Sometimes these special requirements (I don’t call them custom requirements) are justified, but sometimes they are not.

By the way, my least favorite requirement that I ever encountered was the one that told the bidders and their R&D teams exactly how the fingerprint matching needed to be conducted. As long as the system meets the accuracy requirements agreed upon in whatever document dictates accuracy, who cares HOW the match is conducted?

As I’ve noted a couple of times, this document was written in 2013, and therefore is fingerprint-centric (although it notes that the principles also apply to other biometric systems), includes dated technological references (Windows 7 being an example), and does not account for the cloud systems that are offered and/or have been implemented by several biometric vendors. (Storage of biometric data in the cloud introduces a whole new set of requirements to ensure that the data is protected.) I don’t know whether there are any plans to update these guidelines, and some of the principals who authored the original guidelines have since retired, but an update would be beneficial.

Oh, and if anyone plans to write an RFP mandating a Motorola AFIS, don’t. Motorola left the AFIS business over a decade ago.

But Motorola can supply a real-time computer aided dispatch system.