FOLLOW OUR BLOG
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- April 2010
- October 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- July 2007
I made the best cake yet. Now to understand this you probably need to know that I don’t cook anything. We’re not sure how I lived alone for so long. Over the years Steve (who is a fantastic chef) has coaxed a few things out of me. I did start baking a little while ago, a few things from scratch, lots of boxed cakes. If you are short on time or cash, by all means go with a box. However, if you have an afternoon and some extra scrilla, go the scratch route.
This cake that I made, it’s a dream. I didn’t know yellow cake could be this good. It’s the cake that’s in the current edition of Martha Stewart Living and I went with all-organic ingredients. As I was putting in the ingredients I kept asking myself if the organic and pricier versions were worth it. These are my findings:
|Cake Ingredients||Worth It?|
|1 Stick Unsalted Butter||Not the stuff we bought, organic butter yes, but the super grass-fed cow butter no.We bought the Supernatural butter that the Paleos love—it was $10 for a pound at our local little gourmet food store. You can get it cheaper at Whole Foods, but it’s still pricy.|
|1/2 teaspoon fine salt||—|
|1 1/2 cups granulated sugar||We used raw/organic sugar. The jury is still out on worth it or not.|
|3 large eggs,
|Yes! Organic, local eggs will make all the difference. We get the Clifford Farms ones.|
|1 cup whole milk||Yes — organic dairy, happy cows, no hormones, etc is important to us.|
|1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract||Probably not, tasted about the same, cost a whole lot more.|
|Frosting Ingredients||Worth It?|
|1 stick unsalted butter, softened||See above.|
|4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature||Yes! The organic cream cheese was a transcendent experience.|
|5 cups confectioner’s sugar||No! Expensive, tastes the same and there isn’t enough in one bag to frost a cake. The trifecta of fail.|
|1/4 cup whole milk||See above.|
|1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract||See above.|
Cake Ingredients & Design
All of this got me thinking about what was worth the time and cost and what wasn’t. I’m often asked the same questions when it comes to design and building apps and websites. So here is a short rundown.
The caveat here is cost — if you have a larger budget, by all means get the best of the best, everything will be exponentially better.
|Design Ingredients||Worth It?|
|Logo||This is the cream cheese. A cheap logo won’t kill you, it’s better than nothing and if you are just starting out it’s not the place to drop serious cash. However, if you can afford it (and a good logo/branding is going to run you $6,000–$10,000 or more) it’s a transcendent experience.|
|Website||This is the eggs. The eggs, for us, are non-negotiable when looking at organic/non-organic. A website is the same, you must have a good site. However, you can have the mass-market organic egg of sites (build it on WordPress now, make it good, you can always take that and upgrade later). Eventually, when you can afford it, you want the Clifford Farms of local/organic egg websites.|
|Fancy Business Cards||This is the organic confectioners sugar. As in, not worth it unless you have money to burn. We have some cheap (but nice) cards, because if you are doing a lot of business, you are handing out a lot of cards—and those cards shouldn’t be costing you $1+ each to hand out.|
|Custom Photography||This is the grass-fed butter. You must have good photos on your site, and even good stock photos don’t come cheap. However, if you are very particular (like you eat a Paleo diet) you want to spring for the custom photography.|
|Mobile App||This is the organic vanilla. Only when all other things are covered should you even think about doing this. It might not move the needle at all, or it might be the greatest finishing touch.|
What do you think?
Do you agree or disagree? What is worth it to you when you bake? What is worth it to you in your business communications?
Today I want to say thank you to someone who was an inadvertent mentor to me.
When I graduated college the dotcom bubble had just burst and there wasn’t a design job to be found. I was competing for crappy ad-layout gigs against people who had been creative directors at prestigious firms just six months prior. It was bleak. I applied for everything out there and as luck (hard work) would have it someone was willing to take a chance on me and I was offered a job at WCF as a designer. I still remember getting the call — after months of searching I was standing at REI with my sister and we both broke down and cried. Right there in the camping stuff.
I started my job at WCF and I was finally a grown up—a real job with a real salary and a red Swingline stapler. That’s where I met Tauni, and today I want to thank her for taking a punk-ass kid and helping me not get fired within the first month. She made the job fun—she had me stand on my chair and ceremoniously open my first ever “real” paycheck. We won some great awards for some awesome posters that had a singing button in them. Most importantly she taught me to make a list.
If you know me know, you’d think I was born that way. Nope. Tauni beat it into me. I was sitting in a meeting, and our boss was giving us project instructions and Tauni asked me, “why aren’t you making a list??”. I was writing it down, but oh honey, Tauni took making a list to a glorious level. Little boxes, neatly organized. What you need to do, what you’ve done. These were things of beauty. So I made a list. Then another. Now 10 years later I have huge notebooks full of these lists.
I was struck by this the other day when a client said she wished she was as organized and as methodical as I am to keep everything straight. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “make a list”. Maybe I’ll send her to Tauni’s Make a List Bootcamp.
Seriously though, being organized runs in my family (and we have the OCD to prove it!) but making these particular kinds of lists is what has kept me organized and our business running for years. Thank you, Tauni!
- Next month marks 10 years since I started driving “luxury” cars. Expensive cars.
- Target used to have great t-shirts for cheap.
A few years ago I was talking to a client, his services (like our services) are “expensive” and he is in a marketplace (like we are) crowded with “cheap”. This causes us both to run into the QandA: “How much do you charge per hour? Oh? That’s expensive. I can get someone cheaper.” We both find this to be infuriating. Perhaps it’s just a cornerstone of American philosophy that cheap is good and expensive is offensive. My client remarked at the time that he hates the words “expensive” and “cheap” because it’s one tiny piece of the equation that suddenly brings up so much emotion—a potential client that wants what you offer has put you on the defensive on price. Yes, they can get it for cheaper—but they can’t get what you offer for cheaper.
Words that sound like cheap and expensive:
- $10 Fitness equals $10 results. This is my client’s feelings about his business versus a place like 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness.
- IKEA: Not quite what you want, but what you can afford. I swear this should be their slogan.
- Our website isn’t a valuable asset—the design is falling apart and it’s full of bugs. It hurts us more than it sells us. These aren’t the words clients use, but they say things like “OH SHIT! MY SITE IS DOWN! Can you help???” or “The design was fun, but it’s feeling dated after a year,” or “The one person who knew how to use the CMS left and now no one can update the site or fix this redirect loop.” You get the picture.
Notice that those three sayings don’t every say “cheap” or “expensive” because are misleading labels. Let’s look at what really comprises those attitudes.
$10 Fitness equals $10 results.
This is results driven. You can get it for less money, but you will not get the thing that you want. You will not get the results my client has created time and time again (reversed aging, getting people off medication, keeping older adults in their homes and out of assisted living) at a “cheap” gym.
PS: Did you know that gyms rely on you NOT using your membership? It’s an often discussed fact of gym pricing we learned while working on Custom Training. There is a set percentage all gyms count on making by selling unused memberships. That’s cheap.
IKEA: Not quite what you want, but what you can afford.
Affordability really drives the concept of pricing. If you have the money it’s no big deal to spend it, if you don’t then it’s horrifying to see what people spend money on. I love the modern aesthetic, but I just do not have $4,000 for a headboard, I can afford IKEA and it’s close to what I want. It’s not an investment, there is no resale, there is no passing it down through the family, it’s neither cheap nor expensive—it’s just affordable. <shrug>
Our website isn’t a valuable asset.
Paraphrasing of course, but it’s all about value. Need a cheap (low quality, low price, will get the job mostly done) logo? Go ahead and get one. Need a cheap site? Grab a WordPress theme and get up and going. Need to move the needle on your business? Build a valuable asset.
A note on this blog: Our blog is the wicked intersection of all of the above. It’s cheap (just me and a free WordPress install), it’s expensive (posts take a *LOT* of time to write, like 2-4 hours each, that’s $350-$700 of time that gets “billed” to Sawaya Consulting), it’s our #1 most valuable marketing asset.
A note on why we are “expensive”.
I know my client is “expensive” for the same reason we are—and he’s in the complete opposite industry as us. When you pay our project rate you get several years of experience (not just one year of experience several times). We’ve done this type of project, we’ve worked with that type of client. We are doing what we’re good at. Our rate covers expertise and talent. Our rate also covers solid business practices that we’ve developed for years. It means that we only need 3 hours to fix a problem it will take someone else 12 hours to fix. It means that come hell or high water we will deliver. It means that if we are in your budget (what you can afford)—you will get the results promised and whatever we build will be a valuable asset (because we refuse to build junk). We have a minimum project cost of $5,000. We do this because every sub-$5,000 project we’ve taken on we’ve always spent $5,000+ of agency time on. We may scale back features—but we never compromise on the thinking, design or development. Never.
Back to Expensive Cars and the Cheap T-Shirts
I bought an Audi TT as soon as I had a real job. I bought it used when I could have had a brand new Honda Civic for the same price. The value in that car (it was a hoot! it will get you picked up for criminal speeding in Arizona) made the mix of buying used but paying a little more worth it.
More recently Steve and I sold both of our cars (see ya later, TT) and bought a Range Rover to share. I love that car, yes, again, could have had a brand new Jeep Cherroke or similar for the price of our used RR. The value in that “expensive” car is tremendous. The heated steering wheel, being able to go *anywhere* we want, with our friends comfortably nestled in the back (see picture), the way it handles, the little extras. It’s the difference between having a car that works and having an EXPERIENCE I LOVE every time I get in. Every time. I’m thrilled. THRILLED.
(taken last weekend outside of Moab)
Target used to have amazingly great clothes for cheap — this is “cheap” as in good. I still have an Isaac Mizrathi for Target velvet jacket that goes everywhere, I still have t-shirts I bought six years ago. Lately though, all they have is “cheap” as in “this is cheap crap”—t-shirts that go through the wash once, lose all the sizing and end up wide in the body and short in the torso and paper thin. Listen to me: the more we support “cheap” the more “cheap” we’re going to get until our consumer/throw away society is straight up Idiocracy. Watch it.
Start thinking about how you use “cheap” and “expensive”. Do you mean cheap as an asset? Is it really? Is expensive an offensive word, is higher cost a negative? And FTLOG don’t say it to someone who has something you want—figure out what other words need to be applied in the situation, can you not afford it? Do you not think you’ll get the promised result? Does the price not align with the value you place on it? These questions lead to discussion and negotiation. Telling someone they are too expensive and you can get it for cheaper sounds like “F You” to those of us that do great work for a living.
Are there other words that push your buttons? If you steer away from cheap/expensive what words do you try to use?
Sometimes you need a good, swift kick in the pants. I sure did. We were refocusing, we were finally at the point where we’ve done enough work that we could afford to (and had to) say NO to some opportunities.
But I wanted to say no to everything—I wanted to finally. finish. some. of. these. projects.
We went to Shatner’s World, sat right up front and listened to William Shatner—who is 82 and phenomenally entertaining—tell us about how his career went as far and wide because he said YES. No matter what came up, how crazy it was from Star Trek to singing to horse racing he said, “I can do that!”
You have to be discerning, but it’s so much more fun to say I can do that! and see where it goes than to say NO.
The other day one of our clients called and wanted to discuss a new strategy to sell more product. In the end the best we could do for her is to put up a simple order taking form. It met some of the criteria for what she wanted—but wouldn’t really move the needle forward because we don’t do ecommerce or marketing at Sawaya Consulting. Sure, we can implement the tech solution and design it to look great, we can even have some ideas along the way, but it’s not our thing.
In the meantime she found someone who can tie together the ecommerce and marketing and do a good job. She called us and told us she loves to work with us, but is going to use this other firm (that’s the right way to treat your agency, more on that another time). We thanked her for letting us know and worked with the other firm to get them the access they would need.
You see, there is a lot of benefit to working with people that are doing what they do.
(Yes, it’s still a trike, but it could probably be better if someone knew what they were doing.)
When you come to us for a website we immediately know a list of pages you will want, we are up to date on the latest technology and techniques, we have a handful of concepts stuffed in our brains waiting to come to life and we can do the little fiddly bits in our sleep.
There is a good chance your logo designer won’t be the best web designer, your web designer won’t be the best marketer, and your marketer isn’t a chef. Being loyal and working with the same team can produce great results across the board, but sometimes when your team overstreches they end up worn out and you end up paying high dollar amounts for the fiddly bits. This is one of the things we are considering as we refocus.
As an agency we are just as clear about what we DO and what we DON’T do.
- Yes, we make mobile apps, but no we don’t make games, social apps or mcommerce.
- Yes, we make websites, but not ecommerce, Flash based sites or do search engine marketing.
- Yes, we make corporate tools, but we do that on PHP, not C# or ASP.
For all that we do, there are a dozen things we don’t. We are strictly a business-to-business, information management design and development shop.