Coffee Consultation: The New Rules

I interrupt this week’s regularly scheduled profundity on public relations and social meida with this post. This by the way is why I don’t have strict editorial calendar, for the flexibility. And my slackness. Anyhoodle…

Last year I ranted about brain picking tire kickers and you can find like posts from Gini Dietrich, Justin KownackiBeth Harte.

“What does It Cost?”

Mack Collier published a list about social media costs, with wildly varying ranges: Hourly from $50 to $500 and so on. I liked that it varied, as it always will. Experience, expertise, efficiency, skills, tools, talent all have their value, their worth for marketing, PR, anything.

I pay someone to do my oil changes for a reason. They can do it faster, better and to me, cheaper than I.

Let’s Get Together, It’ll Be Fun!

So when Erika Napoletano told the social media hacks to update their resumes, one of her suggestions to step up the game: Coffee. In the comments – and show some Respect for COMMENTS – lots of debate on that, including:

Dave Van de Walle said his time was worth more than a $5 cup of coffee. Richard Newton bemoaned the bait and switch of the coffee thing, people pressing for too much. I agree with Erika, I do help people, but am sick of the “coffee for brain power” exchange, people wasting my time.

  • I send countless emails, with tons of questions and suggestions the essentially outline a campaign, never to hear back.
  • I’ve sent some LMGTFY tweets to the slack and lazy.
  • Just last week I helped a colleague think about an annual report project, with all the gritty details from writing and design, to graphics, printing, and distribution. She was appreciative of my free consultation, actually replied!

So with that horrible prelude, my New Coffee Rules:

  1. Be legit. Reply to my email and answer at least a few of my questions about what you want, what you are really willing to pay for and since YOU came to me, tell me why YOU think I may be the one to help.
  2. Quid quo the pro. You’re asking me to change out of my jammies and suffer the bitch-on-a-good-day Atlanta traffic, so you also have to listen to me, work with me. This has to be a give and take that couldn’t be done by phone or email.
  3. Manage your expectations. You’ll get your coffee’s worth and a helluva lot more. Like Erika said, don’t expect a post-graduate seminar or for me totally rewrite your marketing plan, complete with shiny new tagline in 45 minutes, just hand it to you on a cocktail napkin. Ain’t gonna happen.
  4. Show some damn appreciation. A follow up email saying thank you is nice and professional f@(k*ng courtesy! If you’re socially minded, maybe a nice RT, blog comment or even LinkedIn recommendation.
  5. Cheapskates beware. You are buying.

How do you handle the coffee consultation? Please share your rules.

Photo credit: Cafepress sells cool stuff, like that mug.

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17 thoughts on “Coffee Consultation: The New Rules

    1. Jenn, Hero?! Flattered my dear but seriously.. Aim higher. 😉

      Not many, but I have sent those links to a few people .. most of whom have been good sports, totally laughed especially those on Twitter. Thinking about it, it’s a great icebreaker that I may have to use more (and thinking about Shonali’s FAQ).

      If it’s a simple, obvious inquiry, use that as a starting point that to show what they’d get: hard working, pull no punches. If you want to pay me to do all the work for you, for something you can easily find yourself but just don’t have the time, that’s fine. That’s why people outsource to freelancers like myself. If you’re not will to pay for both the talent and the time.. please remember, I don’t work for coffee. FWIW.

        1. It’s the hardest to hear. I use it when asking the “And?” and “So?” questions. .. You have a cool product. And? You have nice service. So what? All by way of saying: everyone has cool stuff, good service, maybe better prices than you. It’s about perspective, managing expectations, keeping it real.

            1. I know Jenn! Makes me want to dust off one of my “please comment” drafts, as I don’t get closing blogs to comments, or not replying to them. I’ll get another post from all the comments here. And using your Twitter status for the CommentLuv (about which I’m working on a short post) is pure genius.

  1. A post after my own heart, Davina. But why am I not surprised?! And the LMGTFY reference made me laugh, because I did a post on that a while back. Which was literally the LMGTFY answers to FAQs I get.

    First, thanks for pointing me to Erika’s post. Loved it.

    I have significantly cut back on “doing coffee,” though of course there are times when, and people with whom, I’ll do it. This is for all the reasons you mention, plus, I have a very bad habit of giving away the store thanks to the “helpful” bone in my body that refuses to break. I have to learn to do a better job of that (any tips?).

    What I prefer, now, are things like Skype chats like Erika, though again, I won’t do them with any/every one. Saves time and I don’t have to get all gussied up on a day I really don’t feel like it. I also suggest people check my blog first, because more often than not, I have written a post about what they’re looking for. Of course, often what they’re REALLY looking for is my “secret sauce,” and that ain’t for sale. Third, I ask them to use Tungle to set up a call instead of a meeting. If they don’t select an option that works for me, I don’t do it and ask them to re-request a time.

    A follow-up thank you is HUGE. Can’t tell you how many people have “picked my brain” (and I hate that phrase, makes me feel like I’ll be left with a bigger hole in my head than usual) and then disappeared into the sunset.
    Shonali Burke recently posted..Two Years Down- How Many To Go

    1. Shonali, One day I’ll have to check out your LMGTFY post for FAQ, another good idea to steal someday. Like you I risk giving away the store, or I’m just enthusiastic and my mind gets going.. next thing I know I’ve been talking for 2 hours. Then the person on the other side of the table either vanishes, or wants to nitpick the expert advice he/she sought out in the first place.

      Along with “pick your brain” I hate “sounding board” and someone wanting to bounce ideas off of me. For “coffee.” Love the “secret sauce.” There are things that are well beyond that initial consultation. It’s why someone hires Shonali, why someone wants me for that X factor I bring; that’s worth more.

      Amazes me the number of people I meet who don’t get follow ups, thank you notes, etc. Even if the answer is “we don’t know” or something, follow up to let someone know you are working on an answer, something, anything. Shame.

      1. I also did a post on answers to the top 10 FAQs, Letterman-style. Seemed to create some hilarity. Bet you can’t guess the question I get asked most frequently… (hint, it has something to do with the way I speak). And oh, it tickled me when I was actually asked one of those questions on Twitter not long after, and I responded with a link to the post and “See # whatever.” Ha!

        OMG, the talking for 2 hours thing! I *literally* did that last year, and I successfully talked myself out of a client. I’m sure I came across as a very nice person, but nice ain’t gonna put breakfast on the table.

        I really, really don’t mind helping people – I like to, and I think we all do (ok, most of us). But there is a difference in spoon-feeding and helping. IMHO, far too many people want the first, and that just rubs me the wrong way. FWIW. ;P
        Shonali Burke recently posted..When Public Relations- Social Media And Customer Service Converge

        1. Shonali, What gets me in trouble and scares off some potential clients is well, the truth. 1) They are not Apple. If they don’t have a real story to tell, I’m upfront about how hard it will be for coverage. 2) Yes – I have some contacts – not tons, and NO – I will not leverage those current or future relationships to hard sell a bad story. 3) It will be a lot of time, research and they’ll wonder how tweeting and blogging is “work.” 4) When they want guaranteed sales results, I start asking 24 CRM, workflow, referral program, overall marketing questions, how they will use that media exposure they seem to want so badly to support sales, etc… that’s when it’s crickets.

          And I think I just drafted part of my FAQ. 😉 Big difference in helping, getting them to really think about what they want vs. what they need, pointing someone in the right direction .. as opposed to doing it all for them. Nice that we can rant about these things, see we’re not alone.

            1. Yeah I kinda did. Fun, and yet another reason I love the COMMENTS part of blogging. I’ll have to blog this and add a few more FAQ, then – thinking about my website update resolution – keep the link up there to be seen, like I did with my comment policy post. Hmm… wheels turning now.

  2. I agree with BOTH of you, Davina and Gini. While it wasn’t the subject of the post in question, anyone asking me to coffee needs an agenda – and one they share with me in advance. Granted, by MOM doesn’t need an agenda, but if you ask to pick my brain, I’m not going to sit there willy-nilly with a chai while you wander all over the map. I have 30 minutes to an hour for most anyone. Once. I prefer Skype (simply because I don’t have to take off my pink fuzzy slippers), so if you’re going to make me leave the house, PLEASE make it worth my time.

    Way to deliver, Davina 🙂
    Erika Napoletano recently posted..Going Mobile- On Movement

    1. Erika, One of my favorite things about blogging: really reading the posts, the comments to see where it leads. I noticed how more than a few of your readers picked up on the “coffee” thing, hence this post.

      I too can and will make time for anyone, if it’s something I know I’m happy to share. Hell if want my tips on Disney World, you’re welcome to them. Like you said, once. But if it’s all take, no give that makes it harder for me to find the time. The advance agenda is a smart move, keeps everyone from wasting time. Great idea for Skype, I should try it more often. Thanks so much for the kind words.

  3. Davina, I totally agree there are times that coffee is necessary (I just had a two and a half hour lunch that was the result of three coffee dates, which is going to end up getting us not one, but two pieces of business). But I also think some of the comments from Erika’s post were taken out of context by her readers. Her point was that social media, just like the telephone and email, are going to be prevalent in everyone’s jobs and those people who claim to be social media experts had better find something else to do.

    That being said, I love your coffee rules. Next time I’m in Atlanta, though, I’m asking you for drinks! 🙂

    1. Gini, I hear you. I just had a great 2 hour working lunch with a colleague which was very productive. But we’ve also had those who call, discuss, get all these ideas from us.. then vanish into thin air. So the rules are as much for myself as anyone else.

      Next time you’re Atlanta, drinks it is! Quality of course. 😉

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