Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Protecting Intellectual Capital

When working with the public and potential clients, we face some critical challenges related to loss of our time and resources when people come to us who are not exactly serious about going forward. We find that sometimes under the guise of wanting more information but not directly hiring us (yet), we walk a fine line in giving away too much time and research to answer questions and generate proposals. When your proposals are customized to each prospective client, it takes a lot of resources to research and meet their needs. What we run into are those proposed clients who will keep requesting more and more and more information before making a decision.

The dilemma is where to draw the line. Some people in their quest for information are either intentionally or unintentionally picking your brain and wasting your time. They are not likely to work with you, but will insist on meeting with you anyway and set you off in pursuit to answers to those questions. They will also ask for more of your time in meeting to discuss. What we've started doing is drawing the line on no more than two meetings -- and when it becomes obvious a prospective client isn't going to sign anytime soon, we protect our intellectual capitol by telling them that to get more out of us free of charge, they must sign up. Clients, who are not serious and want to use you as a researcher, will be offended and often lack understanding. Clients, who do want to move forward, will understand and sign up.

Signs to watch for to distinguish the difference include:

1. Requests for multiple meetings but lack of a request to see contract.
2. Requests for things like print quotes.
3. Requests for information on illustrators or graphic artists.
4. Requests for yet a third or fourth meeting to continue a well-hashed-out discussion.
5. Pages and pages of questions with still yet a signal move toward a contract signing.
6. All of the above.

Business owners who don't mind this draw on their resources, should! For every non-billable hour you spend being someone's grunt person and doing their work for them without an intent to move forward, is a loss of your revenue. Do not allow people to use your resources. Do create boundaries and allowable requests to a point before you insist a contract be signed. And never allow the idea that business might be lost to stop you from drawing the line. For all the bandwidth this person sucked up, you could have spent that valuable time on perhaps two or three other prospective clients -- and actual work won!

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