Monthly Archives: January 2016

Business rules type about making your product or service attractive and how to attract customers to it

Attract

Creating a product or service is not enough. As in all previous types of business rules, you need to think about the customer while creating it.

In general it is natural to think about the purpose of your product and what customers expect from such products and services, while thinking of how you product should look and feel like when it is used.

But there is more about attract-iveness of you product.

First of all there are many perfect ways of how a product can look and feel.

A good example here are on-line banking applications. I think I have used more than five so far and all of them had various ways to present lists of transactions, and various transaction forms. Some attempt to present as much information on one screen as possible, so that scrolling and additional clicking can be avoided and some make the fonts large, buttons big, making the transaction forms resemble a computer game for small children (especially because of the bright colours they use) than a screen where you are about to give out some money.

But there are also similarities between them, which show that there are also commonalities in preferences of different customers. I have yet to see an on-line banking program with a black (or other dark colour) background. All of them have white backgrounds, or at least the text and lists are presented on white. There are colourful frames around, but the actual information is always on the white background. It makes sense to me. This resembles the transaction lists and forms on paper, to which most of us are used to. And in this way they are probably best readable.

So, the way your product looks and feels like is a blend between your customers’ and your preferences. It helps when you consider yourself as a customer too. But you need to think of various preferences of various people and consider, which group of people you target.

In Denmark more and more aged population is using Internet, including on-line banking. We have volunteers in Aalborg, who help retired men and women to learn how to handle their finances using the digital post and on-line banking. My guess that large fonts and bright colours are targeted very much toward them, so that they can better distinguish various data on the screen.

But even if your product or service is likable and usable and has a perfect layout and is very easy to handle, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that you will immediately have success with it.

You need to make it visible and you need to attract various potential customers to it.

Yes, I am talking about marketing.

Many fear it, especially when it comes to small businesses, and to starting freelancers especially. Most of us grew in the cultures saying, “Don’t boast, be modest, don’t be arrogant.” Only recently we started to hear the encouraging words like “You have a lot of potential. Don’t be afraid to show it. Be yourself. Be bold, do what you want most. Go for your dreams.”

I am also a beginner in marketing since my business is young and I am learning a lot about it right now.

Here are the main lessons I learned so far.

There is no unique recipe for successful marketing. There are tendencies, like on-line presence, sharing of information and most important, taking care of ones fans and customers by communicating with them and offering them valuable content in your niche. But there are no absolute ways, which tools and approaches work best. Some swear that Facebook marketing boosted their business, some deny social media and rely on word of mouth or only on e-mail marketing. Many combine various methods adjusting their approaches as the time progresses and technologies evolve.

There is no better way to learn it than to get hands “dirty” and try out various things. And yes, we need to learn how to boast. You might frown about this statement. But I noticed an interesting thing about myself. When I try to boast about what I do it turns more like passionate telling about things I did with all my heart. And this infects with motivation those who listen. By marketing what we do, we don’t only praise a product and try to sell it, we have a potential to ignite creativity in others, a wish to create and share something on their own.

There are no wrong ways in marketing (as long as you follow the laws of the country of your residence and the countries you sell your products and service to). Some methods might work in certain circumstances, some not. And the circumstances change quickly. Depending on the environment, customers’ age, their interests, time of the year, weather, time of the day, and many more. So you can try the same methods in various conditions or you could try various methods in the same circumstances with the same public. But don’t take the results for absolute. Your judgment also depends on circumstances. And your mood.

Marketing is a game with infinite possibilities for the next move. And it has a great potential to be fun playing it. I realized this by following some of the successful independent authors. There is a growing tendency of them offering many free and paid training courses of how to market books in various genres. Yes, these activities do bring additional income, but I have a strong feeling that they don’t do it solely because of the income. Try joining some of the free Webinars by Joanna Penn and other writers, or read their books on business of writing. The main and glaring feature of all these, although it is often overlooked and I overlooked it for quite some time, is that they have enormous fun doing it (even if they claim that they fear it a lot. They might fear it, but my guess it that this fear only fuels their wish to succeed). Some of these successful (both in writing and marketing) authors even take time from their fiction writing in order to pursue these marketing strategies and to find out more.

As any fun game, marketing can become an addiction. But as I see it, as long as the customer interests are the centre of this game (and the customers want more and more good products and services satisfying their needs and wishes), then there are only winners at every stage of this game. And there is no end to it as long as you have a business.

 

This post is a part of “Business rules: General”, copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Business rules type on legalizing the product/service and the business rules

Legalize

If you offer something for sale, you always need to consider legal issues connected to it.

There are three types of these issues to consider in respect to your product/service.

    1. The ones connected with the information and regulations of its use needed for production/creation of the given product or service,
    2. those related to the certification of the product/service itself, when it is ready to be launched, and
    3. the information about the product displayed to the customer, which includes the price.

I would say that all products and services need to take into account all these three factors.

Let’s take a novel as an example. Even in the “fictionest” case of fiction, you would have certain standards to adhere to. Both in respect to the genre you write in (there is always a limit to the weirdness of the genre mixture that even the “craziest” of the readers would accept and be willing to pay for), and also to how you use the works of others in your fiction. Even the tiniest attempt of plagiarism cannot live and bring any profit for too long. In the growing transparency of our world all stealing attempts become more and more obvious.

If you want to follow a fair play, then there are rules to this game. For example, here is how The Chicago Manual of Style, the guide, which most respectable writers and editors follow and refer to, defines the “Fair Use” of the information created by someone else, as following: “Fair use is use that is fair — simply that.”

There are of course more details to the definition and more rules to follow.

Let’s consider the second aspect of legal matters listed above. When you publish a book, you claim copyright, have an ISBN number given to it, put the corresponding title and attributes, like publisher name and couple other.

Not all of the details attributed to your product or service will be visible to and needed for the customer to see. In case of a book, a customer can access such information as ISBN, or publisher name or other, but they rarely do consider it. The most important they look at are the book cover, the title, the author’s name, the book description, and among some additional other of course the price.

Even standards themselves follow the same scheme.

For example, my favourite technical standard to date, S1000D® (International specification for technical publications using a common source data base) lists to all the other standards and specifications it refers to in its definitions. Then there is a certain and official way how a new Issue of this specification is released. Each change goes through the review of national and international groups, panels and boards, then it is approved by the Steering Committee, the decisions of which often need the ratification by the Council.

The users of S1000D do not have to pay anything to get hold of a package with the specification text and all the data structures intended to facilitate its implementation. But they have to follow certain terms and conditions in order to be able to download one or another issue of the specification. They are obliged for example to agree to those terms and conditions by typing a generated code and clicking a confirmation button.

The same is true for many on-line services. And for many personal services with a storefront as well.

Many service providers will need to provide upon request the certificates confirming their professionalism. Lawyers, accountants, and translators are just some of the numerous obvious examples.

And as often in the articles describing business rules types in this blog, here is a surprise. Not only the products and services have legal issues to be clarified for them. The business rules describing them need to be legalized as well.

If you consider the contract you sign with your customers and partners as a part of your business rules documentation (which they are!) then this need becomes obvious. But even the parts meant for “mere” guidance of the personnel responsible for fabricating the whole or part of your product or carrying out the service, need to be reviewed and approved. Again, communication is vital here.

Business rules are a dynamic (not static!) set of documents. But you still need to release (or at least decide upon) them in first version and review and update them on regular basis.

Even for a self-publisher setting up the rules is very helpful. I didn’t record clearly all the parameters of formatting and publishing my first novel, so that I had to research some of them anew and re-read the books and articles in order to find the information needed. In some cases this didn’t cost too much time, in some this time could have been saved, have I recorded them somewhere. So for the second book I took more notes, although in some cases my mind did trick me into thinking, “Since it won’t take so much time until I publish my third book as it took me for the second, I will remember this and therefore I don’t need to record this.” I bet now that I will forget and research again. And maybe with the fifth or fifteenth book, I will have all my major and common business rules in place.

This is not so critical in case of a sole player in a small project and business. But as soon as you have partners, you need to share and agree upon certain rules. For example, if you are also a self-publishing author, then your cover designer must know what dimensions the cover will have, and also remember that the proportions for the e-book cover will differ from the proportions of the front cover of a paperback. Simple rescaling might not be enough, rearranging of images anew might be necessary to achieve a presentable result. You as the product/service originator and provider have the responsibility to take care of this.

You might not need a stamp from each of your partners on the rules, upon which you agree, but I join into the common advice and recommend keeping all the rules and the agreements upon them in written form. Even just an e-mail exchange with an OK as the final answer is better than no record at all. It is human to forget, so it is a part of being kind and taking care of all participating in shaping up your product/service (including yourself and the customers) to have all recorded comprehensively and correctly, as well as, as accessible for reference as possible.

 

This post is a part of “Business rules: General”, copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for writers: The story behind this project

This project of cheerleading for writers is a gift I am giving further. A gift of cheerleading, which was given to me by Marcy, Marcella Belson, who lives an ocean and a continent away from me, and whom I haven’t met in person yet (as I write this).

Marcy found me through my blog. She commented on my very first short story (which I referred to as “a short novel”), published as a blog post.

I answered her comment. And she replied.

Here is our first exchange, which I am glad I saved as a separate file. After migrating the blog from one host to another, many of the comments were lost. But these survived (not on the blog, but in a file together with the story). I was so thrilled then that someone, whom I didn’t know yet, found my blog and commented, that I decided to save them separately. Somehow I felt them that this exchange was something special. How right I was!

Marcy, April 23, 2013 at 2:37 am: Nice going, you have the touch! I enjoyed the story and also, your comments about your own life and child.
I’m envious of your ability to write fiction. Looking forward to the next story!

Where are you? I’m on the West coast, and it appears you are posting in the middle of the night. Maybe you are!

I was so excited to read this. Someone thought my fiction was great and was even envious of my ability to write it! Here is what I answered mere ten minutes after Marcy posted her comment.

April 23, 2013 at 2:47 am: Wow, thank you, Marcy for the great feedback! I was a bit nervous about this one. Its first version definitely needed thorough editing, but I didn’t want to change the story by doing it. So, it was a very interesting challenge.
I live in Denmark and I write after my day work (working mostly from home) and after spending time with my family. So, I write mostly in the evenings and nights. It is just so much fun to write and share! And read of course! I am crazy about reading!
Thank you very much again for reading and for your feedback!

Less than two hours later Marcy replied to my comment.

April 23, 2013 at 4:19 am: Oh, Vichizli, thank you for replying to my comment! I’m so happy to have a writer in Denmark that I can follow your work! I have had several Danish friends over the years, but have never visited Denmark, unfortunately. I write little things for The Elder Storytelling Place, about my life, and I belong to a writers’ group. I’ll be waiting for your next work!

I couldn’t wait until the evening to answer to Marcy. So, with a cup of espresso next to my computer I answered to her during a short break.

April 23, 2013 at 9.27 am: Dear Marcy, I am really glad to interact with you. I’m a freshman in writing and glad to exchange with people who are as passionate about writing as I am. I just read your story “Bicycles and Glass Bottles” in the Elder Storytelling Place, which surprised me pleasantly with the richness of details. On the first sight, you could say it contains just facts, but hidden emotions were coming through. I won’t be able to post there ;), being 10 years younger than the admittance age, but I would like to read the stories shared there. I enjoyed yours very much. …

My comment went further, where I told a little about Denmark, how I like living here. I was so eager to share with her more. So I told her that I was originally from Moldova, and told her what connected me with Germany. And I recommended all three countries for visiting.

Marcy commented most of the following posts.

At some point I realized that our conversations were becoming more personal and more private.

Marcy didn’t have my e-mail address then, but I had hers through her subscription to my blog. So I decided to reach out and sent her an e-mail.

And from there our wonderful friendship began and becomes stronger every day.

We haven’t met her in person yet, but it is as if we have known each other for years.

We sent each other pictures of ourselves and our loved ones. Then little gifts followed. Marcy made pictures with those I sent her (including a shawl my mother knitted for her) and sent them to me. I reported her how my son wouldn’t want to wear other socks than those Marcy sent for him.

We wrote to each about writing, about books we read, about life, about memories. A generation, an ocean and continent away, different cultures and upbringing didn’t separate us. They actually brought us closer together because we were so curious about each other and also because the stories we told each other generated something treasured from the experience and live of the other.

Marcy has witnessed my writing when I thought that I would never want to write a book. When I thought that I’d stay with sharing short pieces on my blog.

At some point I told her about reading somewhere an advice: “If there is something you are really afraid of or worry about, then write about it.” I told her there was a story I couldn’t stop thinking about. My father’s story. How he lost his family during the World War II and about his attempt to find it.

I told Marcy that I’ve been reading a lot about the craft of writing and how most of the experienced writers advised not to give the first draft to anyone else to read until it’s finished and revised into a second draft.

Marcy’s answer was that she hoped to be able to read it, when it’s ready. Doctors suspected cancer and she was awaiting results, when I told her that I started writing a book.

After having received such a gift of support of a dedicated reader, I wanted to give back. So I took all I wrote so far for my first book, self-edited it and sent it to her with a warning that all is still very raw material.

Fortunately, the cancer was not confirmed. But the awareness about fragility of life made me want to tell her the whole story as soon as I could.

The answer to the first sent chapters was prompt. Marcy said that she loved what I sent her and that she couldn’t wait for more. She asked me about Soviet Union and my father’s story. She seemed to be as engaged in the story as I was.

So I sent her each chapter as soon as it was written and self-edited. I tried to answer each of Marcy’s mails fast and to send a new chapter with each new e-mail. This got the book going.

Marcy didn’t set any deadlines and didn’t say “you have to write”. When it took me time to answer, she always shown compassion to my full schedule with full time job, family responsibilities and voluntary work I was doing.  What motivated me most was her unique feedback to each chapter. She told me what moved her and what memories of her youth and childhood various scenes in the story reminded her of. From her I learned the word “cliffhangers” and was delighted when Marcy accused me of mastering them.

This exchange through comments to my blog and through e-mails continues to this day. Since recently we also started monthly phone calls. It is so wonderful to hear each other’s voices. I wish (naively, I know, but still) that this exchange will never end, and I hope to meet this sweet cheerleader of my writing some day in person. She cannot travel long distances anymore, so I am determined to earn as much as possible with my writing to afford to travel half the globe to meet her. And to hug her.

I would like to finish this post with one of many encouraging comments I received from Marcy, which shows the power of her cheerleading and I hope reveals, why I treasure it so much:

I’ll be waiting, Vica! Can’t imagine how this will evolve…
but I have faith in your abilities.

 

Picture: first glimpses of snow in our garden.

IMG_0650

 

“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

 

“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 8

Elizabeth looked into Patrick’s eyes full of rage.

Yes, what am I actually doing here?

She felt her head spinning. She turned to Alice, trying to focus on her eyes. Please, Alice, help me!

Alice turned to her husband without granting even a slightest look Elizabeth. Instead, she slowly made herself comfortable by setting one of her forearms on the table and another on the back of her chair.

Patrick pushed and pulled the door toward and away from him as if not sure whether to stay or leave the kitchen and all the people inside it.

Alice finally said, “Don’t you think it’s time you talked to your sister?”

The door in Patrick’s hand stopped. The world spinning in front of Elizabeth a second ago froze as well. Sister?

Ingrid put her both elbows on the table, leaning deeply to look at Patrick and Elizabeth. “Sister?” she said Elizabeth’s thought out loud.

Patrick glanced at Alice, his face filling with colour. “So you guessed.” Patrick’s voice was not more than an audible whisper. He lowered his gaze to a spot somewhere under Alice’s chair.

All Elizabeth could do was watch this scene unfold. She dearly hoped that it would somehow resolve without her needing to say anything.

“But of course!” Ingrid exclaimed seeming to be oblivious to Elizabeth’s and Patrick’s confusion. “You two are like twins. How didn’t I see it before!? Only the hair colour is different.” She looked to Elizabeth, then at Patrick and then at Elizabeth again. “Liza, do you dye your hair?”

Elizabeth pushed her eyelids apart. “Um. No. Yes. I mean, I do only highlights.”

“Looks good.” Ingrid turned her head to Patrick without moving her shoulders. “Patrick, you could use some too.” She chuckled and winked at Steve, who sniggered inaudibly.

“Mum.” Alice stood up. “Let’s get Steve and Lily for a walk outside. The fresh air would do them good.”

Ingrid nodded. “Yes, a good idea. And an empty kitchen without witnesses would do Patrick and Liza good.” She winked at both.

IMG_0623

Picture: A house on the outskirts of Aalborg.

P.S. Chapter 9 will be written and posted latest in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, feel free to forward it to them.

 

Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Business rules type on the use of a product or service

Use

In this article we will discuss a business rules type, where you define how to use your product or service and its corresponding parts.

By the use we could also mean the purpose of your product or service and each of its components.

You might argue that defining the purpose of your product cannot occur after defining implementation and production procedures.

And you would be right.

The use or purpose of your product/service as a whole as well as of its main parts must be defined at the very beginning, as the first step in management business rules.

Note for this blog-post: The chapter on the management business rules type will differ in the book from the original article published in this blog here. The differences consist of the following. Two concepts will be added before the original content. The first is the definition of the product’s/service’s purpose. And the second is the one published in the article “Compare, but don’t … compare”.

At this stage of your business rules definition (after details on production and sustainment), you provide concrete details on the use of the product or service. Many of these can only be understood while or after the details on implementation and production processes are defined.

This business rules type will also differ from the navigation/structure-defining type of the business rules. In the navigation part you decided how your product or service is structured and how you can access one or another part of your product or service.

How is the defining question in the navigation business rules type.

When you consider the use of your product or service, the key question is Why. Why does your customer need this product or its particular part? Why is it important? Why can’t it be replaced with another?

Let us consider what this might mean on concrete examples.

Self-learning and self-help books can serve as great examples to this business rules type. Most of them contain a section or chapter, which is titled in or of versions of “How to use this book”. It is often a part of the Introduction, which is usually written after the book itself is written or planned in detail.

The first example, which I suggest to consider is “Scrivener for Dummies” by Gwen Hernandez.

You are probably familiar with the concept of the books “For Dummies”.

I’ve chosen the one dedicated to Scrivener, since I use this software for writers for all my writing projects, including this one. And because of its light and full of humour style. Deepening my Scrivener skills using this book is a lot of fun for me.

The use of this book is described in the introduction to the book, containing in addition to general information about the book also the following sections:

    • Conventions Used in This Book
    • What You’re Not to Read
    • Foolish Assumptions
    • How This Book Is Organized.

The information is these sections summarizes for example what is the book is about and what it is not about:

“This book is not a philosophical work on the theory and value of writing software. In my house, that kind of book would be a doorstop.”

The section “How This Book Is Organized” tells how the book is structured and offers a short description of each of its parts.

And as all books “For Dummies” it contains a legend and conventions for the codes and icons.

You will also find there that you need certain skills to start working with Scrivener, such as clicking and drag and drop, while at the same time there is a simply, fun and memorable explanation how these are done.

Some often used key-combinations are listed in the Introduction as well.

The introduction of this book is a combination of navigation and use business rules. It also summarizes how and with what purpose the book was created, as well as which skills are needed before its use and which will be acquired during and after reading it (implementation and production, as well as management business rules).

Based on this example we can say that the business rules on the use of a product or service:

    1. relate directly to management and navigation business rules types and at least partially to the implementation and production rules as well.
    2. They specify the skills needed for each procedure during the use/operation of a product/service. This relates to management business rules as well.
    3. These rules are partially or completely presented to the end-user of the product or service. They might also vary for various types of users. For example, script-writers are presented in Scrivener with different kind of introduction to the screenplay template than the fiction writers to the two available templates for novels.
    4. These rules usually offer a summary of new terminology (including often used abbreviations and acronyms) and of knowledge or results, which are acquired during the use of the product/service.
    5. They specify what other conditions (in addition to skills) are mandatory for successful use of the given product/service, such as wireless connection, power, running water, day/night time, minimum/maximum operation temperature and humidity, availability of certain tools and supplies, etc.

I would like to end this article with another example of how to use a non-fiction book. This is an excerpt from a book “Practical Enlightenment”, written by award winning authors Ariel and Shya Kane and which can be found among self-help and spiritual books on Amazon.com . The following quote is from the foreword by the best-selling author Menna van Praag:

“I recommend that you read Practical Enlightenment in the same way you would read a fairy tale. Simply immerse yourself in the story. “Listen” to the words without applying anything as “advice” to fix yourself. This book isn’t a pill to fix your flaws and make you perfect. It’s a light to illuminate inside of you the natural knowing that you already are prefect, exactly as you are. When you experience that, you will experience enlightenment.”

 

This post is a part of “Business rules: General”, copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels