by Rick Holzgrafe
The last of our Seven P's is Politics: the art of making nice. You want to make as many friends as you can, for two reasons. The first is that hey, friends are cool! And the second is that a good collection of friends adds up to a tremendous amount of "good will," a great asset for any business or person.
Rule number one is "be nice." Always speak courteously, no matter what the circumstances: whether you're "speaking" in person, by phone, via postal mail, email, fax, or newsgroup posting. Say "please" and "thank you" a lot, just like Mom taught you. Before sending out anything, read it and re-read it and look for ways in which the reader might misunderstand. Most of us are not great writers, and it's easy to write something that could give offense even though we never meant to. Your readers can't see your face or hear your tone of voice, and may not realize when you make a joke or don't intend for a criticism to be meant harshly.
Rule number two is "help everybody." I made the mistake in my early years of refusing tech support to people who hadn't paid their shareware fee. One day I refused service to someone whose check I had misplaced. Afterwards I apologized like crazy but the damage was done; that person will never buy my software again, and will tell anyone else what a lousy person I am to do business with. Nowadays I give tech support to everyone who asks, and I don't ask whether they've paid.
This turns out to have another benefit. A lot of people ("mouse potatoes," you remember them) won't pay until they need something from you. Give them a little support when they ask, and presto! A check shows up in the mail.
We mentioned the benefits of making friends already. What kind of friends can you make?
Other developers are great people to have as friends. They can help you solve technical problems, and give you advice on selling your products (like me :-). In return, of course, you help them solve their problems, and share your own good advice.
Artists are good people to have as friends. Even if they can't contribute free artwork (you can't freeload on everybody, they have a living to make too!) they can offer good advice on graphic design, and perhaps point you to artists within your budget that you can hire.
Journalists are good people to have as friends. They can offer advice on promoting your products, they can tell you about trends in your part of the industry, they may be willing to write reviews, and they will listen in a most flattering manner to any news or gossip or opinion you can offer in their area of interest. Also they are just plain fun to listen to: they know a lot, and they're good with words.
Webmasters are good people to have as friends. They can put up links to your site, advise you on site design, and occasionally offer you an interesting opportunity: perhaps an offer of advertising space in return for your giving away a few free copies of your product to their raffle winners.
But mostly, friends are just plain good to have. They're better than money, better than fame. I've met people through my shareware who now rank among the best friends I have -- even though I've never seen some of them face to face. So make friends, lots of them! It's the best advice I've got to give you.
The Last Chapter: Links
Introduction Product Patience Polish Pay Up Propagation Promotion Politics Links