I’ve noticed a very interesting trend lately. I’ve been getting lots of phone calls from companies who want something from me. Usually, they call because they want access to my customer base. I can’t blame them, Content Rules has a pretty impressive customer base. Sometimes they want free consulting advice, such as, “How do I target your customer base with my services?”

This is amusing and annoying at the same time. And I’m trying to wrap my mind around their thought process.


I learned a really good lesson a number of years ago. If you want something from someone, be prepared to have something to offer in return. For example, I needed fertilizer for the tomatoes in my garden. My neighbor had a lot of fertilizer and gave me a box. When my tomatoes ripened, I gave her some tomatoes. This is the way to negotiate an offer. I didn’t assume she’d just give me some fertilizer just because she’s my neighbor.

On the other hand, there is a person I know whose advice I’d love to have. I’m dying to be able to consult with him and hear his ideas and opinions. He happens to be extremely wealthy, so I know that offering him money won’t make a difference to him. He doesn’t have any content or translation needs, so offering him writing or global readiness services isn’t something he’d care about. I don’t have any important connections that I can make for him. In short, I have nothing to offer him. Why should he speak with me? His time is way too valuable. And, by asking him for his time with nothing of value to give in return, I risk insulting him and embarrassing myself in the marketplace. So, I don’t call him.

Yet, people who I don’t know call me daily asking me for things with no offer in return. This boggles my mind. I mean, I consider myself as altruistic as the next person. I’ve packed Thanksgiving boxes for the needy. I’ve spent countless hours on the phone with people over the years helping them decide if consulting work was the way to go. I volunteer at my children’s school whenever they need something. But day after day, people representing companies call me looking for a handout. And when I ask what they have to offer to me in return, I’m met with dead silence on the other end of the phone. I actually had someone say to me today, “Well, gosh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

That’s not to say that I don’t have partners or I don’t value partnerships. I do. I really truly do. A good partner network is an essential part of growing my company. The companies with whom I partner are true partners. And by that I mean, they have something valuable to offer me in exchange for what I have that is valuable to them.

For example, I have one partner who calls me whenever they have a customer who needs content development services. They also call when they have a customer whose content needs to be made global-ready before translation. And when I have a customer looking for translation services, guess who I call first? Yes, you got it. The partner who has something valuable to offer to me.

So, a few words of advice. When someone has something you want, figure out what you have to offer before you ask them for it. You’ll probably get a much better reception and you might even get what you are looking for. If you have nothing to offer, you really have no right to ask for it.

Val Swisher
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