Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Expense of Learning- Part II

In the last post, I gave a quick tutorial on the process I use to decide whether it’s wise to part with my money when it comes to healthcare advice for sale. Now it’s time to dig into the details. Whether it’s a book, a classroom or online course, a members-only website, or a coach or counselor you’re considering hiring, there’s a lot you can do that amounts to a literary background check. It’s not hard to do a little good research, and you’ll soon know whether the knowledge is worth the cost.

When you’re researching a particular offer, jot down some notes and keep a running tally of your thoughts. Use the evaluation suggestions below as a guide.

1.) NAYY (It’s Not a Horse Laugh)
If you come across the offer on a blog, the site must disclose if its owners benefit financially by recommending the product (often indicated by the words “compensated affiliate”) or if it’s an unbiased referral by someone who gains nothing by promoting the resource (sometimes indicated by the playful non-legalese disclaimer “NAYY” which means “no affiliation, yadda yadda.”) Both scenarios have their advantages – a compensated affiliate may believe in a product strongly enough to put its reputation on the line, while an unbiased referral may be more likely to point out drawbacks of a product.
Things to Note: Will the person doing the recommending make money if you buy?

2.) Reputation – Who’s Recommending?
Do a search on the blog author or organization recommending the item and evaluate what comes up. Is he referenced in established publications or websites? Or do only obscure, less-than-polished sites pop up? (An investment in a well-designed, professional webpage is a one indication of someone who cares about professional reputation)
Things to Note: Does the recommender appear to care as much about maintaining a professional reputation as closing the sale?

3.) Reputation- What’s Recommended?
Find out all you can about the author or creator of the product you’d like to buy. Check with your library and do a look-up on Amazon to see the depth and extent of the author (or instructor’s) experience. Amazon includes professional reviews (they’re first – above the customer reviews) which can provide detailed and thoughtful summaries of what you’ll be buying. I’d recommend scanning customer reviews for general themes of likes or dislikes, but remember that anyone can post a customer review without demonstrating much knowledge the product.
Things to Note: Jot down the most detailed product elements that are critiqued to get an idea if it will have a lot or a little information about specific topics that interest you.

4.) Your Gut Reaction
There’s a lot to be said for intuition. If you’re reading a website, explore it with a critical eye and pay attention to the “huh?!?” factor. If the content or even  the look of the site makes you question the motives of the seller, it’s a red flag. (Nothing’s too silly – believe it or not, too many exclamation points drives me nuts – whoever does that can’t be trusted!!!!!) ;)

If it’s a friend making the recommendation, think about all the traits you share – and don’t share – and your differing styles when it comes to handling healthcare issues. If your gut reaction is “if she likes it, then I’ll like it” then by all means go ahead and explore further. If not, well, proceed with caution.

When you’re done jotting notes, tally up the pros and cons. You should have a much clearer picture of whether you’re getting a good buy, or better off saving up for something else.