Every professional services firm (marketing, business consulting, accounting, medical, law, et al) in the history of ever struggles with content marketing. Not necessarily from a tactical perspective, although “finding time” to create content is often a presumed obstacle in these organizations. But the biggest issue is fear. Companies that are paid for what they know instead of what they make are paralyzed by the thought of giving away their “proprietary processes” and “secret sauce” through a content marketing initiative.
“Why would we write a blog that explains how we do things? Then our competitors will know our what we know, or our customers won’t need to hire us,” they say. (And they DO say this. All the time. I got this question twice in the past 48 hours, at two separate events) Here’s what I tell them, and now you:
There are 5 reasons to give away the recipe to your secret sauce.
1. Your Competition Already Has the Formula
In this modern age where the truth always surfaces eventually (Lance Armstrong, Rob Ford, etc.) do you really believe that your “proprietary methodology” isn’t already known? Any smart competitor will have already posed as a customer and gotten access to your systems. And it’s entirely likely – especially in transient categories like advertising – that your competitors already employ someone that used to work for you.
2. Admit It, Your Sauce Is Just Thousand Island Dressing
I have owned or operated five marketing firms, and have consulted for dozens more (including this great group currently). Yes, they all have strengths, and specific services they provide disproportionately well. But a process, or way of doing marketing that is truly unique and unlike what anyone else does or has thought of previously? Not a chance. There are only so many ways to skin a cat, and everyone in your competitive set is carrying the same set of knives.
3. Your Prospective Customers Want Self-Serve Information
As I talk about in Youtility, customers today are kicking the information tires like crazy because online research is so much easier and faster now. Google’s ZMOT research found that consumers’ information needs when researching purchases DOUBLED from 2010 to 2011. And Sirius Decisions’ research found that in B2B, a full 70% of the purchase decision has been made before a prospect ever contacts the company. You must take what you know, turn it into bite-sized chunks, and put it out there to be consumed by prospects who, if sufficiently convinced, will then get in touch with you to take the next step in the sales process.
Give away information snacks to sell knowledge meals. (click to tweet – thanks!)
4. Free Content Filters Out the Crappy Clients
Professional services firms often worry that providing content will enable customers to DIY and prevent them from hiring the company. I have been a consultant for most of the past 25 years, and I can tell you first-hand that if a prospective customer is genuinely weighing the option of doing it themselves or hiring you, that is NOT a customer you want. If they believe they can do what you do if they just choose to do so, they undervalue your expertise and experience and it will end up being a fractious relationship. Giving away bits of what you know allows that DIY crowd to go about their business, without messing up yours.
5. Your Customers Are Being Trained to Expect the Recipe
It doesn’t matter whether other companies in your industry are giving away information snacks, being radically transparent, or embracing Youtility, because the customers of your law firm (or similar) are also customers of restaurants, retailers, e-commerce companies, car companies and the rest. It’s not as though B2B buyers ONLY buy B2B. Thus, the marketing behaviors and attitudes of noteworthy companies impact the expectations of all consumers. You see this all the time with customer service on Twitter. Many big companies do this well, and it’s driving a widespread expectation among all consumers that this is a viable customer support channel.
My favorite example of this in action is from McDonald’s Canada. That’s right, the company that invented “secret sauce” for the Big Mac. McDonald’s Canada has a remarkable program where they answer questions that consumers ask about McDonald’s food. Here’s a question they received:
What’s in the sauce that is on the Big Mac?
Did McDonald’s send back a note that says, “We’re sorry, we cannot tell you because this is a proprietary process?” No. THIS is what they did:
If the company that INVENTED secret sauce freely gives away the recipe for secret sauce, how can any company insist that the trends of self-serve information, radical transparency and Youtility do not affect them?