Why you should give away the secret sauce

10th, Feb 2015

Secret ingredient with chain and padlock isolated on whiteMany professional services firms I have worked with tout their superior experience and knowledge as the reason they should be hired over their competitors. Yet those same firms are concerned about truly demonstrating their expertise through public writing and speaking because they would be giving away their “secret sauce” for free. The end result is they put out a lot of bland generic information that sounds like everyone else, instead of specific helpful content that would differentiate them from the pack.

Now I agree you don’t want to give away proprietary information. However, before you produce another mediocre piece of content (or don’t produce any content at all), ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Is it really your secret sauce?

Everything you know is not proprietary. Just because you provide some helpful advice, tips, or other information doesn’t mean you’ve given it all away. For years I recruited attorneys and accountants to author 500+ page tomes, yet I never heard anyone complain they lost potential clients because they wrote a book and clients didn’t need them anymore. There are plenty of ways to provide meaningful insights without solving every potential problem your audience might have.

Your real secret sauce is being able to understand and analyze your client’s specific issues as well as the big picture. It’s putting together and implementing a plan of action to help them. Those skills are harder than you think to translate into articles or presentations. Don’t worry about giving it away for free. Focus on showcasing the underlying knowledge and unique value you bring to your clients.

2. What are prospects really going to do with your content?

Professionals fear people will take their advice, do it themselves and they will lose business. But if it was that easy for others to do it themselves, then why did you need all that extra education, training and years of experience? Okay you know they can’t handle it, but they think they can do it themselves and so now you lost the client. But did you really want that client? The one who thinks they can figure out what you do by googling their problem. Do you think they were genuine prospects for you? Most likely they wouldn’t have hired you to do the work anyway. However, when it becomes too much to handle or if they have a future problem, they may remember the useful information you provided them for free.

Educating your audience is a good thing even if it doesn’t result in immediate business. This is the essence of content marketing. Consistently producing and delivering practical and informative content is an excellent way to gain visibility and engage and retain your prospect’s attention. In the professional services world the sales cycle can be very long or very short. Either way you want to become a trusted resource so that when prospects are looking for help, you are top of mind.

3. Can your content help you bring in or solidify new business?

Publishing useful and targeted content is an excellent way to get found by search engines. In fact, content creation is the most effective tactic for search engine optimization (SEO) and B2B marketers rank SEO as one of the top lead generation tactics. (Source: MarketingSherpa) Websites with lots of real content show up higher in organic search rankings so it make sense to put out information that will help bring prospects to you.

What about where someone already knows about you? Maybe they were referred to you or met you at an event or even worked with you on another matter. Word of mouth, referrals, and networking are top lead sources. However, it’s very likely those prospects will also google you and look at your website and LinkedIn profile. Showcasing high-quality valuable information helps give you credibility, enhances your reputation and establishes you as uniquely knowledgeable, trustworthy and client-centric. The reverse is also true. In a recent Hinge survey, 52% of respondents ruled out referrals to professional services firms before even speaking with them. Many of their top reasons focused on the fact that the firm didn’t demonstrate online how they could help clients. Unclear marketing materials that were too sales-oriented and poor quality content all contributed to keeping a referral from following up with a firm.

When you’re thinking about preparing that next article or speech, ask yourself these 3 questions. Hopefully your answers will lead you towards producing the kind of content that will get you noticed and grow your business.

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