Is your firm’s process the Rosetta Stone? Will the mere sight of it magically unlock all your expertise for anyone who reads your blog posts to steal? Likely not. But many share this concern.
Content marketing is predicated on the idea that you give away your expertise in gated and ungated content like blogs, white papers, eBooks, webinars, eLearning classes, and so on and so forth. Doing so drums up organic traffic, proves your chops, and builds trust between you and your prospects.
But content marketing does beg the questions: How much of your “secret sauce” should you give away? And where is the line?
The answers are: “nearly everything” and “that depends.”
Sharing Your Expertise Is Not the Same as “Giving Away the Farm”
The most common concern we hear from new clients when ideating topics is, “I don’t want to give away the farm.” Translation: There is greater value (or less risk) in holding back my expertise than revealing it to my prospects.
If content marketing is primarily about building trust with your prospects (spoiler alert: it is), then at what point do you no longer trust them with your firm’s expertise? Or, at what point does your fear of competitors stealing your processes get in the way of educating your prospects? Here’s a handy decision tree to help you answer this question:
“Giving away the farm” is an expression that refers to someone who makes a bad deal and pays more than they should for something. So is freely sharing the details of your expertise too high a price to pay for new business? What’s a new client worth to you? And what are the potential disadvantages of revealing that expertise? Let’s dig into that.
Yes, There Are Some Things About Your Firm You Shouldn’t Share in Your Content
Because the opinions shared above may sound cavalier, here are some instances where you should absolutely draw a line and resist oversharing in your content marketing.
- Proprietary code. If your business lives and dies (and hopefully thrives) by a proprietary piece of software — obviously, don’t publish the source code.
- Your culture. Be proud of your work culture. Revel in the fact that you have a happy team of employees, a flexible work-from-home policy, and fun holiday parties. Just don’t write about it in your content marketing.
- Your sales numbers. While you can build trust through sharing pricing ranges, ROI calculators, and case studies that detail performance, you don’t need to lay out your P&L report to prove your worth.
You could probably come up with a few more specific instances where you wouldn’t want to share your firm’s sensitive information, but you get the picture. The list is short.
So what about your process? There is a contingent of marketers and consultants out there who advise, “Share what your firm does, but not how your firm does it.” The underlying fear is that that “how” could be picked up like a fumbled football and taken into the end zone by your competitors or by your prospects themselves. Are these legitimate fears?
The Top Fears Expert Firms Have About Sharing Their Process
Fear #1: My competitors will steal from me.
This fear is understandable. You have invested much time and treasure into forming and honing your processes — and they work! But unpack this a little more. Could your competitors, who don’t have your experienced team or your track record with clients, take a documented process and steal your business? If that’s true, write a book about this process immediately because you are going to be extremely rich.
But in all seriousness, trust that your process is just one piece of a bigger puzzle. And that complete puzzle is what gets you sales.
Fear #2: My prospects won’t need me anymore.
This may sound harsh, but if your prospects can fully absorb the value of your firm by reading a white paper about your process, then your value offering needs to be redefined. Might a prospect delay a sales conversation with you because they want to try what you offer in-house? Yes. And they might even use your eBook about how you get consistent results as a roadmap.
The fact of the matter is, your prospects need your services, not just your thought leadership. They simply don’t have the time, expertise, staff, or vision to do it themselves. And they will realize this soon enough and ask you for that meeting.
We’ve partnered with over two hundred clients in the last five years. In an informal poll of the Newfangled Content Coaching team, we found that exactly zero have given “too much” away. A few clients have mentioned that unsavory competitors took their content and published it on their sites, resulting in no observable adverse sales results.
Trust that your prospects are smart and can tell the difference between the real deal and a firm that just parrots the thought leadership of others.
Remember, Your Firm’s Value Offering Thrives on the Specifics
So in your content you’ve laid out how your firm innovates, problem solves, collaborates with stakeholders, and ultimately, produces results. Your prospects can plainly see how your processes and thinking address their pain points. They’re wondering, “Why didn’t we think of this?” You’ve got them 80% of the way to solving their issues.
Your client-specific, custom advice is that other 20%. And they don’t get that until they hire you.
Tailoring your efforts to a client’s exact needs is where your real value lies. And contrary to popular belief, sharp prospects already know this. They just want to trust that you can deliver when the time comes.
Be Bold and Generous With Your Expertise
If your firm is holding back its expertise and making prospects jump through unnecessary hoops to access valuable information, you can count on two things. One, your conversion rate is lower than it could be, especially that all-important “contact us” form submission. Two, your competitors are being transparent with their content — and they’re eating your lunch.
Smart content marketing isn’t “giving away the farm.” Instead, think of it like holding an open house. You’re letting prospects walk through your home and try it on for size. They’re gonna see that striking bathroom tile design and that bold landscaping. They’re going to marvel at the ruthless efficiency with which you have organized your closet. And ultimately? The right ones are going to pay you for it.