Lessons Learned From Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin gave away some of his best inventions and ideas. He published them in his newsletters for free. They were distributed to most of New England. While other people were attempting to commercialize and control intellectual property through patents, Franklin openly shared his ideas with everyone.
We all know how this turned out for Franklin. He built a reputation for the being the greatest inventor and thinker of his day. He certainly never lacked for money. He became the person that others looked to when they needed ideas and counsel. He built trust, admiration and respect.
What is the power of giving away great ideas? It is nothing less than the opportunity to establish your personal and company brand as a trusted and respected leader, the kind of company that others will admire and turn to when they need help. I want to show you how to build this kind of brand.
How this is unique in professional services
Before we go too far, let me qualify this point. I’m not talking about publishing trade secrets or intellectual property that should be protected. I believe in patents, trademarks and copyrights. We copyright everything we produce. Product-driven companies realize value by commercializing intellectual property. I staunchly support this right.
However, there is a huge difference between product-driven companies and services-driven companies. In today’s world, where so many products are purchased or carefully considered online, it’s pretty easy to compare the features and benefits of any class of products.
But it is not so easy for potential service buyers to compare one professional services firm to another. While there are some websites that allow for review of local providers, most of the companies listed on these websites are not B2B providers with a national or global client base. So how do potential services buyers figure out if your company is right for them? How can they be sure?
This is where the quality of your thought leadership and content marketing can become the differentiator that really sets you apart.
The value of experience
Let’s look at this from the vantage point of a prospective ideal client. Let’s assume for a moment that they have decided that they need a services provider to help achieve an important goal. Let’s also assume that you have a lot of experience helping people achieve this goal.
You have expertise and insights that could really benefit this person. You know what a roadmap should look like to help them go from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.
The journey that this prospective client will take probably has a lot of steps and even several crossroads where important and potentially irreversible decisions will need to be made. Every time they come to one of those crossroads, they will feel lost, uncertain and intimidated. But you will know what to do, or at least how to make the best decision.
Your experience at having gone down that road many times positions you to be the ultimate guide. Your expertise is a perfect match to their need. But the question becomes, does your experience only get applied to existing clients or can it be used to attract great new clients?
If you share your best ideas before someone becomes your client, your win rates will go up, your goodwill quotient will skyrocket and you will have more leads coming your way than ever before.
Why you should share your knowledge
I submit to you that if you share your experience, your ideas, your expertise, before someone becomes your client, your win rates will go up, your goodwill quotient will skyrocket and you will have more leads coming your way than ever before. This is why you should share your ideas.
Think for just a moment about clients in the past you’ve served. Remember how they’ve stood at some important crossroad, some inflection point, and how you’ve guided them. Remember the look on their face and the sound in their voice when you helped them get clarity and move forward with confidence? Remember the gratitude that they felt toward you?
What if you could create that same feeling in hundreds or potentially thousands of people who want to accomplish similar goals, who stand at similar crossroads? What would this mean for how they feel about your company? What would this mean for how much they trust and admire you? What would this mean for your win rates?
Confidence in the knowing-doing gap
Now it’s usually at this moment that people say something like this to me. The value I bring to clients is exactly what you’ve described: my experience. Why in the world would I give this away for free? I get paid for my wisdom and experience.
Actually, I submit to you that this is likely not an accurate statement. Most professional services providers do not get paid for what they know. They get paid for helping clients cross the chasm from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. Most professional services providers get paid to help clients build and execute a plan that is designed to optimize success.
In fact, I have an incredibly high degree of confidence in another type of gap: the knowing-doing gap. I have built our company and our content marketing strategy precisely on this principle. Here it is.
Just because someone knows how to do something, that doesn’t mean they will do it. Think about it. How many things do you know how to do that you actually don’t do? Think about your clients. How many times have you explained what they need to do, and yet they don’t do it? I see this all the time.
The knowing-doing gap is a major driver in the need for all types of professional services. There are all sorts of reasons that people don’t act even when they know what to do. Here are just a few:
- Life gets in the way.
- They don’t have time.
- They are really not confident that they can do it.
- They don’t want to do it because it isn’t fun.
- They prefer to have an expert do it.
I am completely confident that giving away great ideas doesn’t reduce new business development … it enhances it. Yes, there will be some few who will take the ideas and try to execute them.
But time and time again, I witness this phenomenon. After six months or so of trying to do it on their own, prospects who have used our content — content that tells them exactly what to do and how to do it — come back and say this. “Randy you are clearly the expert and we’ve tried to do this, but we just can’t seem to get it right. We need your help.”
Good ideas create lean-in moments
A lean-in moment is the time when someone has been consuming your content, considering what to do and then they just reach out. I have heard the tone of these phone calls and emails for years. They sound something like this.
“We have been trying to accomplish this goal for a while. We’re really not confident. We need your help. Can we have a conversation?” There is almost this plaintive tone, as if somehow you are doing them a favor by taking the call.
This is the lean-in moment that nearly always creates a deal. I really want you to have these kinds of conversations. So I’d like to recommend 7 Steps To A Content Marketing Program That Consistently Yields Ideal Clients, a free resource that shows you how to create content that stimulates the lean-in moment.
It contains an action guide with seven videos and downloadable tools that shows you exactly how to do what I’ve described here. You can access the free content marketing action guide on our website.