Share Your Ungated Insight Freely

“How much insight should I give away on my website?” That’s the question I’m asked frequently, prompted by one or more of these issues [with a counterpoint in brackets]:

  • I’m afraid my competitors will just swipe it. Or at a minimum, see what I’m doing and copy it. [Just keep reinventing yourself and lead from the front. You’d be surprised at how little your competitors think about you, anyway.]
  • I want to initiate conversations with prospects, and that’s just going to steal my thunder. Let’s get on the phone, first, and then I can share some of that. [Your conversations will be so much richer if they already trust you and like how you think.]
  • We’re so busy doing good work for good clients that we don’t have time to do work for people who aren’t paying us. [When a body quits replacing blood cells that die, it won’t be long before the entire ecosystem falls in on itself. If you’re too busy with clients to step back and reinvent yourself, you aren’t charging enough to give yourself that space.]
  • What would I say? Each client we work with is unique and what we seem to fall back on, instead, is to talk about the work we’ve done. We’re proud of it and it’s the best way for a prospect to sample our expertise. [This usually points to a positioning problem where each new engagement is too dissimilar from the previous one.]

My own journey with this has been one of extremes, and I’m not sure how much I still need to figure out. When I began this journey, all the insight was ungated…only because Google didn’t exist and because forms were awkward in the early days of HTML. Later I gated some of it as sort of the “price” to get it–"complete the form if you are serious." Then marketing automation came along and 90% of it was gated for a few short months during a time when I was selfishly feeling underappreciated. (There are times when I’m not the adult in the room.) More recently about 5% is gated and the rest is indexable (searchable by Google and thus helpful for organic search).

These days I’m not quite sure what I would do if I was starting over. All that data in marketing automation is interesting, but most of us stare at it with glee–as if we’re influence voyeurs–and then promptly do very little with it.

If I was serious about organic traffic, I’d use a keyword tool when I write this stuff, and I haven’t used a single such tool in my life. I just shrug my shoulders, believing that Google will figure it out.

I do have a deeply held belief about publishing insight, though, so let’s get back on track, here, and explore that concept.

The more insight you publish for free, the less you need to invest in the sale.

“Investing in the sale” is a term my podcast partner uses and it came up frequently in this episode. It refers to a long, drawn out sales process punctuated by long proposals, maybe some free analysis, multiple meetings, etc.

Here’s the thing, too. If you have not been publishing insight or talking about your process in substantive ways, I’d insist on all that due diligence, too, just like your prospects are. Why the hell not? They’re spending tons of money and time, and a careful decision is simply prudent on their part.

Here’s another maxim to think about.

The better your positioning, the easier it is to give insight away.

That’s true for both of these next reasons. First, you see the patterns as you work with companies facing similar issues and so there’s more to write about. Second, your learning is deeper and deeper and you’ll never run out of things to give away.

And here’s a final maxim to guide your efforts.

There should be no middle ground: give it way for free to prospects…or charge ridiculous fees to clients.

The distinction here is that the free stuff is unapplied, leaving the prospect to figure out what parts work and which ones need to be modified. Your clients, though, pay you good money to figure that out for them.

Your team will take the same toolbox to every engagement. There’s seldom a problem they’ll encounter that they haven’t seen before. But all the little issues will be combined in a client’s own unique form of dysfunction and it’s your job to know which tools–in which order–to apply in solving that for them.

You’ll get the opportunity to earn that kind of money when you’ve demonstrated to anyone who will listen that you’ve seen this before and know what to do. Your “less-exchangeable” insight, given away for free, earns you a seat at the table and shortens the sales cycle because they feel like they already know you, even before that first conversation takes place.

It’s that middle ground, between free and expensive, where you get pissed off. Where you feel like you’re doing your best work but not getting paid what you should. So eliminate it and take the approach pictured in the illustration, okay?

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