Holding Tight to Your Knowledge

Many years ago when I was selling technology solutions for a very successful systems integration (SI) firm, we were really careful about protecting our “secret sauce”. We held tight to our knowledge and made our customers sign NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) before we ever began to open up and dive deep into the how and why of what we did.

It was seen as the best way to protect ourselves from our competitors learning our success secrets, copying us or hacking their way into our client base.

It is, I believe, a natural human tendency to fear letting other people know your best stuff. After all, if they know it, what will they need you for? They could simply do it themselves, right?

An Abundance Mindset

That thinking seems to have changed for many business entities today. People seem less concerned with holding tight to their expertise. I’m not sure when the shift happened, or what drove it, but I believe it is a combination of the internet, internet-based marketing and an abundance mindset that is permeating our culture – where people have learned that by sharing and collaborating, we all win.

When I First Learned to Share

I guess I first learned to share in kindergarten, but as I entered the cut-throat world of business and became adept at solution selling, it was contrary to my nature to give away my knowledge. In particular, my business – Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling – was founded on something that seemed to be uniquely mine: a special process for writing award submissions that helped Microsoft partners win. I didn’t want to just give that away.

Giving Your Best Leads to More Sales

So when Microsoft asked me one year to deliver a workshop to teach partners how to write awards for themselves, I balked. Not only did Microsoft want me to do it for free, they expected me to share my trade secrets. It was only after much soul-searching that I reluctantly agreed and taught that first workshop.

After the workshop, my award business doubled. Partners became aware of me and my knowledge. For those that wanted to do it themselves, they were now armed with the right tools and knowledge; but for those who wanted help, I had become a trusted expert who could help them write their submissions.

I have continued annually to educate partners on every detail, every secret, every process that I know and use to help partners get to the winner’s podium – and my award business continues to double, year-over-year.

I have learned to “give away my best, and sell the rest”.

Giving Away Gated and UnGated Content

So what does this have to do with you? Building your own trusted relationships with potential customers means sharing your knowledge. While there are many Microsoft partners out there who are still resisting this approach (have you ever visited a website which really tells you nothing – it is simply a collection of industry and marketing buzzwords, along with a few Microsoft “Gold Partner” logos tacked on?), the ones that are starting to share their knowledge freely are reaping huge rewards in the form of leads, traffic, pipeline and, ultimately, customers.

At Mercer-MacKay, we have learned that this works best when you use a strategy of combining both gated and non-gated content in your online marketing mix.

  • UnGated Content – free content on your website. Anyone can read it or download it; no email address is necessary.
  • Gated Content – content that a prospect needs to trade for – usually their email address and a little bit of information about themselves. Gated content lets you move a prospect (or suspect) into a nurture-marketing engine so that you can begin to build an online relationship.

Attracting Your Best Prospects

What you want in your business is customers, and that begins with prospects. And a prospect who might stumble across you online is usually looking for some useful information.

If you aren’t sharing any of the great knowledge that you have accumulated and that has helped you succeed in business, then, they will simply pass you by, and your opportunity to begin to build a relationship with them is lost.

The Need for Both Gated and UnGated Content

Anything you post on your website needs to be useful. It should educate, entertain, challenge and cause your prospects to think. In particular, assessments, quizzes and workbooks are popular value-add elements because they enable a prospect to get involved – to put themselves into the mix and identify with just how you might be able to help them.

The Right Place for UnGated Content

Free content is necessary to help you establish thought-leadership, develop brand awareness, increase web traffic and boost SEO. It also is the start of your relationship with prospects.

As they begin to get to know you and trust that you know what you are talking about, there is a higher likelihood that they will return to your website again. Asking a brand new site visitor to hand over personal information can often backfire, with fake email addresses and incorrect contact information being provided, leading to ineffective and inefficient lead nurturing.

In fact, content actually has a 50x higher rate of download when it is form-free.

Types of Content You Should Give Away for Free:

  • Blog posts
  • Short videos
  • Infographics
  • Press releases / News
  • Customer Success Stories

Your blog can be one of your most powerful tools for success. We already know that today’s buyers control their own journey through the buying cycle. They are spending their time online researching, gathering information and becoming familiar with a company before even making contact.

As free content, your blog exposes you to a larger audience. By providing your readers with useful and insightful content, you establish yourself as a subject matter expert, gain their trust and build a relationship before you are even aware that they’re in the market for your product or services. Putting this type of content behind a gate may compromise your success.

How to Approach Gated Content:

Ask yourself: Is the value this content delivers worthy of a prospect sharing their personal information for it?

The answer to this question should guide your decision on what content should be gated and what should not.

Overall, a gated asset must be a highly valuable resource providing the reader with information, data or instruction that they would not otherwise receive.

Types of Content You Can Gate:

  • eBooks
  • White Papers
  • Guides
  • Cheat Sheets / Checklists
  • Webinars
  • Training Videos
  • Contests

With lead generation as a top priority for most companies, creating a phenomenal content asset requiring an exchange of information can drive qualified leads into your pipeline.

By “giving away your best” – whether it is gated or ungated content – you establish yourself as an authority, an expert in your market, and in the right spot to “sell the rest”.