Overcome Business Fear of Sharing

It’s not uncommon for people who sell their knowledge and expertise to  fear that if they give too much information away – that they’ll eliminate their potential client’s need for their services.

When it comes to sharing your knowledge and expertise – the more you give, the more you get.  The more you share knowledge and expertise – the more recognition and authority you accumulate.

Many knowledge professionals are engaged in making what Neil Rackham defines as “The Major Sale“.  Major sales require a large investment of either time, energy or money.   Major sales are more than simple transactions – they’re full blown relationships and relationships are the foundation of social media.

Relationships begin by building a foundation of trust.  Build enough trust with your audience and you’ll eventually find you’re creating authority.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

Building authority does not happen overnight. It happens gradually – as you reveal and share your expertise via the many opportunities made possible thanks to social media.

I don’t have much time these days to bake- but over the years I have learned the hard way how important a tiny ingredient like baking powder can be in a recipe.  It’s such a tiny amount of a seemingly inert powder that surely it won’t be missed if the box in the pantry is empty- right?  WRONG!  That tiny bit of baking powder makes a HUGE difference in any recipe.  Without going into the science behind it – baking powder causes the bubbles in the batter to expand.  This “fizz” helps to make baked goods tasty treats which when combined with long periods of inactivity – cause one’s ass to grow to a mind blowing size.  Thus my retirement from baking as a hobby.

Dietary issues aside, when it comes to marketing your business – your knowledge and expertise are the “fizz” that makes your business rise and grow.  Sure, people can get a plethora of information “for free” on the internet – but there comes a time when general free advice isn’t enough.  It’s at the time when the rubber meets the road and prospective clients NEED your wisdom and hard won insight into solving their most pressing problems.

For example, if you think the self serve legal document service Legal Zoom replaces the need for a good attorney – then you’ve obviously never NEEDED a good attorney.  A good attorney has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either avoid trouble ahead or get you out of trouble.

If you think one of the $25 tax preparation software programs replaces the need for a good CPA – then you’ve never worked with a good CPA.  A good CPA has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either help you avoid tax problems in the future or can keep you out of tax trouble.

If you think an electronic back massage pad is an effective substitute for a good chiropractor – then you’ve never experienced a good chiropractor.  A good chiropractor has the education, the experience and the diagnostic skills to treat current back problems and can help you avoid back problems in the future.

If you think a self help book replaces the need for your services as a therapist or a coach – then you’ve never worked with a good therapist or coach…. yada, yada, yada.

You get the idea.

Which is why – if you’re good – you shouldn’t fear sharing too much of the WHY people should work with you.  There’s no way to give too many reasons WHY someone should want to work with you.  There’s no such thing as sharing”too much” information when it comes to making the major sale which is why blogs ROCK as marketing tools for anyone in the business of selling their expertise.

Are you a young bull or an old bull?

business parable story of two bullsThere’s a popular parable which illustrates the importance of planning and patience called Two Bulls.

The story goes that there are two bulls standing side by side in a field.  One is a young bull, full of energy and what Austin Powers calls “MoJo.” The other bull is older with less energy but he still has his MoJo.

The young bull catches the scent of a herd of cows on a distant hill.  As he sniffs the air, he announces, “I’m going to run over there and have my way with one of those cows!”

The older bull demonstrates his wisdom by replying, “You do that.  I’m going to walk up that hill and have my way with all of those cows.”

Measuring SuccessYoung bulls charge ahead, full of energy.  They aren’t trying to conserve energy because they have plenty to spare.  However, because they don’t try to conserve that energy, much of it is wasted.  They run when they should walk.  Young bulls tend to think in the here and now, and not worry about tomorrow.

Meanwhile, old bulls recognize that their energy is limited – and they focus upon making the most of it.  Old bulls stop, think and plan.  They recognize the need to think about not only tomorrow, but next year as well. Because they recognize that they don’t have the energy of their youth, they are willing to take the time to map out a strategy that makes the most of all of their resources.

In the story of the two bulls, once the old bull shares his wisdom with the young bull, he creates a formidable competitor when they reach the herd of cows.  If instead he had keeps his strategy under wraps – the old bull gains a considerable advantage.

social media marketing strategyThis parable is used a lot in business.  It not only illustrated the importance of planning and patience, but it also demonstrates the advantages gained with you keep your strategy under wraps.

When I look back on my earlier entrepreneurial efforts, I can see where I acted like the young bull. When I saw an opportunity, I moved quickly so I could seized it.  I didn’t spend nearly enough time creating a strategic plan, just like the young bull in the story of two bulls.

Experience is what you get when you make mistakes.  Wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes.

Old school “selling” strategies fall flat in a social media world

Old school selling strategies were very “push” oriented.  Push – Push – Push: Buy-Buy-Buy.

The communication methods associated with “old school selling” are very “one way”.  The business talks AT a prospective customer via traditional media sources – and the customer has two alternatives:  buy or don’t buy.

Then – a new school of selling began to appear.  It was called “consultative selling” and the idea was that the sales person would act as a consultant and HELP the customer find a solution to their problems.  Instead of trying to “sell” a green widget – the sales person instead was encouraged to discover how the green widget would solve a customer’s problem.

In the days when old school media was the only way to reach a large audience of consumers, businesses were forced to do a lot of “guess work”.  Oh sure, they’d try to take some of the “guessing” out of the equation by utilizing focus groups – but dragging people into a room with a two way mirror and listening in is a LOT different than observing those conversations in “real time”…. something social media allows the modern business owner to do.

A while back, I went on a weekend get away and needed to board my dog.  I had noticed a veterinary office located right along my “get away” route – so I decided to board her there.  I began the process by taking her in for a “check up” the week before.   The vet and his staff seemed very nice – and spent a lot of time talking about how fat my lab is.  She’s fat.  She’s always BEEN fat.  We feed 1/2 the recommended amount of low calorie food and she’s still fat.  The vet gave a great spiel on why we needed to test her thyroid function and how EASY it would be to fix her fat problem if her thyroid levels were low – so I agreed.   Then there was another test he wanted to do – agreed.

Push – Push – Push.  By the time I walked out of there, my first office visit to this vet was almost $250.  However, because the recommendations appeared to be made with my dog’s health and well being in mind, I didn’t feel “pushed” but instead I felt “cared for”.

When I went to pick her up from her weekend boarding.  The computed the stay at 10 days instead of three.  When $220 seemed high for three days – they corrected their mistake.  So I wrote another check… and then another when they decided she needed medicine for her gastric distress of eating their dog food.  At this point, I’m  thinking,  “Nice people – but very disorganized.”

Then I get a follow up phone call th enext day.  It seems that the thyroid test – the run at our initial visit and sold as the path to a “miracle” cure – showed her thyroid levels were low.  During the consult – the vet had said that if her levels were low – it would be as simple as giving her a single pill a day and her life would be so much better.  The weight would fall off of her and she’d get more active.  She might actually be able to join me again on my daily walk.  I’m psyched and ready to begin.

That’s when the wheels fell off the wagon so to speak.  The receptionist with whom I was speaking told me that the vet didn’t want to jump into prescription medication yet.  Instead  we were to begin buying prescription diet dog food – sold only at his office.  Only after using this special prescription dog food for several months would he consider putting her on medication for her thyroid.

Now I’m feeling very “sold” – a.k.a. “abused”.  Any warm fuzzies I had for this vet and his smiling office staff are gone.  I now realize that I’m a cash cow to be milked – not a client in need of help.   He’s no longer a medical professional in my book – he’s a pet product salesman.

I get it – he’s a small business owner trying to build his practice.  He’s got a new client on the line – one with an elderly pet – and he’s anxious to begin extracting  all the cash he can get from me. That’s exactly how it feels .  Instead of “this guy really cares about my dog” I’m thinking, “this guy really cares about my pocket book – and nothing else.”

This vet is engaged in  the”old school”  Push – Push – Push – selling strategy.  Unfortunately this approach really don’t “work” when it comes to social media marketing.   I would venture to say that most of the interest in social media marketing is because these old school selling strategies are NOT working anymore.  Consumers are more aware – and more sensitive to   “being sold” and the old school selling strategies only work when the communication is one way.

People are connecting online.  They’re sharing their experiences with others in their “network” just as they’ve always done in the past – only now they’re doing it “online”.

If the only relationship you want with your customers/clients is with their pocketbook – people are going to talk.   I’d like to be able to  say, “Avoid social media” if all you want is a relationship with their pocketbook -but you can’t.   How could you begin to screen your customers/clients?  The screening process might look something like this:

“Before we can schedule an appointment for your dog, do you or anyone you know have a blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Myspace account?”

How many people could answer “no”?   How can you build a business like that?

Unfortunately, that’s the only way I can see a business being able to successfully insulate itself from the impact of social media.

This is how social media works to build your business…

transparency in social mediaHere’s another real life story on “How Social Media” works.  I hope it helps to illustrate WHY it’s so hard to put an ROI value on your social media participation.

“Suzy” is a client of mine and she has a problem.  Actually, she has more than one problem.  She has MANY problems because that’s just part of building and running a business.  However, for right now – she has one problem which is obscuring all the other problems she’s facing in her business.

Many years  ago,  Suzy had another problem – she needed a web site.  She shared this problem with people she knew and eventually spoke with another client for whom I’d created a web site.  That person was happy with my work and recommended that Suzy contact me.  In the conversation that followed, she decided that she could TRUST me to solve her problem and she hired me to create a web site for her business.

Once the “thrill” of having her business online had passed – Suzy discovered that her web site wasn’t the solution she thought it would be.  See, she thought that her website was some kind of “magical, mystical” money printing – client generating machine. The problem didn’t lie in the web site though – the problem lay with Suzy.   Suzy didn’t know what problems her business was solving for her clients.  Because she didn’t know  what she didn’t know  – her web site couldn’t begin to solve her REAL problem.

Suzy’s REAL problem was  she wanted clients for her business.  However, when she asked for a web site – what she got was a tool.  How she used the tool determined whether or not it would solve her problem.

Frequently, when it comes to solving problems – often what you need are PEOPLE not TOOLS.

Over the next few years, Suzy struggled.  Fortunately, Suzy picked up a copy of  my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results which helped her to discover exactly what problems she was solving for her clients.   Once she knew what problems she was solving, it literally changed the way she viewed her business.

As a result,  she decided that she needed a NEW web site. This time she knew exactly what she wanted her web site to do – and  we relaunched her web site as a blog. Now – Suzy writes regularly about the solutions she provides.  As a result, she’s stunned at how effective her web site (a.k.a. her blog) is at bringing new clients into her practice.

The other day, Suzy discovered she has another problem.  Unlike her previous problems,  this is a problem I can’t help her solve but one that I’ve also faced in my business. So when she fired off an email asking me if I had ever experienced this problem – I was able to offer the name of another business owner who does provide a solution.

At this point, you may think, “She’s going to tell about how she’s connected with the solution service provider on [insert name of social networking site here] and her client then found her solution provider who is also on [insert name of social networking site here] and because they’re both connected to her profile.  Viola!  Social media marketing at work. ”

THAT IS NOT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS... at least, not in this case.  (If/when it does work like that – it’s the exception and not the rule.)

While it’s true that I am connected with both this client AND the solution provider on several social networking sites and in THEORY – she should be able to “sift” through my connections and “discover” the provider of the solution on her own- that’s not what happened.

She didn’t know what she didn’t know – which included not knowing the REAL problem or the REAL solution she was seeking.  Often – that’s the case.  She didn’t KNOW she needed a drill – she just knew she needed a hole.

I started this blog post with a promise to illustrate how social media works to build your business.  However, there’s a catch: Social Media Marketing can’t build your business if you don’t know what problems you’re solving or what  goals you’re helping your clients/customers achieve.

In a perfect world, everyone who solves problems for business owners would have a blog and they would use their blog just like  like Tom Volkar does over at Delightful Work.  (I “pick” on Tom a lot here because Tom is doing a SUPERB job of using social media CORRECTLY in my humble opinion.)

However, in reality – my source doesn’t have even a basic web site – and he does very little with his social networking profiles.  As a matter of fact, he’s only recently began checking his email regularly.  However, he’s not a tool – he’s a solution so he’s worth the extra effort to connect with him.

When I passed along his email address – I did so hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t make it impossible for her to connect with him.  It’s times like this that I wish I could instead send my client to the solution provider’s blog.

If he had a  blog – she could read the tales of how this gentleman has helped OTHER business people solve their problems – similar problems to the one she’s experiencing.   If she wasn’t ready to take action yet – she could subscribe to his blog  or his email newsletter and “stay in touch”.  She’s MUCH more likely to do so because I recommended she connect with him.

Eventually, when her problem got big enough – got hairy enough – got ugly enough – (a.k.a. big enough to warrant writing a check) she could contact him directly for a solution.

Isn’t that better than just passing along an email address and hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t get in the way of making a connection?

This is how social media works to build your business.  It’s word of mouth advertising made better – made stronger – and most importantly-made  more effective.

You can’t judge social media marketing’s “effectiveness” by followers -or RSS subscribers – or blog comments – or even an Alexa ranking.  In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.  The fact that – unlike other marketing tools – social media marketing DOES allow you track and measure – visitors, followers or subscribers – it give the ILLUSION of being “measurable” and “trackable”.

Long ago – I did a web site redesign.  The site in question had GREAT content wrapped in lousy graphics and poor navigation.  After the redesign – sales increase 450% in the following quarter.

Unfortunately – in order to “measure” the ROI of social media marketing – you need those kids of “before” and “after”studies.  There are still people who will argue that a professional “face” on your web site isn’t necessary – and all I can say is “It depends upon what goal you have set for your web site.”

If you’re wanting to use your web site to make tons of money using Adsense – then an ugly web site can definitely be an advantage.  When you’re running Adsense – you WANT people to click on the ads and leave your site.  A high bounce rate is DESIREABLE in those cases.  However, if you’re wanting to sell people something at YOUR site – well, why encourage buyers to go elsewhere – whether it be with Adsense or an ugly site?

Business owners are discovering that the REAL value in social media is the unsolicited feedback social media provides for their business.  How can you put an ROI figure on learning that the “free” sample you offered is simply pissing off potential customers?

It reminds me of the Mastercard ads –

Setting up a web site for your business:  $X

Launching your free sample promostion to grow your email marketing newsletter: $X

“Discovering your “free” sample is pissing people off  – PRICELESS!”

Your Two Most Important Business Assets

time“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

Harvey MacKay

No matter what business you’re in, never forget that time and money are your two most important business assets.

It’s called a “paradigm shift“… a radical change in your view of the world.  It’s roots are in the scientific community – where radical discoveries lead to paradigm shifts.  An example of a paradigm shift…the world is flat – OH NO!-  now it’s round!  To quote Weird Al,  suddenly “everything you know is wrong.”

I had my own paradigm shift several years ago and it was the result of a message on an old style online bulletin board.  The words were amazingly simple – yet they rocked my world….

You can always get more money – you can never get more time.

Prior to reading that statement – I’d been running my business in reverse so to speak.  I’d been operating like I had all the time in the world.  I’d spend hours performing a task instead of buying software to automate said task.  There was virtually no limit to the amount of time I would invest to save a little bit of money.

I’ve since learned that this mode of thinking is also referred to as a “poverty mindset”.

When I began operating my business like my time was more precious than money – a surprising thing happened – I began making more money!

I had been fooled by the fact that time is free.

I had failed to realize that while time may be free, it’s also priceless.

Often, in the course of building a business – we’re faced with the dilemma of trading time for money and money for time.

  • Should I hire a lawyer or should I try to create my own articles of incorporation?
  • Should I hire a CPA or do I handle my own taxes?
  • Should I design my own logo or should I hire a graphic artist?

In the early days of your business – it’s a given that you’re going to have more time than money.  However, don’t make the critical mistake of not understanding the importance and value of your time.

Time may be free – but it’s also priceless.

Which brings up yet another “gem” saying I’ve come across in my internet travels …

“You’ve either got plenty of time or plenty of money.  If you’re lacking both – then you haven’t spent either wisely.

I’ve got to admit – I didn’t LOVE that saying when I first read it.  To be honest, reading those words for the first time almost made my eyes water- that’s how badly they stung!  However, over time I’ve grown to love those words and the accountability inherent in them.

How effectively are you using your two most imporant business assets?

If you don’t like your answer to the question above – check out Tom Volkar’s post on getting on “right track.”