Why your best thinking should be spread all over the web

Hiding Some Sort of ‘Proprietary’ Trade Secret? You’re a Fool

Do you have a proprietary approach to strategic planning, media planning, brand development or anything else at your agency? Or maybe you have a trademarked, super top-secret-can-only-show-you-during-our-new-business-pitch-meeting process that is proven to make bland brands grow? If you do, you’re not alone. I too remember crafting, naming and getting a junior art director to diagram up a snappy visual for the PowerPoint. And like you, I staunchly defended the idea and often times was the lead instigator of the creation of one of those branded agency approaches. It was, and in far too many cases today, still is a primary aspect of ad agency new-business thinking.

The secret sauce.

You know the secret sauce — that really smart stuff that you don’t dare share for fear you’ll be copied. The stuff you don’t put on your website, won’t issue via a downloadable white paper (that doesn’t require the promise of my firstborn offspring to receive) and most certainly would never present at a national conference. No, the secret sauce must stay secret because it’s what the clients are really paying you to buy. That’s why we even go so far as to trademark it.

Interesting but archaic philosophy in my opinion. And here’s why.

It goes by many names. Some will call it the Intrawebs, others the Internet and still others just call it Google. But by any name it is the free flowing, all searchable historical archive of knowledge that many, if not most, turn to when they first have a question. And yes, that many includes your prospective client or maybe your current client that isn’t finding answers within his or her agency team.

A shame, really, that they won’t find your secret sauce there. That they won’t be able to see just how smart you really are and that you could actually help them. They won’t see it because you’re still functioning in a “Mad Men” mindset and cloaking your best thinking behind a veil of secrecy.

Add to this fact that your secret sauce really isn’t all that different from the other agency’s sauce. Sure maybe their sauce is red and yours blue, but in the end the basic ingredients of solid targeting, key insights and flawless execution are the same. Great marketing is still and always will be about finding and exploiting the untapped consumer insight.

So why not take another approach? An approach adopted by many of our digital brethren. In the words of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give it away now.” Stop holding all of that great knowledge inside your four walls. Share it. Liberally.

Speak at conferences, blog, write white papers, e-books and in some cases real books. Share your recipe. At the end of the day others may have your recipe but they won’t have your chefs and as any restaurant patron will gladly tell you, chefs are the real difference.

When you give away your thoughts you create the ultimate new business prospecting tool — the Google link. By simply Googling you or your agency a prospect can instantly decide if you’re a good fit, worthy of a call, or someone that isn’t just worthy but is an automatic short-list contender. And if they find the right answer, they might just call to schedule a meeting to discuss handing the business to you without a review.

But you can’t be found if you’re not constantly feeding the Google beast. It’s a hungry critter that favors keyword-rich content with lots of in-bound links pointing at it. So do yourself a favor and feed the beast. Speak at a conference. Video that talk and post it. Have someone transcribe the talk into a blog post and post it. Share the slide deck on Slideshare and then post that. Maybe even turn the topic into a quick webinar or Podcast and post that.

But post you must. Posting gets you found. Getting found is the first step to getting called. And getting called is necessary for getting hired. Good luck.

Originally published at Ad Age in their Small Agency Diary

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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