Don’t Let Your Secret Sauce Kill Your Content Marketing

January 26th, 2015

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badge-jay-saysMy friend Ryan Sauers is publishing a new book called “Would You Buy From You: Your Brand Makes All the Difference.” (Visit here to pre-order)  One of the issues Ryan diagnoses in the book is that businesspeople often worry about letting out their “brand secrets” and fret about sharing their “secret sauce”? He asked me what I thought about “secret sauce” and its impact on content marketing. Here’s what I told Ryan:

The Curse of the Secret Sauce

All businesspeople – and especially professional service providers – at times fall prey to the curse of the “secret sauce“; the belief that they possess insights, process, or know-how that is theirs and theirs alone. Often, businesspeople will limit the scope and scale of their content marketing and overall information provision because they are afraid to reveal the secret sauce. 

There are three main problems with that psychology and philosophy:

Your Sauce Isn’t Proprietary

First, it is unlikely that whatever sauce you have at your disposal is actually unique. I have owned five professional services firms and have been a consultant for most of the past 25 years, and I can count on one hand the number of things I’ve seen in professional services that could truly be called proprietary or different enough that they would withstand a legal intellectual property challenge. The reality is that “secret sauce” is usually “how we’ve chosen to do things.” That doesn’t make it unimportant, but it doesn’t necessitate the application of Fight Club rules either. 

Your Sauce Isn’t Secret

Second, whatever theorems and processes the company has adopted are probably already known (or knowable) to competitors. If the company has ever had an employee that has left to join a competitor, the “secret sauce” is fully understand by that competitor by now. If the company has ever had a customer that has subsequently worked with a competitor, the “secret sauce” is understood by that competitor by now. 

In reality, professional services companies are simply not set up to adhere to lock-tight, cloak and dagger protocols about intellectual property the same way that technology, defense, and pharma companies are. 

Content Marketing About Your Sauce Doesn’t Invalidate Your Business

Third, there is a common belief within professional services that creating content that talks about the company’s processes and ideas makes it possible for competitors to steal those ideas, and/or for potential clients to no longer need the firm because the ideas were given away on a blog (or video, or webinar, et al). That line of thinking gives far too much (and simultaneously, too little) credit to competitors and clients.

The truth is that a list of ingredients doesn’t make someone a chef. (click to tweet, I’d love that!)

Even if all the components of the process are given away for free, it doesn’t mean that the process itself can be easily replicated. Here at Convince & Convert, we routinely publish detailed presentations of how we do social media strategic plans and content marketing strategic plans for major brands. Do competitors download those materials and use them to inform their own work? Probably. But that certainly doesn’t invalidate our expertise and experience in stitching it all together successfully for corporate clients. 

The goal of content marketing is to give away everything you know, but to do so one piece at a time. Provide free information snacks that create interest in your knowledge meals. 

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