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Is It Worth It To Give Away Information?

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I recently drove about 300 miles to meet with a potential client. My first thought when they asked to meet with me was that they had mentioned in the beginning that they were looking for someone local. I wondered it they were serious about hiring me or just looking to pick my brain for free information. I thought that our meeting went very well, but they eventually hired the local person which made me believe that my suspicions were correct. The question I now ask myself is whether it is worth it to give away "free information".

I have had many people tell me that I volunteer too much information, that you should never give away your "trade secrets". When you are in a service business the information that you have spent years accumulating and sorting is all that you have to sell and if anyone wants it they should pay for it.

I have decided, though, not to adopt this way of thinking as my philosophy. What I am selling is not just the information that I possess or my experience. What I'm selling is myself as a whole person and what I know is just a small part of who I am. It is just as important - or more important - to be able to take my knowledge and experience and use it in a way that will benefit my customer. And, it’s perhaps even more important to be able to find and adapt to new information and new situations, because almost every customer will present you with something that you haven't seen before or perhaps will want a new solution to an old problem.

When it comes to website development and especially search engine optimization (SEO) I believe that sharing information will usually help all parties involved. Well–thought-out questions from interested parties may lead you down avenues that you haven't considered before. Many of the things that I have learned since I started my web design business have been the result of a question or a request from one of my customers. They mention something that they want or need and I try to figure out how to accomplish their request and also whether it can be done in a different way that will look and do the same thing, but be more efficient and effective.

I believe that sharing my knowledge with anyone who asks may not necessarily help me win that individual as a customer immediately. Sometimes being honest about what you can do and what may not be possible at all that can turn off a potential customer. Many people are looking for a quick fix or the easy way out. They may go for someone who promises the moon with little details on how they will accomplish their goals, but that person probably won't be able to deliver all that they promised which can leave a bad taste in their customer’s mouth. They may remember what I said in the beginning and will be more willing to believe that there is no such thing as a "magic bullet" and in the long run my being open and honest may make them more willing to use my services and to take the time to make sure things are done right or to recommend me to someone else who will.

There are also people who will just take what information you have to offer and never offer anything in return. Obviously, these are not the kind of people that you really want to build your business on. There is no way, however, to effectively determine who they are in advance, so you have to approach each situation as someone who may eventually become a customer or even a source of knowledge. Over the past few years I have encountered many wonderful people who have shared their knowledge with me and offered their help without expecting anything in return. These helpful people seem to be the ones who are the most successful in their businesses and they are the ones that I turn to again and again for help and advice. They are the kind of people who's business I want to emulate. I want people to come back to me for new information even if they are not ready to make a purchase decision, because when they are I'll be one of the first they will consider. I believe that the best way that I can do that is to freely pass on what I have learned to the next person.

That potential client that I drove to see is now one of my best.

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About The Author...
Jim Lillicotch is a website designer and marketing expert based in Pittsburgh, PA. Jim is the owner of Lillicotch.com. He has worked as a Website Designer and SEO for over 10 years. His passion is helping people start or improve their own sites. He can be reached by through his website Lillicotch.com

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