Give Your Business Away

I gave a talk last weekend at the annual trade show of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. At the end of my presentation, a man came over and told me that he owned a pizza parlor, and although he was sold on the idea of creating an E-Newsletter for his business, he wasn’t sure what to write about.

I told him that I’d need to know more about his particular business, but for starters, how about, “5 Secrets to Making a Great Pizza?” He kind of smiled and said, “I’m not so sure I want my customers to know how to make a great pizza!”

His concern of course, was that by writing that article, he’d reduce the demand for his product.

I said to him, “Look, there’s got to be 500 cookbooks for sale over at Barnes & Noble. Do you really think that the reason people come into your restaurant is because they haven’t been able to crack the code on pizza?

“They come into your restaurant because they don’t want to bother cooking for themselves; or because they don’t want to make 800 pizzas before they learn all the ins and outs of how to do it right; or for a dozen other reasons that have nothing to do with the food at all.”

Make no mistake; this man wasn’t stupid. It’s natural and logical to think that by giving away useful information to your clients, you’ll somehow be left with less to sell to them. It’s natural and logical, but it’s also completely wrong.

When you give away your expertise each month, you elevate yourself in the eyes of your readers. Rather than viewing you as unnecessary, it has exactly the opposite effect. They come to consider you the expert in the field, and (ironically) are even more likely to hire you and/or refer you to their friends and colleagues.

If my restaurant owner friend were to “reveal the secrets of pizza,” in a monthly newsletter, he would immediately distance himself from every other pizza place in town. Not only would he have more business, his status as expert would even allow him to charge a premium price for his product (do you think the “Car Talk” guys charge more or less per hour to fix cars since they started giving away free car care advice on the radio?!).

Here’s the bottom line: It’s virtually impossible to give too much away in your newsletter. Your increased value as an expert will more than offset any lost service or product revenue that results from it. Help your readers the way you would a friend (by giving them useful, expert advice), and the benefits will come back to you and your business many times over.

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