Claim Your Oscar

Along with about fifty million of our closest friends, my 14-year-old daughter Emily and I watched the 83rd Academy Awards the other night. No surprises really … meandering speeches, outlandish costumes, plastic surgeries gone wrong, and the occasional four-letter word. Kind of like the House of Representatives, with a few musical numbers thrown in.

It did seem like a lot of fun though. And so about an hour into the event, I let Emily in on my plans for 2012: Next year, I intend to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Here’s what I’m thinking. According to Wikipedia, only nine men (presumably the best of the best) have won the Oscar for Best Actor twice. I know who they are and (very important) I have access to all 18 movies (thank you Netflix) in which they delivered their winning performances.

In order to prevail, all I need to do is watch these nine men work, take careful notes, and presto (or whatever), I’ll have their acting secrets. Next year, when the envelope is opened, my 18 movies worth of Best Actor knowledge will land me at the top of the list.

Granted, as master plans go, this one has more gaps in it than a Hollywood starlet’s evening gown. But let’s address the most obvious: Watching a great performance – even slow motion, up close and repeatedly – doesn’t give me the ability to reproduce it.

Sure, I may pick up a few pointers here and there, but I don’t think Messrs. Nicholson, Penn, Hanks, or any of the other past Oscar winners have anything to worry about.

Why then (you knew I’d get to this) are so many of my fellow professional service providers so worried about sharing information? It’s as if they’re afraid that if clients and prospects observe “their secrets,” they’ll have nothing left to sell.

I can think of at least two reasons why this concern is unfounded:

  1. The benefit you bring to clients is less a function of what you know than it is a function of how you apply this knowledge to their particular situation.

    So yes, you’ve got maybe (maybe) a book’s worth of information in your head regarding the specifics of your craft. But that’s not really what they’re buying (if it were, they would just go buy a book on finance or market research or plumbing, or whatever it is you do).

    What they want and need is youthe experienced expert who can bring perspective to their problems; save them time, money and mistakes; and do things they couldn’t accomplish in a million years on their own, regardless of how much information they had at their fingertips.

    (On that note, if what you’re selling doesn’t take advantage of your unique, Oscar-winning combination of skills, you’re likely selling the wrong thing, if not in the wrong business entirely.)

  1. Anonymity, not leaky information, is your real problem.

    When you give information away freely, some people – the vast majority of them in fact – just take it and never become clients or pay you anything at all. So what? That’s called marketing. The more people who read and share your creation, the better off you are.

    Besides, you don’t really care how many people don’t buy, you just need enough who do. But you’ll never get nominated for an Oscar (i.e. contacted by or referred to prospective clients) if you stay silent and don’t give people a chance to experience your genius.

    Your useful, interesting, relevant, opinionated, authentic content is your act. You serve no one (least of all yourself) by performing it behind closed doors.

Here’s the bottom line. When it comes to marketing your business, it is literally impossible to give away too much generic, one-size-fits-all information of the kind found in newsletters, presentations, blogs, podcasts, whitepapers, books, etc.

That’s the audition, the teaser that gives people a sense of who you are, what you believe and how you can solve their problems. Show up at enough auditions, and before you know it, the big, juicy, leading roles will come your way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Celtics basketball game on tonight, and I’m thinking that if I pay close attention, maybe I could play in next year’s NBA all-star game.

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