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How to share your valuable knowledge online without giving the game away for free

February 28, 2013

How can you create and share authoritative and valuable information assets (that’s what they are) that profitably position you as a thought leader, and industry expert without essentially giving your capital; your hard-earned and extremely valuable knowledge away for free.

“How can lawyers, who are traditionally paid a fee by their clients for advice, profitably approach the online arena given that they are now essentially required to provide free advice to the public as part of a “so-called” effective online marketing strategy?”

Creating content to create value.

This was the interesting topic of a discussion I engaged in recently, and a common concern for professional service providers who are in the business of exchanging knowledge for profit.

Why should I bother?

The internet is increasingly the tool of choice for clients researching and pre-selecting professional service providers (law firms included). In a sea of homogenous service providers, your online brand differentiates you from your competitors and promotes your competitive advantage. It also helps to influence the perception of the value of the services you provide in the minds of your target audience. Providing reliable, timely, (and yes, sometimes free) information to clients is an intelligent way to begin to solidify your online brand.

In the provision of complex services, online branding (whether personal or for the organization as a whole) is even more key because the more a potential client understands about you, your thought processes, and the way in which you work, the more likely it is that you will be hired, and your relationship with the client will be smoother from the outset.

Also, let’s not forget about the search engine optimization benefits. The more relevant information you create, the more traffic is driven to your site. The more traffic you generate, the more search engines will consider your work a reliable source of information and serve it as trustworthy content to potential clients.

When your knowledge + your time combine as your product (in contrast with a manufacturer or retailer who has tangible products to sell), there are some key considerations and approaches that can be taken to balance the vital need to establish a strong online market position supported with authoritative and reliable content with the very real need to earn a crust.

1. Think of your information as an asset: Track and Measure its Performance as you would any tangible asset.

As with any business asset, there is an expected level of return to be generated. The return is in the form of increased website traffic, increased conversions e.g. via enquiries or increased firm pre-selections or Requests for Proposals, and finally most tangible of all increased revenue. One of the best characteristics of online business development is that these numbers are verifiable. There are various measurement techniques that can be implemented to assess the value of each item of online collateral created. Creating information assets without effectively tracking the efficacy of each as a means of driving business to your organization is basically the equivalent of ___________ (complete with the most pointless activity you can think of).

2. Give them alternatives

Provide your reader with different options to consider in approaching the problem. Show off your thought process rather than the final conclusion. Let’s face it, the final recommendation will depend on an individual client’s unique circumstances, and understanding the client’s circumstances is what they pay you the big bucks for. So feel free to caveat away.

 3. Use calls to action liberally throughout

A call-to-action suggests the next course of action for your reader. People love being told what to do online. It’s strange but true. Studies have shown that including the words “Contact me / us” increases the likelihood that customers will do so. So prior to creating each information asset, determine how you want the reader to interact with the information you are providing i.e. what action would be most valuable for your business. Do you want readers to call you? Visit a particular section of your website? Sign up for email updates? Ensure that your call to action is unambiguous to give your piece business purpose.

 4. Eliminate the details

Quite often, it’s not interesting, it’s not sexy, it shows neither great flair nor dynamism, and quite frankly no one has time to read it all. The detail is what they’ll pay you for once they have been enthralled into making that initial contact with you.

 5. Case in point

Use case studies to illustrate specific situations, processes, and outcomes. The targeted reader will then recognize the similarities between his circumstances and those illustrated and the implication of the message being that you possess the necessary expertise to solve all such issues.

 6. Quid pro quo

What do the readers have that you want? Their email address, a network of contacts, subscription to your newsletter? Provide just enough valuable information to whet their appetite, and then you can legitimately ask for something (reasonable) in return.

 

Service providers can be left in the difficult position of trying to decide just how much information they can put out there without giving too much away to would-be clients and competitors. The fact is that, with the transparency and accessibility of the internet today, information is available at the public’s fingertips. There’s no escaping it, the days of shrouding professional services in “mysterie and magick” have long gone.

The more you give online, the more you’ll receive, as long as you remain relevant to your target market.

 

Contact us to learn how Spark Engagement can help you establish a profitable online position and grow your client base.

 

 

Image courtesy of Uckhet