Giving Away Information

“You will be surprised at how receptive people can become when you are willing to share with them your expertise, enthusiasm, and energy.” – Mitch Thrower

The other day, a VP at a local management-consulting firm called me for advice on Internet marketing. He wanted to start a line of information products related to the firm’s consulting expertise – which is helping clients become compliant with OSHA regulations. (OSHA is the Federal agency that publishes and enforces safety and health regulations for U.S. businesses.)

“But I have to warn you,” he said. “Our president is dead set against the idea.” When I asked why, he replied: “He is afraid it will erode our core business.”

For their advice, this particular consulting firm charges a handsome fee: $3,500 a day. The concern was that if they gave away their knowledge and expertise in the form of relatively low-priced information products, potential clients wouldn’t need the firm’s expensive consulting services. Instead, they’d study the info products, meet the OSHA standards by themselves, and save a bundle.

I set the VP straight… fast.

“Producing a line of info products won’t erode your core business in the least,” I explained. “In fact, quite the opposite will happen. When people see you have published books, special reports, white papers, articles, CDs, DVDs, or other information products on your specialty, they will – whether they buy those products or not – perceive you as a credible expert on the topic. This, in turn, will increase the demand for your consulting services, not cut into it.”

“It is simply amazing the reverence people have for the printed word,” says EU, a successful publisher. “Simply because a person has written a book about a subject, people think he has something to say about it.”

Selling information products actually widens the net of prospects who can benefit from your expertise.

You hear some marketers who state flatly, “We don’t give away what we sell.” But actually, sampling is one of the oldest and most effective marketing techniques out there. You go to the food court in the mall, and which restaurant is the busiest? The one where a neatly attired, clean, attractive server is giving away free samples of chicken nuggets, barbecue beef, or whatever the restaurant’s specialty is.

Service businesses don’t want to give service samples, because their time is both valuable and limited. So, instead, they give away samples of their knowledge and expertise. How? By giving away special reports, white papers, or other free informational material. For instance, a successful swimming pool contractor I know gives away a free guide on planning and designing your dream swimming pool.

Some service businesses do actually give away samples of their service. My friend GB teaches one- and two-day seminars in effective business writing to corporate employees. To get new clients, he invited training managers of local companies to attend a free two-hour “mini-seminar.” He sent out 100 letters. Ten training managers attended, and one hired him to do training as a result.

It’s difficult to get strangers to hire you out of the blue. After all, they don’t know who you are, what you know, and what you can do for them. But if you package some of your knowledge in a $15 paperback book, they’ll risk spending $15 to sample it. When they read the book, they will know that you know what you say you know – and believe you to be the expert you say you are.

So your info products allow you to reach a broader – and bigger – audience.

What about the danger that the prospect will learn all your secrets by reading a $15 book, and deprive you of a big fat fee for your services?

That rarely happens.

Instead, the prospect reads your book and thinks: “The guy really knows his stuff. But this seems complicated. I don’t have time to learn it or do it myself. I’ll just hire him to do it for me.”

Yes, there are probably other vendors the prospect could hire to provide the needed service. But, more than likely, you’re the one he’ll call.

After all, you wrote the book on it.

[Ed. Note: Master copywriter and best-selling author Bob Bly is the editor of ETR’s ETR’s Direct Marketing Masters Edition. a program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business. Sign up for Bob’s free monthly e-zine, The Direct Response Letter, and get more than $100 in free bonuses.]