At the recent Entrepreneur Magazine Winning Strategies in Business conference, I had the opportunity to answer a question that’s one of my favorites: “How much should you give away for free in content marketing?”
We’ll answer this in two parts, a common answer today and a ninja answer tomorrow.
First, when it comes to your business, the concern about giving away too much knowledge is absolutely valid. Although I firmly believe in Jay Baer’s quote, “Having the recipe does not make you a chef”, there are indeed cases where the intellectual property of your business shouldn’t be given away.
There are fundamentally two kinds of businesses when it comes to intellectual property. There are businesses where the intellectual property is the value; you’re not differentiating on the execution of methods, but the knowledge of the methods themselves.
There are other businesses where the recipe is commonly known, but your execution of it is the secret sauce.
If your business is the latter, an exceptional executor of commodity knowledge, then give away as much as you want about the knowledge itself.
If your business is the former, then you have to look at what you specialize in. There are two broad categories of intellectual property: how and what. “How” businesses have a special set of tactics, a special set of recipes that set them apart from competitors. KFC has its special spices. McDonald’s has a Big Mac with special sauce. Coca Cola has its mysterious formula.
“What” businesses have a special set of strategies that set them apart from competitors. They may employ commonly known tactics and methods, but in a unique way. Consulting firms like BCG and KPMG take commonly known tactics and remix them into special strategies. Disney’s brands are strategic in nature; they don’t do anything special to market the brand, but they do a whole lot special in the creation of content and value, from a strategic perspective. Their secret is in the what, not the how.
When it comes to answering the question of how much you can give away, the obvious answer is to give away the non-relevant part. If you’re a “how” company, you can give away all the “what” you want. Coca-cola does this exceptionally – they create experiences around their brand, giving away tons of content, encouraging community around it. If you’re a “what” company, you can give away the “how” endlessly while not giving away the knowledge of what you do that makes those tactics give you different, better results.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at a very ninja answer that goes above and beyond how and what.
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