How do you share information in forums such as this one without compromising your market edge or your trade secrets?
I responded to another question that I felt was digging too deep into the way I run my business, I felt that by providing the level of detail that was asked, I would be giving too much away.
Here are my stands: "this is a place where we can help people and help ourselves at the same time".
When we attempt to advise people with good fate, we will become better on what we are advising, because we have more chance to practise our knowledge and brush up our skills while we also help people to solve problem. Thus win-win situation. Practice makes perfect, this is a place for improvement.
Yes, I also acknowledge the fact that we are afraid to have trade secret leak out ... But the brutal fact is that if the few wordings written in here or forum will bring about business disadvantage on our side, than we need to seriously look at how why our unique core values are so vulnerable, do we really able to compete in the first place?
Never be afraid of sharing.
When people ask questions and they do not know the answer they basically are looking for professionals to work with. If someone does not know something they usually do not intend to learnt it. They ask for finding the most compatible person with the right expertise and fitting style. Within a business, they already have their place. Their time is full of with whatever they doing. Sharing your knowledge with them won't do you harm. It only shows how adequate your expertise is.
Thinking of loosing clients or business over knowledge sharing is the #1 self-esteem enemy of the business people. Sharing your knowledge is the best marketing you can ever do. Article marketing and forum based marketing are amongst the most attractive marketing types at the moment. People get to know you. They get a feel how you think how you work. More information you share more people can see that you can be the best expert for a job.
If you feel you could share more information than you feel comfortable with without charging for it then start a consultancy and offer your service for a price. Say: this and this much I share with you now and if you are interested, here is my website/email/phone number call me and we can schedule an appointment. It works all the time :)
For me, basically, I could tell you every tool we use, every scan we take, and every step in development we take... but it wont be enough. You have to know what do do with the tools. It's the experience that counts, and that is something you can help people with, but wouldn't give away.
I can explain to you how to fly a plane in 2 minutes... but I wouldn't get in there with you until you have practised at least 50 hours... you see the difference?
You have received a lot of very good answers on this topic and I agree with almost all of them. Mostly I agree that in order to gain knowledge we must share it. I don’t think that there are that many real “trade secrets” left, only very good ideas! And there is nothing wrong with sharing concepts. While you would always keep your client information and company information confidential, sharing good business practices can only enhance our ever changing business climate.
At the end of the day business is business and you share what you are comfortable with.
I personally look at these forums as helping each other and learning from each other, and if my response can add value for just one person I am happy.
I was always told, that no matter what your secret is, telling it will never compromise what you are doing. Because no two people do things the same way and get the same results. So helping someone understand a process is not taking your edge away...because there is enough candy for everyone to share. Your customers know you and their customers know them and unless they are next door or in the same building, even under cutting their prices will never produce the same results as yours. quality is quality.
I treat these forums as places to share ideas. I do not believe most ideas in the group are new or are that original. Comments to questions that I read help me see where people are and how they respond to different situations.
If someone has developed a new product or idea that needs protected, then they shouldn't share on a forum. However, that is at the discretion of the individual. All this to say, I basically agree with what Walter Wise has said.
If your market position is that fragile, then you're doing something wrong. You don't have to share what's in the secret sauce, but transparency goes a pretty long way to building up your credibility in the market, both with your clients and your competitors.
Read any of the 37 Signals books or Jack Stack's "Great Game of Business" and you soon realize that keeping it all to yourself kind of kills innovation.
I believe in the law of reciprocity however trade secrets are not to be shared. Your time researching and educating yourself to support those in need is called "value".....and "price" is what is paid for it. Conduct your business with integrity with intent to "help others" and your business will take care of its self.
Next time someone asks sensitive questions, ask them "why do you feel that information is important?"
For me, each case is different. I'd need to know a lot more information before I could answer a question with more detail.
you don't, but if you have such an amazing secret i.e. the secret is essential for your business to succeed, Do Not Share It! However, most ideas have already been thought of, it is about execution. Your ideas should be so well thought out that any information you share should not hinder you. You have to be careful not to violate contracts and give out too much information and violate a shareholder's agreement or a founder's agreement. So give out what you are comfortable giving. Usually other entrepreneurs are so invested in what they are doing that they just want to help other people going along a similar struggle. However, there are some money hungry investors that are just trying to steal your idea. But an idea takes about 60 seconds to 5 minutes to think of. You have to develop out a full business plan and start questioning your business model extensively before you really know what questions to ask other people. There is an important part of the process where you bring in experts from other fields, because if you think you are able to execute EVERY aspect of your company by yourself you are mistaken. You have to pick your spots. Some forums people are looking for ideas to steal, others are looking to help you.
If you are REALLY confident in your idea and you can substantiate it, then you shouldn't be too worried giving out too much information because you are already so many moves ahead.
Although, everybody looks at this differently, some people say horizontal integration is the way to go other says vertical integration is the way to go. Some say collaborate or perish others say stay in stealth mode for as long as possible.
It really depends on the goals of your business, company, organization. Some people think by sharing their revenue generating genius idea it will influence their bottom line, but in reality they will realize that their idea really IS NOT that unique and it is more about the Execution of the idea.
Good luck with your endeavors, only share what you are comfortable and able to share.
In the Digital Economy you give to get. Just make sure you have strong value proposition. Remember nothing is really new or secret, but it is how you respond and put your own unique spin on things.
Forums are for sharing information and experiences, or are you in a forum to get only what you can get out of it???......Im not sure there are any trade secrets anymore, most process or method is available somewhere on the web, what is unique is the way you combine them to make your 'secret sauce', the world is a big enough place for us all to share our ideas and thoughts and even customers, the idea is nothing, but the execution is EVERYTHING!!!.......
I love to share what I have learned from excellent mentors including Jack Welch for 8 months. Give back as much as you can and any worry about demand for your services will vanish.
As per my exposure and experiences, I would like to share the following:
1. Sharing the services offerings is not a trade secret.
The trade secret is how you execute them successfully and competitively those services. It differs cases to case. And also for different people it can be different.
2. The methodologies and the technics come from the practices we use it. Most of the times these are adopted from the industry standards and processes. Where the forums look for these best practices. If we denote them in our services as we follow those while executing the services, it can give value addition to the customer [business prospect] and to the forum.
3. Then the people can think about it to buy those services comparatively with others. But still some of the secrets are hided also for successful business, these might come from different backgrounds of people to handle in business.
Hope this can also add value through forums.
I agree with that. When you are talking with a potential client, You half to build that relationship with that person. You give general details, not to detailed. That potential client has to be comfortable with you. Give the client enough information of your products or services, the company will become a client of yours at the end of the day.
When you believe that what God has for you is for you, then no one can take what is yours; your market edge or trade secrets and harm you or your business. Either you learned those things from someone else and you can now share with someone else or you created those things yourself and now you can share those things with someone else. Pay it forward. Give and it shall be given to you. Bless those as you have been blessed. There is enough success to go around; I'm just saying.
While I don't go out of my way to give away my 'secrets', if someone should ask me and I like that person and can trust that they will act responsibly with that information, I'll give it to them. I also have found (in my industry as a capital advisor) is that when I try to help out my co-advisors, referral partners, and the like, they don't seem to appreciate it enough or motivated enough to use it against me so I don't really worry about it too much. Like several others here, I would give it away but I would not just 'volunteer' that information on a forum like this one either. Hope this helps. All the best.
Transparency seem to increasingly be becoming the currency of success. I don't recall right off where I read it, but I read something saying that those who share openly in the changing economic conditions are the ones who are meeting with success, if for no other reason than through that sharing they are presenting themselves as subject matter experts in their fields.
I wouldn't advocate giving away the farm. I a point where I too draw the line. But unless its proprietary in some way share away. Knowledge is so easily accessible to anyone, might as well be an outlet for those who are willing to listen.
Rob, Great question.
1) It all depends on your comfort level. You can always check out the background of the person asking the question. And then respond according to the expected level of expertise.
2) You can always tell then what to do, and not how to do it.
3) I am on a couple of special interest groups, which are specific to my Industry (CRM). From which I know that my competitors are reading, So In this case and depending on the question, I would only openly provide general information. Followed by a private chat, extending an invitation to expand the discussion of line.