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.
I believe each individual needs to respond at a level they feel comfortable with doing. Clearly, you won't want to give out trade secrets such as specific "processes" or client data. However, for a "sharing" forum like mosaicHub to work for its members, more is always better. Like Joe Gedgaud replied "Its a community and we should act like it". In addition, I believe that my clients hire me because of the specific attributes that I can bring, including specific knowledge, experience, references and the relationships I develop with my clients. Though someone else might be able to take the exact tools and presentations that I have developed (which I am happy to share), they wouldn't be able to present, work with or relate to them as I can. Most clients hire people not companies!
I look at answering questions on here and/or LinkedIn Groups two ways. (1) To help steer people in the right direction. Since our client base is in the A/E/C (architectural, engineering and construction) industry, where margins are typically thin, there is a tendency to want to 'give it away' in order to secure the contract. I pound it into my client's heads, 'Do not work for free!'. So there is a fine balance between working for free and sharing enough to invite inquiry.
The second way I look at sharing information on here is just a goodwill measure. Calling it karma or reaping what you sow...if I have time in my schedule, I enjoy jumping on here and LinkedIn Groups and just sharing thoughts and ideas that may help out a fellow entrepreneur.
Hi Rob ~
Like most of the other responders to this question, I feel that when my expertise can facilitate another's journey, whether business or personal, I'm honored to share. We never know how or by whom our information may be used. I've published hundreds of articles, blog posts, newsletters, etc. over the years, yet many of the questions I answer on mosaicHUB call up areas of expertise I may never have shared publicly in this kind of forum, so to me it's a win-win: a way to showcase what I know in service to others.
Obviously, if you have proprietary information, such as a product design or formula, it makes sense to keep this private. Share as you feel called to, and everybody benefits.
Sharing is important to learn from each others mistakes. Will you compromise yourself? It's unlikely. People do business with the people they like to do business with. Marketing is style and personality sensitive. What works for you may not work for me. I generally prefer that the person I am sharing with will be working some other area far enough away that we would not trip over each other. What I do someone else may not be willing or want to do to market themselves. We all have likes and dislikes. In return what they share with you may help you or possibly not be of any value to you. I have been lucky to have some very sucessful associates share without reservation. It's up to you. how secure or insecure are you?
This is a good question and one that I had often considered also. Of course, the generic answer is going to be “it depends” on the business, so set up some guidelines for yourself. Primarily, consider a few aspects of your particular business and what it considers to be “proprietary information”:
1) What is the competitive advantage?
2) What is the core competency?
3) Does the business strategy require a first mover’s advantage or critical mass to succeed?
Competitive Advantage - If your company’s competitive advantage is knowledge based, relatively easy to duplicate, and involves low capital startup costs, you probably want to hold that information close to your chest. This would be especially true if your business faces intense competition.
Core Competency – Sometimes your core competency and competitive advantage are not the same. In these cases, you are probably safe to talk about how using your particular core competency could help others. Sometimes advice seekers will attempt to create that core competency for themselves, more often than not, however, their core competency will be in another area. As a result, they might seek out your business as a supplier of your particular core competency.
First Mover’s Advantage – when your business model requires a first mover’s advantage to succeed (and you still haven’t moved on your business model), you should never release that information.
Critical Mass – when the business requires critical mass to succeed, again, you need to hold off until your reach critical mass before talking about the business model. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are two examples of critical mass concepts. Their success has made it difficult for Google+ and other social networking platforms to gain substantial traction quickly in the market.
One place to start is by acknowledging to oneself that all, at least most, that we may consider or define as giving us a "market edge" and of being a "trade secret' is not so, more in the public domain than we generally care to admit to....Best to be sincere, transparent and generally most open about how we have learned our skills, and how we strive to improve constantly through collaboratively engaging and interacting with those that we willingly seek out to meet and exchange thoughts and experiences with through forums that we chose to participate in....otherwise, somewhat difficult to build new relationships with a sense of trust and integrity.....just some thoughts, hope they are helpful.
If you are good at what you do then sharing your expertise only embellishes your self worth. Everyone is unique and even if you reveal your special talents it is unlikely that anyone else can duplicate it in the way in which you do it. If that weren't the case then we would all be copying each other and there would be no difference between us. For example, I have developed a proven model for success in the way I run my business, which others can try to duplicate but I have not seen anyone do it the way that I do. I share my techniques openly knowing full well that no one else is exactly like me.
There is a fine line between mentoring someone and giving away intellectual property. I think your question is a good one. We, at Exxtreme, started a Maximo for Beginners group were we can provide solutions to questions and direct their learning back to IBM. We also offer a proprietary learning management system, but we only provide access for those who want to pursue employment with our organization.
Agreed...... give, give and then give more.
There is no secret to what anyone knows...the secret sauce is the person, their delivery, service, and traits/qualities they bring to it.
I am one in a zillion business consultant/coaches but do not consider I have competition...as we each have something to give and share, not every customer is looking for me or someone else, and there is enough to go around. Don't execute in desperation... execute in abundance and you will receive back.
This is a good question Rob. A simple answer is this, consider- when meeting people for the first time 'You can be friendly or You can be familiar". The same is true on a forum such as this. You can participate in discussions, help others and answer questions that are honest and valuable but are not so specific that its theft-worthy.
Also, there is something very, very weird about the phenomenon of 'ideas'. Those who are innovators will agree with this- the idea that You think is so very unique - and it may be- even when You have never ever shared it, if You wait long enough You will see it created by someone whom You do not even know.
Ideas and thoughts seem not to be contained in one's head per se but seem to float around in the ether alighting on people's consciousness. I say this because I have experienced this and I have had both friends and clients who have too.
So while, I Am not saying that You ought not to treasure your intellectual property; I Am only saying that with enough wisdom and discernment You can still share with; and demonstrate to others Your expert status without loss or compromise.
Peace +Much Love
If you can give away your market edge or trade secrets in a paragraph I'm not sure they are that special. I'd think of forums as a tease to your knowledge and experience and have an exit line to take you out of free to proposal. Like, "That's a good question but I'd be more comfortable talking about that in private, here's my contact number if you really want to follow up." From there, you apply your selling process and see if it is a potential client, competitor or colleague and it's up to you what you give or sell.
Simple, if you even suspect you are disadvantaging your livelyhood - don't.
Nobody is going to heaven here by giving away the real juice. I saw a supposed "innocent" question the other day about "your procedures" and I had to comment... why don't you tell us yours first!
I do love to give advice and share insights but I'm not foolish or stupid and even thought I don't believe this forum is run by the NSA - I'm not tell you how I run my business.
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.
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.
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 :)
Rob, the key to living a full, meaningful and compelling future (now!), is to live in your truth 100% 24-7. That is where you naturally attract those who need you and are willing to pay you full value and on time. You're worth that, aren't you now? That's right.
Or one can select to live outside of that space, as you have described above. . That is where you get and stay 'stuck', repeatedly held back by constantly fighting demons-that-don't-exist in the shadows of your story (that you write for yourself).
How soon will you decide right now which reality you desire (Einstein said it best: reality is just a construct of our imagination).
Here's how to access the first one, to live in your truth, naturally, easily and effortlessly:
First thing, Consciously cease limiting yourself with self-created judging/labeling/analyzing labels such as 'without', 'compromising', 'too much/little',
And if someone finds this Consciously difficult to do (and those who find themselves stuck do so), then consider this: ALL change, ALL Behaviour and ALL learning is UNconscious. Nothing conscious about it. Nor any access from the conscious. This explains why few benefit from sHelf-help materials ;-)
So, tell me now, how soon now will you decide to empower yourself with the results-achieving strategy I've shared here. Right now. Guaranteed.
Here's your barometer:
Living in your truth means, you Consciously acknowledged your gratefulness for my strategy and started to notice other areas where you can apply it productively. Perhaps even already applied it there! Awesome!
Otherwise, that means you dug in your heals, attempted unsuccessfully to justify your unproductive 'story' and dismissed my strategy without a thought. How's that working for you?
Either way, I support you - how can I be of further service to you now?
It is problematic especially when the question is specific e.g. "how do I price my services" and you want to go beyond a generic "look at the competition" to which the questioner would probably think "duh!".
I guess one way is to keep your answers on point and cover more the "whats" and not the "hows".
If you answer is to long then that is probably a sign you're going too far.
Sometimes, I feel the same way. In fact, most answers are either tactical or strategical ones. For "tactical" questions (specific problem) you do not give away too much about your business as a whole, and it is sort of giving back to community, where find answers for other questions. For "strategical" ones - they are too abstract and most of them have 3-5-10 different approaches, without the one that's the only truth.
But if the same person starts coming once a week, trying to advance in the area above his/her competence with my help, that's wrong. In this case, it should be either a consulting contract or friendly reminder about the communication being equal, not one-sided information flow.
Hi Rob, the best way to share information on forums such as mosaicHUB is to keep the advice general to the question asked. You can reach out and suggest to the person asking the question if they need more detailed assistance to PM you. This way people who are more serious can develop a working relationship with you and possibly become a client, without you giving away too much information.
I agree with both Paul and Tara. What I would recommend is that if you do indeed have bonafide trade secrets, then those should not be shared in a forum such as this. Also, should you need to disclose or share these trade secrets, then you should wait for the appropriate time and the appropriate forum and ensure that those with whom you are sharing the information sign Non-disclosure agreements.