I heard a good metaphor many years ago that I want to share with you. It’s all about the clear distinction between using the “info guru” marketing technique of sharing free content — and having little shoes shaken out of your head. Read on:
Let’s assume that for the last 20 years you’ve bought your shoes at your local shoe store. Let’s say that tomorrow you go into their store, pick out a five pairs of shoes, and bring them up to the cashier. You place them on the counter and when the clerk looks up at you, you say:
“Since I’ve been buying shoes here for the last 20 years, I think I deserve these five pairs of shoes for free today . . . what do you think?”
No dice! The store can’t be profitable if it gives away free shoes to anyone who asks.
When you are an expert in your field, people will try to “extract” information from you for free. When someone contacts you by email, over the phone, or when they meet you in person, people will make their best effort to get free advice from you. “Can I pick your brains for a few minutes?”
Inside your head, there are racks with lots of tiny little shoes – that’s your inventory, your knowledge base.
Just like the shoe store, you sell something. You sell your knowledge, skill and expertise. That’s your inventory. Giving away your inventory on a regular basis will land you in bankruptcy court. It may be prudent to occasionally give away a pair of shoes in hopes of getting a large order. But you must be very careful when and how often you choose to do that.
So when this happens to you, imagine that the person who tries to do it to you has grabbed you by the lapels and is shaking you. While they are shaking you, they have their hands open under your ears as they wait for the tiny shoes (your inventory) to fall out of your ears and into their hands.
They are looking to steal your inventory!
Don’t let them do it.
If your knowledge, skill and expertise is what you sell, don’t let people steal your inventory. It’s how you make your living. Instead, answer people very directly when you get this kind of routine.
Tell people that you know what they’re doing. Bust them. Say something like: “I would love to give you the answers to some of those questions and will be happy to do so once you are a paying client . . . . how would you like to pay for my services? Would a check work or would paying by credit card be more convenient for you?”
Stop giving your services away for free.
(thanks to Fred Gleeck for this story!)