I had an interesting conversation with a potential client.
We were discussing how my marketing expertise could help his business, but he wanted to be ‘hands-on’ for executing the marketing strategies.
So in other words, he needed the brains and experience (marketing strategy and how-to guidance) but wanted to do the legwork by himself.
Some other clients want that setup too. Especially teams of junior marketers that are lacking a marketing leader.
I admire this anyway because I think everyone, including CEOs, should better understand marketing. We’re already doing marketing every day in one form or another, so it doesn’t hurt improve.
He then asked me this question:
How would I feel about sharing my know-how as part of helping him grow his business?
So, he didn’t want me to just tell him what he should, do but also explain in detail why and how he should execute my recommendations as part of working with me.
It’s an unusual question.
He talked about bad experiences with ‘marketing agencies’. He hired an agency that was reluctant to share how they did things. He feels he didn’t get a lot in return and doesn’t know where his money went. So it’s understandable that he wants transparency.
So, would I share my marketing know-how with a client?
Here’s how I responded:
I’m extremely transparent about how I do things and my know-how, with all clients that are interested to know, for these reasons:
- Great marketing knowledge is learned and valuable experience is gained. This takes time. I began building mine in the 90s, but he needs the expertise right now.
- If you don’t reveal why and how you do things, you could be seen as uncooperative, incompetent or both. But if you do, it’s proof that you know your stuff and care about your client.
- If my potential client hired a marketing leader full time, he’d get that transparency from day #1. When clients work with me, I see no reason to give any less. So working together should enable the same transparency by giving access to the knowledge and experience immediately. and on tap.
- Marketing know-how is freely available online. Some good. Some bad. And plenty in between. Anyone can learn bit by bit and then gradually piece things together to form marketing strategies for their business. There’s no way to fill the experience void or catch up with me, but I do think I can help them stay on the right path.
- As a non-marketer learning by himself, he’d have to invest time, deviate from his core responsibility (running the business), and risk getting it terribly wrong due to lack of experience. This could ultimately kill his business.
- It’s what he wants and he has good reason to learn. Working together and sharing know-how transparently will help him learn and understand the rationale for strategies and how to implement them, on the job. There’s no better way to learn marketing than by doing.
- It’s better for me if he learns marketing. Fast-tracking the growth of his skill set means it would take less time and effort to explain the ‘why’ and ‘how’ further down the line. Our relationship would get stronger and more efficient, which is better for both of us.
- Whilst engaged with helping clients, service providers get better at fine-tuning and recommending alternative strategies for their clients. The client couldn’t benefit from this personalised delivery of expertise any other way.
- If I can confidently explain bespoke strategies for his business, with rationale and a methodical approach, explained in my own style, then that makes me credible and authentic. Being credible and authentic, I’m already offering value to clients which they’ll be prepared to pay for (and recommend to others).
- Last but not least, it builds trust. Consulting deals are based on trusting relationships, and referrals are based on good reputation. Building trust and reputation takes time and effort, but losing all that take no time at all.
Marketing service providers should not feel threatened if asked to share their know-how, secret sauce, rational, or whatever they want to call it.
A lack of transparency undermines their authority, expertise and makes it harder to nurture and build client relationships (which are best built on trust).