Sharing the Secret Sauce

October 20, 2015

At SmallBox we keep few secrets (except maybe the winning chili cook-off recipe). Because we value collaboration so much, we tend to work out in the open, sharing our processes, walking others through our projects, and then sharing what we’ve learned. Sometimes that means admitting that we had something to learn in the first place, which may seem like a vulnerable place to be. We don’t think so. Every client we work with teaches us something new about their business, and often about ourselves, and we feel grateful that our clients let us talk so openly about the work we do together.

While we like to think we know our stuff, we’re also open to new ideas, techniques and tools. Little excites a Boxer like discovering a new collaborative exercise and introducing it to a client. When this happens, you’ll usually hear about it on Twitter or see some fun pictures on Instagram. We spend a lot of time creating content that we hope will be helpful to others. Much of this shows up in the form of blog posts, case studies, or workshops like Serial Box. We create content, and then we give it away. No strings attached. 

That might seem strange coming from a marketing agency. Don’t most marketing folks see content as little more than bait for lead generation? We hope not. 

While there are certainly times where requiring someone’s contact information is a righteous request (maybe a webinar or e-book), if you’re producing content with the sole intention of dangling it in front of prospects like a well-tied fly, and then demanding an email in return for thought leadership, perhaps you’ve missed the point.

Understand what information people value and give it to them where they expect to find it, not hidden behind a form. If you love your content, set it free. If it passes the value test it will come back to you –– perhaps in the form of an email or on a contact form! (Isn't that the way it goes?)

And try a little transparency. Don’t be afraid to let your customers and prospects know that there are real live people working to solve their problems. While publishing content that supports your brand identity is important, never forget that your people are also your brand, and in the end - it's often the people and the culture of your oganization that make what you have to offer different than your competitiors, not just what's on your spec sheet! If you're doing People Centered Work (and we hope that you are!) –– why not tell those stories right alongside your customer testimonials and case studies? Every once in a while, let people have a look behind the curtain and see what makes you different, better, or just a better match for them. Tell them how you solve your own problems, or about the challenges you've had and why you're a better organization because of it.

Transparency doesn't have to mean sharing the secret sauce, it's more like letting people into the test kitchen to take a sip from the spoon.  

Cover image via Morgan Thompson on Flickr.

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