Giving away the secret sauce – why you should create free and valuable content for your customers

If you have been diligently trying to stay current in the rapidly changing world of marketing and social media, you would have noticed a recurring theme.
You would have heard the term content marketing. You would have read that to maintain a competitive edge and convince people to engage with you on social media, you need to provide valuable content.
This is absolutely true. You can’t expect funny cat pictures alone to help you achieve your marketing goals. Don’t misunderstand me, funny cat pictures do have their place when used occasionally (I for one have a fondness for them). This may get you some ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ but it may not get you long-term engagement and sales.
You have to provide value to your customers and stakeholders. More than value, you should be prepared to give away your ‘secret sauce’. The secret sauce is the premium ingredient when it comes to content marketing.
The secret sauce 
Previously I have highlighted that giving away your secret sauce meant providing value but not asking for anything in return.
Why give away the secret sauce? Remember you are in the business of solving problems. Your potential customer has a problem and your content may help solve it, at no cost to them. When they need more help, hopefully they will come to you and/or share their great experience with everyone they know.
Giving away the secret sauce is not a terribly new concept. McDonald’s ran a highly successful campaign where they encouraged customers to ask ANY question and they answered them publicly. As part of this they literally revealed their secret sauce for a Big Mac.
You don’t have to be McDonald’s to enjoy similar success.
Don’t be afraid
Many businesses, especially those that rely on selling services and knowledge rather than goods, fear giving away their intellectual property.
Forgive the analogy, but businesses fear that if they give away their precious milk, their customers may not buy the cow. Further they worry their competitors will learn their secrets.
There are compelling reasons not to focus on these fears.
The competitors most likely know what you are doing already and your customers often do want to try before they buy. Think about it as tasting a wine sample before buying a whole bottle. You are not giving away the whole bottle, just a sample to entice potential prospects.
What is even more important to realise is that future prospects are not necessarily your current customers. They may not even be in the market for your products or services at this point in time. What they are looking for is some easy-to-find, relevant information to solve their immediate problem.
Let’s use this blog as an example of giving away the secret sauce. Maybe someone is planning on setting up a small business and they need some initial marketing tips. They may not have the marketing dollars they need to engage a marketing expert. They come across this blog and glean enough tips to get started. If a few months down the track they do want to hire a marketing specialist they may recall where they found some useful free information and come calling. Sure they may not call either, but what have I lost in the process? Not much, just the time and effort to compile and share my ideas, which frankly I enjoy doing.
Am I worried that I am giving away so much for free that customers won’t need me, that they can do everything themselves? The short answer is no. At the end of the day customers know they are getting a taster only for free, not the whole wine bottle. Even if customers think they can do it all themselves, they may not have the capacity or the confidence to proceed. They also want the sommelier’s expertise that comes with the wine bottle.
Still not convinced? So far I have talked about the incentives for giving away your secret sauce but here’s the consequence if you don’t.
If you don’t give away valuable content for free, you are already behind the eight ball. These days customers don’t just want content for free, they expect it. Smart companies have been doing it for a while and already set the benchmark.
How to give away the secret sauce
When it comes to giving away the secret sauce, it does have to come from a good place. What I mean by this is that you have to authentic and well meaning. You are giving away something and should be expecting nothing in return. Any benefits you receive should be a bonus. There shouldn’t be any catches, or obligations. You should not be using free content to soften up prospects for an aggressive sales pitch.
If you are someone who genuinely likes to help people, solve problems and share knowledge you already have a head-start.
Ways to give away the secret sauce
  • Start a blog like this one, focused on your business and industry
  • Have free downloads and templates available on your website
  • Include free tips and insights in a newsletter or e-newsletter
  • Create instructional videos and upload them to Youtube
  • Include summaries or short tips and links to any of your online content on your social media pages and website
  • Print out hard copy flyers or brochures with tips and display them in your shop.
“That sounds fine for you, but it wouldn’t work for my business”
Some organisations may find it easier than others to come up with secret sauce ideas.
However any business or industry should be able to identify valuable content they can share, it just may take some lateral thinking.
Here are just a few ideas:
  • Hairdresser – how to do our perfect blowdry
  • Plumber – how to replace a washer
  • Real estate – how to present your property for sale
  • Recruitment company – how do create the perfect Resume
  • Accountant – here is a free spreadsheet template to download and track your business budget.

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