Don't be the Best Kept Secret

Knowledge is power and profit--if you let people know you have it.
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This story appears in the September 2008 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

You're probably already well aware that giving products away for free is one of the best ways to market your business. What might surprise you is that giving away your knowledge can also get the word out about your business--and make customers come running to pay for your services. "You can give people a taste of information or even detailed information," says Margie Zable Fisher, president of Zable Fisher PR and author of The Do-It-Yourself Public Relations Kit (zfpr.com). "Most people will say, 'That company really knows what it's talking about, so when I'm in the market for that product or service, I'm going to go back to them.'"

By establishing himself as the go-to dog training expert, Ty Brown has built his Riverton, Utah, dog training business, CommuniCanine, to more than $160,000 in projected 2008 sales, just one year after startup. With no money to market his company in the early days, he used his expertise to land a radio interview during National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. "The callers were so excited for the [dog training advice] that they kept inviting me back until it became a weekly appearance," says Brown, 27. "By giving away free information, it's brought me more business than I can handle." He has also written articles and appeared on TV, giving basic tips to dog owners and doing dog training demonstrations in public parks, sometimes for charitable organizations.

Consider creating an e-newsletter with fun and interesting tips for your constituents. Whenever you're sharing your expertise, says Zable Fisher, be sure not to get into lecture mode. "People are trying so hard to prove they're knowledgeable that they forget that people [usually] only care about what's in it for them," she says. "Connect with people and understand what their needs are. They'll listen to you all day if you're talking about how you can help them."
Edition: December 2016

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