7 Entrepreneurs Who Grew Their Businesses By Giving Away Their Secrets
by Zach Obront
For most entrepreneurs (and other professionals) who want to write a book, this question eventually comes up:
How much of my knowledge should I share?
When you are used to commanding thousands of dollars for your knowledge and expertise, it can be difficult to give those very things away for less than $20.
As a result, many consider holding back some of their secrets. The logic is simple and seems clear: If I give everything away so cheaply, who will pay for my more expensive products?
Counterintuitively, this is the complete wrong approach to take when writing a book.
The entrepreneurs who put the most value into their books are almost always the ones who get the most value out of them. Why is this?
Because when you have true expertise, sharing it doesn’t diminish the value of what you do.
The truth is this: Most potential customers are making the decision to hire you based on whether they see you as the expert in your field. And, despite what many information marketers would have you believe, they don’t see you as an expert because you have the Forbes logo on your website or tens of thousands of fake fans on Facebook.
They see you as the expert if you’ve already shown them how much knowledge you have, and have given them the most value.
By openly sharing what you know, readers learn from you, truly understand and respect your wisdom, and thus becomes fans.
And when these people run up against a problem that requires professional help to solve, there’s only one person they’ll trust enough to help them do it:
7 Entrepreneurs Who Have Given Away Their Best Ideas for Under $20
This concept becomes clearer when you see it in action.
I spoke to 7 entrepreneurs who have done an incredible job of sharing their best ideas in a book to better understand why they were so generous with their material and what results they’ve seen.
Their experiences speak for themselves…
Vanessa Van Edwards: Captivate
Vanessa runs website called The Science of People, where she does original research, sells online and in person training, and helps people become the most memorable person in the room.
Rather than keep her ideas exclusive for the people who pay her hundreds or thousands of dollars, Vanessa realized that sharing her wisdom in the form of her new book, Captivate, would help her elevate her brand.
Vanessa: “Captivate was our golden ticket into some of the best media hits in the industry. Within four weeks of the book coming out we got picked up on CNN, CBS This Morning, Time.com, INC, Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur Magazine and we hit the Wall Street Journal and USA Today best seller lists. I was invited to speak at Google, Facebook headquarters UK and got asked to give my first TEDx Talk based on the book.”
In other words, the book spread her message further than any other form of content could.
Vanessa: “The traffic, qualified leads and speaking events in the first few weeks alone were a career game changer—all because of the book.”
Cameron Herold: Double Double and Meetings Suck
Cameron Herold is a CEO coach, a speaker, and the founder of the COO Alliance.
As someone routinely paid $35,000 or more to give a one-hour keynote speech, many in Cameron’s position believe they must protect their ideas to maintain their value.
Cameron, on the other hand, realizes that sharing his ideas only puts his keynotes and coaching in higher demand.
Cameron: “I gave away so many of my ideas in Double Double and Meetings Suck because I knew it would be easier for me to really help CEOs make their dreams happen if I gave them my best in those books. I did it to help them, but in helping them, more opportunities emerged for me. My speaking fees are 3x from when Double Double came out, and companies are buying Meetings Suck in boxes to have all their employees read it.”
Michael Bungay Stanier: The Coaching Habit
Michael Bungay Stanier runs Box of Crayons, where he helps managers build stronger teams and get better results.
As a business, their revenue comes from selling in-classroom training to Fortune 1000 organizations. These organizations are paying substantial revenue to learn Michael’s tools, so it’s tempting to think that giving away his ideas so inexpensively would harm his brand.
However, by becoming better known as the leader in his field, and successfully teaching so many leaders through his book, The Coaching Habit, the business opportunities only increased.
Michael: “The book launched on February 29, 2016…We’ve tripled the number of inquiries, and doubled revenue and profit in the last year.”
Raymond Fong & Chad Riddersen: Growth Hacking
Raymond Fong and Chad Riddersen run Deviate Labs, a growth hacking consulting agency. In a world like growth hacking, driven by the latest and greatest secrets, many think that they more they share, the less of an edge they have.
Not Raymond and Chad. They realized that a book is a tool to separate them from the competition, and that the best thing that can do is share as much as possible.
Raymond: “The book [Growth Hacking] helped further establish our credibility and authority in a crowded market where it’s extremely difficult to distinguish between amateurs and professionals. By committing our framework in a published book, we send a powerful signal that helps further establish ourselves as thought leaders in our industry. The result is an increase in the number of valuable clients including well-established brands.”
Ari Meisel & Nick Sonnenberg: The Art of Less Doing and Idea to Execution
Ari Meisel and Nick Sonnenberg are the founders of Leverage, a virtual assistant company changing the way that people work with VAs.
Ari has been known as “the outsourcing guy” for years, and has built his brand around teaching people how to think about outsourcing more effectively. This is epitomized in his recent books, The Art of Less Doing, and a second book he coauthored with Nick, Idea to Execution.
Of course, people can read their books and hire VAs directly, without their company. But as long as they are providing value through the company, they knows that the potential customers who can afford them will hire them.
As a bonus, they’ve also found that the book helps with recruiting new team members.
Ari: “The book has been the best source of lead generation for clients and for recruiting members of our team. When people read the book they fully understand our service offering and prospective team members get an inside look at the culture and growth mentality we maintain.”
Geoff Blades: Do What You Want
Geoff Blades charges thousands of dollars a month for his coaching, which helps people get what they want in their careers and their lives.
Rather than guarding his secrets for his coaching clients, he wrote a book, Do What You Want, walking readers through Geoff’s framework and trusting that the clients who are right to work with him directly will find him.
Geoff: “I don’t see the book as cannibalizing or siphoning off from client work, because I see them as two different audiences. The book enables me to reach a lot more people than I will ever touch personally, and only amplifies my message and ability to attract private clients. With the book I can reach someone who is looking to make a small investment of time and money, while building interest and authority among those who are right to work with me personally.”
BONUS: The Book In A Box Method
Many people ask us why we are willing to share our full process in our book, The Book In A Box Method. As a company charging $25,000 for a done-for-you service, shouldn’t we be protecting our trade secrets?
We feel the opposite. By helping as many people as possible to use our process to write and publish their books, we are furthering our mission.
And, when a prospective author can afford to hire someone to surround them with a team of world-class professionals to create a truly incredible book, they’ll be more likely to find us and trust us because we’ve been transparent and shared how we work.
Seeing entrepreneurs like Elon Musk make their patents public points to a deep trend in the world of business. In the old days, intellectual property and trade secrets were the way to differentiate yourself. But in today’s information age, proprietary knowledge usually isn’t a viable moat.
Instead, the most successful entrepreneurs are sharing their wisdom publicly, and counting on their teams, reputation, and unique abilities to stand out from the crowd.