The purpose of the military is to be so intimidating that the enemy dare not attack. – Sun Tzu
This is one of my all time favorite quotes. However, it has become obvious to me that not everyone shares in this belief. As I watch and observe agencies and producers, some of the actions and inactions I see, seemingly driven by paranoia, concern me a bit.
It ranges from not wanting to include relevant and important information on websites (e.g. list of employees and backgrounds) to not taking a visible role in social media. Regardless of its various forms, it all originates with one concern - that the information would some how be used to hurt them. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand and agree that there are certain secrets we want to protect, but that is a rather short list most of the time and should mainly be comprised of “how” we do what we do rather than “what” we do.
Besides, in today’s electronic world your ability to completely hide any information is difficult at best. If someone really wants the information, chances are they will find it anyway. Isn’t it better for you to control the flow of the information in the first place?
If you’re guilty of some level of paranoia, I challenge you to write down two things. First, describe the worst thing that could happen if that information is shared. Secondly, write down what’s the best thing that could happen. If after making this comparison and the scales tip in favor of shrouded secrets, then, by all means, lock it away.
Sharing the names/backgrounds of your employees
Worst that can happen – Your competitors will try to hire them away. Guess what? If they are worth stealing, your competitors already know who they are and will contact them anyway. Just make sure you are taking good care of them and this shouldn’t even be a concern.
Best that can happen – Your prospects get a much better picture of the depth of expertise and talent you have and feel more secure in moving their business to you.
Not boasting about what you do that is unique (e.g. hiding your business model)
Worst that can happen – The competition will try to copy it. In that case, just make sure that what you do is not easily replicated. Think about it - any time you introduce your model to a prospect who doesn’t become a client, you have to know that the information is likely going to be shared with your competition anyway.
Best that can happen – If you make it very clear how effective you are at what you do, the competition will realize that they can’t compete with you and will take their prospecting elsewhere. Additionally, prospects that are looking for what you offer, now understand they should be working with you.
Being visible in the world of social media
Worst that can happen – I’m not really sure what bad could happen as long as you are careful what you write. (Some are paranoid about connecting with clients on LinkedIn for fear that those clients would become easily identified and targeted by your competition. If that’s you, don’t connect with your competition and use the setting that only allows your connections to see your other connections. )
Best that can happen – Your prospects and clients are able to learn what it is that you have to offer. By using social media to enhance and communicate your personal brand, you will give yourself a running head start against your paranoid competitors.
Like Sun Tzu said, if you are the biggest, scariest competitor out there, the bullies will pick fights elsewhere. Similarly, for those future clients who need the protection that you have to offer, be sure they know where to seek shelter.
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