Many successful business owners advise to offer value – to give away your knowledge and help others in order to build the like/know/trust factor. In fact, Mark Schaefer said in a recent blog, “Even though I give away everything I know about business and marketing, people are still eager to hire me because they value my perspective and they trust me through the content I provide.”
The concept of building trust through content is a hallmark for most marketers. While I believe whole-heartedly in this concept, I also question where we draw the line. For example, I have people who contact me regularly with a myriad of social media questions, which – in my effort to offer value – I respond to with thorough, considerate responses. A majority of these folks will likely never hire me. And, why should they? They are getting their questions answered for free.
There are only so many hours in a day, so when do we cut our ‘value proposition’ and set boundaries? When do we decide it’s unfair to continue giving when we have other people paying us for our expertise?
It’s not always easy to set boundaries, but here are the steps I take to know when and how to transition a ‘taker.’
In Mark’s case, he was giving away pre-written content. When you’re giving away your time, that’s where it starts to get tricky. I remain conscious of how much time and the kind of work requested of me. In my line of work, there are many ‘how-to’ and technical issues that arise, requiring not only specific social media expertise but also unique problems that require further research.
While I never mind answering questions – in fact, I encourage people to ask me questions – it’s important to understand that simple questioning can quickly lead to a big time drain. My self-test for this is to ask myself at what point a request either: a) requires expertise that I would ordinarily bill for or b) takes away from the time I would/should spend on paying client work.
When either of these conditions exists, I know it’s time to transition. The key here is to be nice, but firm. For example, if someone requests general information about a Facebook fan page, I’m happy to give them advice, but once it starts to get too technical, I say something like, “I hope I’ve helped to point you in the right direction. I’ve found the Facebook ‘help’ menu to be a great resource for these kinds of questions.” I’ll even go as far as to send them to the link or thread will they can get more info and thank them for reaching out to me because their trust is appreciated.
I find that some folks simply respond with a ‘thank you’ and others want more information. In the case of the latter, I say, “I would be happy to provide you with more specific information, but out of fairness for my clients – who pay for this information – we charge an hourly rate of xxx.” That’s the point when they have to decide if what they’re requesting is something they can find on their own or if it’s important enough for them to pay for it.
More often than not, people decide to find the information on their own, while about 25% decide to hire me. Whether they hire or me or not, I’ve come to the conclusion that they respect my time for the simple reason that I’m placing a value on it.
The ultimate factor to deciding how to spend your time is to ask yourself what you’re time is worth – what are you forfeiting in exchange for you time? An inspection of this question may offer insight into how to transition your value proposition.