Tuesday 2¢: Let ‘em Pick Your Brain

Should you give your advice for free? I’m inspired by a podcast this week, to ponder this surprisingly controversial topic…

This week I am inspired by a really good episode of This Old Marketing, a podcast I always talk about. In episode 370 Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose talk about 10 Proven Ways to Build an Audience. 

No spoilers here, I encourage you to listen to the show, and if you follow these chaps, you’ll probably be familiar with some of the tips they share, like writing a book, speaking, and your approach to social media. Really good stuff, and I hope they share them in a blog post or article. 

One of the tips I thought was very interesting was from Robert. One of his tips was about being responsive when asked, “Can I pick your brain?”. He shared how saying yes to this had been for him, creating follow-up paid engagements and an audience.

However, something that wasn’t discussed on the show; is that from what I have seen and heard on this topic, it’s a controversial point of view.

Do you give away your time for free?

I’ve never heard anyone recommend this; I have heard the opposite, a lot, sometimes expressed very strongly, that if you are paid for your advice and knowledge, someone picking your brains is tantamount to shoplifting. The argument is would you ask a plumber, accountant or mechanic to share the thing they do for free?

It’s like content marketing…

But I really like what Robert shared, as he considered it to be like content marketing. 

It’s a great point, a “give to get”, a demonstration of your usefulness, so yeah, it takes the form of a conversation over coffee, not them reading a blog post or whitepaper, but what’s the difference? It’s a teasing taste of the good stuff. 

It reminds me of the argument we have in B2B marketing about gating content.

Similarly, some marketers think of people getting content for free as theft. And sure, you might have a coffee with someone (or they read your blog post or download a whitepaper), and you might solve their immediate problem without money changing hands.

But, just like content marketing, you’ve built credibility, and maybe they may not turn into a customer immediately, but maybe they’ll recommend you, advocate for you in some way or when they figure out the problem is deeper than they thought they will come back, maybe next week, next month or next year. 

Plus, you’ve heard of the reciprocity principle in psychology, which folks are discussing more in marketing. In many situations, we are predisposed to try to pay back what we receive from others. Robert acknowledged this when he referred to a conversation with someone he advised for free; that they would find a way to pay him back. 

It takes and demonstrates confidence…

There is confidence in having faith in all of that, yes, maybe now and again, someone will take the piss, but if you only focused on shoplifters, you’d never open a shop. 

Being generous with your time and advice demonstrates the confidence that you don’t need to hustle for every advisory hour, which maybe suggests your value, a decent day rate. After all, you must be comfortable to be able to spend time with someone for free.

Do you want them to pick your brain or someone else’s?

And this advice isn’t just for those that sell advice by the hour. Who knows where a coffee conversation might lead? And, if it’s going somewhere good, like a new gig, you’d probably quite like them to pick your brain, not someone else’s! 

So, this Tuesday 2¢; listen to This Old Marketing and if someone asks to pick your brains, think like a content marketer and let ‘em.

The image was created using A.I. through NightCafe Creator

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