Giving Away Your Ideas to Win New Business

Posted March 28, 2013

A few people are going to steal your ideas.

Not a lot, and certainly not as many as people might think, but a few will.  Yet whatever that number is, it pales in comparison to the number of people who will hire you, recommend you, and rave about you as a result of the ideas you shared freely.

Expert writing on wall

When you’re in a service business, there are few ways to land a new client more powerful than being given the opportunity to show them how smart, creative and innovative you are.  You’re showing them you’re a thought leader, and people like to work with thought leaders.

Unfortunately, many people are so worried the client will take their ideas and have a competitor execute them, they clam up in a presentation meeting.  They focus on past work, show their portfolio, maybe get to know the client and the project details, but they hold back on sharing any new ideas.

I’ve got some great insights and ideas for you,” they’re saying, “but you’ll have to hire me first to find out what they are.” 

Whey I ran my event company, I would have loved to follow a competitor like that in a pitch meeting.  After I’d impress the client with my thinking, show them how much I understand what they’re looking to accomplish and freely brainstorm with them, the competitor didn’t stand a chance.

Yes, you should get paid for your ideas.  And I did – only after I got hired.  It seems strange, I know, but the truth is many times we’d land a job largely based on ideas I’d already given the client for free.

No one will argue that it’s unethical for a client to take your idea and have someone else produce it.  Morality aside, however, it’s simply bad business, and it’s counter-intuitive to the client’s best interest, which is why so few actually do it.  After all, they’d be taking a risk that the competitor will be able to execute your ideas properly.

But the deeper reason is that the client’s more likely to bond with you, be inspired by your passion, and want someone with your creativity by their side during the execution phase.

Plus, think about how the different confidence levels speak about a company’s expertise.

  • One vendor is saying, “I know others can execute my ideas, so I’m worried you won’t need me if I give them to you.” 
  • The other is saying, “The ideas I’m giving you now are only part of what I bring to the table.  I may modify them, change them, or give you even better ones while we work together.  And in any case, no one can execute them the way I would.  I’m not worried about your ability to find someone else to run with my ideas, because they’ll never measure up to what I can do for you.”

It takes a bit of a leap of faith, and you have to believe in your value, but once you start thinking this way, you’ll see what a powerful way it is to win new clients.

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