Free Marketing Advice: How Far Is Too Far?

How much of our intellectual property should we be willing to give away to win a client’s business? Many prospects are willing to pay for creative ideas — some have been shamed into it, while others have finally placed a value on the time an agency will have to invest in conceiving, writing and designing creative ideas.

Email Roundtable: Creative Insights You Can StealAnyone who works in business development at an agency has encountered this dilemma: An RFP includes a request for a detailed set of strategic and tactical marketing recommendations that would solve some very specific business challenges.

But a recent RFP went even further: Forecast the response expected from each media channel recommended, and include proof of concept by detailing how that idea in that channel delivered for another client. Anyone in their right mind who answers this question is giving away proprietary results! Yet, we all know that if we don’t comply with the RFP, we can pretty much count ourselves out of consideration in the next round of reviews. But how much of our intellectual property should we be willing to give away to win a client’s business?

Many prospects are willing to pay for creative ideas — some have been shamed into it, while others have finally placed a value on the time an agency will have to invest in conceiving, writing and designing creative ideas (although we all know we never get adequately compensated).

However, there are other challenges facing our industry on price, value and just plain old fashioned respect. For example I’ve noticed that if someone does ask for some free marketing advice in a public forum, many experienced marketers will provide very thoughtful and insightful answers. But others are quick to dismiss the ideas that others present in order to promote their own answer. After I was publicly shamed for one of my recent responses, I decided the public forum may not be the best place to participate in a thoughtful discussion on marketing challenges.

Many new startups in Silicon Valley spend time on a site called Founders Dating, seeking advice and counsel on everything from marketing to HR, technology to investor-related challenges. Even after I responded to a question that was right in my wheelhouse of expertise, there were over 200 “experts” chiming in with their advice – so how could the individual raising the question possibly know what they should do next?

I’ve heard loads of complaints from creative freelancers about clients who were unclear in their initial direction, but were unwilling to pay for round after round of revision. And other freelancers admit that they’ve done work at a cut-rate price because the pipeline for new work has dried up, so they’re giving away their expertise. Still, others are complaining that all the new grads flooding the marketplace are driving costs down.

Are you feeling the same pinch — the same lack of respect for your experience or ideas? Should we all just retire and open a food truck?

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

5 thoughts on “Free Marketing Advice: How Far Is Too Far?”

  1. I like what Patricia Fripp does when asked for free advice. She says, “I charge $500 an hour for advice. I will give you 5 minutes free starting now.”

  2. When I was involved in RFPs at an agency, I did shake my head at some of the expectations … including wanting high-level concepts for creative! As a freelancer, I’ve been fortunate to have clients who value my experience and work, and who are willing to manage revisions per my estimate or ask for a new estimate when the scope/direction changes. Of course, those are the type of clients I seek rather than the ones expecting a blog post for $5.

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