“For it is in giving that we receive.” Francis of Assisi
“Why should I give free advice?” I often am asked this question when advising clients to blog, answer questions in public forums and generally offer professional insight to their audiences. It’s a reasonable question, since like most in the accounting profession, they want help increasing revenue and profit. Therefore it seems a bit incongruous to share valuable information for free, when their goal is to ultimately earn more money, right?
It’s not that they’re simply selfish, either – most of the individual CPAs and accounting firms I meet are committed to volunteer efforts and charitable giving that benefit the less fortunate in their communities. They just don’t see the direct connection between giving free advice and firm growth. That’s plausible, but trust me, the connection is there and it’s a powerful one. From a purely self-interested standpoint, here are three solid reasons it pays to share your knowledge:
Build respect. When you share professional insight – whether through original articles, informative content written by others or answering direct questions via social media – you’re establishing yourself as a well-informed authority and a resource to those who need information. Your name is automatically connected in the minds of those who see it with expertise and a willingness to help. Those are two perceptions with obvious benefit. If you found yourself with an unmet need that required specific knowledge and skills, wouldn’t a helpful expert with whom you are familiar be the first person you turned to?
Build relationships. One of social media’s strengths is its multi-directional nature. It’s not like traditional advertising, where you are talking to an audience who can’t respond to you directly. Your content invites interaction, inspires comments and initiates real conversation with colleagues and potential clients, among others. Your helpful explanations to those with questions are personal. A reference library is incredibly useful, but lacks the interactive fulfillment of a conversation on social media (or anywhere else for that matter). And again, when it’s time to fill a need, turning to the person you’ve come to know through your online conversations is the logical choice.
Build a mutual benefit. Sharing tips, advice and information is no different from any other kind of gift. It is recognized and appreciated as such by those who need or benefit from it, as well. Most human beings are reciprocal by nature. Because of this, your offerings and friendly interaction not only inspires goodwill and appreciation, but also a desire to return the favor. That can come in the form of greater engagement on your chosen platform but often translates to an almost automatic assumption that you will be the chosen service provider, should a need arise. At the very least, you will be among those seriously considered and investigated for the right fit.
Giving professional advice and information in a social media context must be handled carefully, of course. It would be neither responsible nor sensible to offer the same depth and detail in that venue that you would to an established client. Staying within the boundaries of ethics and logic, however, you can still make significant contributions that will pay off handsomely in terms of the reputation you build, the relationships you create and, ultimately, the number of new clients who seek your services.
About the Author:
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of bbr marketing, a firm that provides marketing strategy, implementation and outsourced services to professional services firms across North America. You can learn more by visiting www.bbrmarketing.com.