Social Media, Trade Secrets, and Why You Shouldn’t Give a Rip about the Competition

by Marcus Sheridan

I received an excellent comment last week in response to the transparency article I wrote regarding the way we run and market our businesses. Melody Giacomino was kind enough to ask a question in the comments section which, in my opinion, is representative of the very unfortunate paradigm a mountain of small and large businesses around the world share when it comes to their ‘issues’ with social media. She said:


I am in running the social media campaign for my company and it’s been a shift in thinking to make it happen. Here’s the pushback I get on transparency. While you are being transparent to your customers (a great thing) – you are also being transparent to your competitors (not so good)

What I mean by that is many of us work in crowded markets. Trying to differentiate yourself from your competitors by talking about what sets you apart also gives them all the info they need to sell against you. How do you balance that level of disclosure?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this concern mentioned to me by business owners over the past couple of years I’d be a rich dude. But let me be frank, the idea never has, nor ever will make any sense to me. Here’s why:

The Shocking Reality of Laziness

As I’ve discussed before here on this blog many times, I own a swimming pool company. Our brand is nationally recognized simply because our content marketing is prolific, and we’ve addressed a mountain of subjects in our field over the past couple of years.

Because I had so much success due to inbound/content marketing with my business, I figured other pool companies should also understand how this type of marketing can absolutely save businesses. (I know, this type of thinking doesn’t make sense to most people, but I’ve always believed in the principle that there’s room on top for everyone) This is why, for 3 straight years, I’ve taught seminars at the National Pool/Spa Show, explaining in detail every ‘technique’ our company has used to reach such incredible results with web marketing.

During this same time, the blog you’re currently reading has become a staple of marketing info for swimming pool companies across North America, many of which are my competitors here in the Virginia/Maryland area.

I mention these things not at all to brag, but rather to show that despite the fact I’ve directly or indirectly taught somewhere between 500-1000 swimming pool companies the power of inbound marketing, guess how many have effectively applied the techniques they’ve learned?

The answer, I’m sad to say, is about 15.

Yep, that’s it. About 1%.

Oh, and please don’t say it has to do with ‘skill’. If someone wants to be great at content marketing, ‘skill’ is easily one of the lowest requirements on the totem pole. But a desire? Yeah, it’s a must.

Sad but true.

Here is the thing– You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. 90% of all businesses, no matter how clear and present the truth is, will choose the ‘easy road’. And ultimately, because of this, most will fail. For the majority of folks, it doesn’t matter if you hit them over the head with a sledgehammer of truth, they still won’t get it. Such is life.

Please Stop With the Self Flattery, You’re Not Colonel Sanders

Colonel Sanders became famous because of a ‘secret’ fried chicken recipe. Sadly, many businesses today think they’re the second coming of ‘The Colonel’.

There are few secrets in this world. The ‘secret’ as to why businesses like Walmart, Starbucks, and McDonalds have been able to dominate their niches have been talked about again and again and again in books, TV documentaries, movies, case studies, reports, etc. Heck, the business model of McDonalds alone has been poked and prodded thousands of times by some of the greatest business and marketing minds ever.

Notwithstanding all of these in depth studies, how many Wal-Marts, Starbucks, and McDonalds are there? That’s right, just one. The blueprints for the company business model are plain as day for the world to see, but have they been copied yet? Has their business suffered because there are literally no secrets left?

I’d answer just the opposite. Their lore is even greater. Amazing, isn’t it?

So unless your business does more in sales each year than Sam Walton’s or Ray Crock’s little creation, please stop thinking your ‘secret sauce’ is anything more than thousand island dressing, will ya? ;-)

The Truth is the Truth is the Truth

Redundant statement, right? Well, here is the thing: I’ve talked again and again how effective content marketing and social media is a simple willingness to answer and address EVERY question a consumer has ever had regarding your product or service. For some reason though, certain bone-headed marketing departments feel that if they display said answers their competitors will somehow ‘find out’ their deepest trade secrets. Say what???

Seriously guys, let’s take a look at this for a second. Say I want to know something about a competitor of mine in the pool industry and their stance on a variety of pool installation topics. Would it be hard for me to find out anything I wanted to? Of course not. A simple phone call and 20 questions later would suffice just fine. Or maybe I could be a ‘secret shopper’ (as is done a million-times over around the globe) and really get all the nitty-gritty. The means by which businesses can extract competitor information go on and on.

When it comes down to it, if someone (a competitor) wants to know your stance or company doctrine on pretty much anything, they can find out.

Who’s Your Master?

I’ve seen companies whose marketing culture was run by their fear of what the ‘competitors’ might find out about them.

I’ve also seen companies who didn’t give a rip about what their competitors thought/gained, as their only goal was to provide excellence and value for their consumer base.

And guess which one of these two business approaches ended up on top every time?

The bottom line is this folks: Stop caring about the competition and start caring about your customers. Forget about this silly concept of trade secrets and know that your simple willingness to raise the bar in your industry and become a true thought leader in your field will lead to incredible business success, prosperity, and happiness for years to come.


Your Turn:

It goes without saying I’ve been pretty opinionated with today’s article, and I’d love to hear your take on this matter as well. Whether you agree with my thoughts or think I’m nuts, your opinion matters.  Also, has your fear of the competition(or your company’s fear of competition) ever affected your social media and content marketing approach? If so,  what were your reasons then and what is your strategy today? Jump on in folks, your questions, comments, and thoughts are always more than welcome. Have a great week everyone!! :-)


One last thing*** I’ll be giving another rockin webinar over at Spin Sucks this week. It’s about how content, when used properly, can drastically increase sales profits and closing rates. I’m seriously stoked about the innovative components of this class (some of which I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of), so I hope you will give it a look.

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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

John Sherry August 22, 2011 at 9:47 am

I think social media can bring out your personality and personability Marcus whether you are a business or an individual. It highlights who we are and promotes another side to us beyond our products and prices – it’s an all round 3D experience and that’s why we’re only just on the crest of an online wave in this respect. I have no idea why some companies don’t harness social media but I know that they won’t be in the top 10% bracket in their industry any time soon as a result. Marketing truth 101 – without social media I’m sure you and I would never have met or found out about each other, the same going for hundreds of others I’ve met this way, but I’m sure glad we have. Says it all doesn’t it??? Keep knocking ‘em alive Marcus!!


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

You’ve really got a special way with words and expression John. Even in a little comment like this, you seem to put things in ways that make you tilt your head back a little and think a lot deeper.

Appreciate the heck out of you my friend,



Walter Pollard August 22, 2011 at 10:03 am

Marcus, I couldn’t agree more. A passive stance by today’s marketer leads to the competition being a roadblock to their own success.

Who ever gets it first wins! As I tell my clients, hopefully it’s you and not the competition.

Another great post! Have a fantastic day.


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm

‘Whoever gets it first wins!’….Exactly Walter. You said it brother.

BTW, I think it’s time my fellow Hubspotter gut an avatar, that way we can see your handsome mug. ;-) Just go to and it takes like 30 seconds…and it’s free.

Talk soon,



Shonali Burke August 22, 2011 at 10:15 am

I think the other part to this is that even if you share your “secret sauce” with everyone – there’s one key difference – everyone is not you (and vice versa). So we can learn from each other, see how others do things, but when we try to put those same principles in place, they will change simply because a) we’re different and b) our circumstances are different. I actually think that’s a good thing, and it helps us to figure out what our secret sauce is.

It’s funny, because I get a lot of people asking me how I am “so successful.” Leaving aside the fact that everyone’s definitions, and perception, of success are different (I may not be “so successful” in my own mind, and I’m just using myself as an example, not bragging, but I think many of us get this question), there’s a very simple reason I can’t do exactly what, say Gini does, or vice versa – we’re different. So even if we think fairly similarly – and we do – the way we’ll approach our goals will be different.

Which is exactly why there is no harm in sharing. If anything, it positions you ahead of the herd because you are willing to teach and share, as well as learn.


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

You know it’s so interesting you bring this up Shonali because as I was writing this post, I was thinking the same thing, but because I was getting a little wordy, I didn’t bring it up as I probably should have. Luckily, I’ve got awesome readers like you that make great points. :-) Our individualism is what makes an ‘open’ social media approach such a viable one. Like you said, we’re all unique, and any attempt at replication will always be impossible.

Thanks for being so awesome Shonali!



Shonali Burke August 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I’m just glad I wasn’t pulling up the rear on your blog today, ha!


Eugene August 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Brilliant as always Marcus.

I think this a stand-alone post all in itself: “Stop caring about the competition and start caring about your customers. “


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Appreciate that Eugene. Really, this topic can’t be stressed enough man, and if a business makes the shift in focus, man do the opportunities open up!

Hope you have a great week bud.



Ameena Falchetto August 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Marcus, I always look at chef’s and recipe books for this.
The most famous chefs in the world publish their special recipes and all their tricks to succeed in the kitchen.
So how come nobody has bought their books, setup a great restaurant and take them out of business?
The beauty of what you do so well, inbound marketing, is that you share your trade and tips online.
I still haven’t seen anyone beat you and become the SalesLion2.

This is the crucial point in all this, the tactics aren’t secret, but the personal experience and the personality we put in execution is what makes the whole difference.

Ok, I’m back to learn more recipes to put these French chefs out of business, they are just crazy they published all their top dishes in a book! ;)


Shonali Burke August 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Not to mention Madhur Jaffrey when it comes to Indian cooking… ;)


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm

…but the personal experience and the personality we put in execution is what makes the whole difference.—-AMEN Ameena. That’s exactly it. I’ve never once worried for one second anyone could do a better remix of TSL. Why? Because my life experience is impossible to copy….as well as my goofy nature in general. ;-)

Great seeing you lady….so when is that next blog post coming btw??




Bryce Christiansen August 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Hi Marcus,

What you described in this post is the Baker’s perspective.

You see, sometimes when people see a pie they think., “Oh gosh, I better get as much as that as possible, since anything I don’t take will be eaten by everyone else.”

Then someone else comes along and goes, “Let them eat as much pie as they like, I can always bake some more.”

The truly wise marketers aren’t in the business of slicing pies, they are in the business of making pies.

It looks like you have learned that lesson early on.


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Hey Bryce! Love the ‘Baker’s Perspective’ analogy. Hadn’t heard it before, but fits perfectly.

To slicing pies my friend…and thanks so much for taking a moment to drop by!



Dave Van de Walle August 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Spot On.

You could apply this 15% rule to just about any industry – except, more than likely, the real number is going to end up being closer to 3%, IMHO.

And also, I’m a big fan of taking massive action.


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Hey Dave, so great to have you here sir. Yeah, I very much agree with your number…which is crazy when you really sit down and think about it.

To massive action my friend,



John Falchetto August 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Hi Buddy
If this was right, then we should shut down the medical schools, law schools and also conferences were people share their experience and practices.
I share what I have done successfully and not so successfully online, in every post.

Does this mean someone can pick up my methods, maybe even a competitor? I wish them the best because what works so well for me goes beyond the simple recipe, there is a strong personal experience factor that Melodie seems to have forgotten.

When it comes to social media and marketing, I have established myself very well in my niche and I wish my competition all the best.

There is no such thing as competition because in the end I can’t handle every person who needs coaching. Some will prefer to work with me others with my competition and that is great.


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Hahahaha, great analogy with the medical schools and such John. Very true.

You talked about sharing your experiences on your blog. And because you do that, there is always an incredible sense of transparency, openness, and reality. Could someone else come along and do everything in their power to become the next great ‘expat life coach’? Yeah, sure, but they’d sure as heck never be John F and they’d surely fail if their efforts and strategy weren’t developed from within.

Thanks for all bud,



Davina K. Brewer August 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Well said John.


Adam Sokoloff August 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Right on Marcus! If I had a nickel for every other sign shoppe and vehicle wrap company who downloads our offers. It happens all the time, yet not one has become a real threat.

I have to admit, in the beginning it was a bit scary putting ourselves out there. To a degree I had the same fears as most that you have described. Then I realized two important facts that changed everything. First – Vinyl, Ink, and Glue. In the wrap advertising industry there are different grades of wrap material just as I’m sure there are different grades of fiberglass pools. Was I foolish enough to think that our vinyl was a big trade secret? No! Second, was the competition as hungry in terms of creating content? Not a chance!

Man you’ve laid this out really well. In the end you really can’t give too much away. Content marketing is like dieting for most folks. They lose a little weight, then give up for something that tastes better, but makes you look worse.

Well done!


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I’m so glad you and I have connected Adam. We’re in very different industries but the stuff we’ve gone through is the exact same thing, and the principles we’ve found to be true are mirror images as well.

That’s the thing that folks simply MUST understand–whether it’s wraps, or pools or screwdrivers—the principles do not change.

Keep making it happen my friend. :-)



Christian Hollingsworth August 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm

This reminds me of what we were talking about on my blog in regards to copyrights. My opinion is that those who are lazy enough to copy your content on their blog – aren’t going to last very long anyways.

Same goes for competition.

If they’re lazy enough to copy your plans, ideas and thoughts in social media – they’re just going to fall off the map soon anyways. And people can smell a lack in genuine nature miles away. We feel it.


Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Yup. That’s exactly right. For example, Burger King once came out with their version of the ‘Big Mac’. How’d it do? Not too well. After a few months, it had faded into oblivion. That’s just how copying works….or should I say, ‘doesn’t work’. ;-)

Thanks for dropping by Christian,



Hajra August 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Really..Big Mac is still a big hit here…


Jk Allen August 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Marcus – I bet you knew, just as I did, that you would get comments or at least thoughts about giving too much to the competition. You did a post back in the day that covered this very topic at a different angle. If I recall correctly, my comment basically focused around the fact that competition isn’t that big of a factor because most company’s competitive edge is only effective because it’s built into the design of their operation (remember that). If I owned In and Out Burger and I gave away the ingredients to the special sauce, which everyone happens to love, it doesn’t mean that Fat Burger (or another specialty burger joint) would be able to take my business simply by offering the same special sauce. In fact, the special sauce wouldn’t taste the same on any burger…only an In and Out Burger. So if you dare to use the special sauce, you better change everything; seasoning, beef supplier, buns, fries, etc. And all of that makes it “not worth the trouble”.

While my competitor is worrying about gaining the competitive edge I’ll worrying about serving my clients with world-class service. In the end, I think that gives me the competitive advantage anyway – and it’s not even in my scope.

That’s my thought on this!



Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Great points brother, as always. In fact, to be honest, your comment got me a little hungry man. ;-)

Excellent analogy though bud.

Appreciate all your support JK,



Robert Dempsey August 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm

The figures you present for the number of small businesses that actually do what we prescribe are sad but true Marcus. Too many people look at what others in their industry are doing and simply do that. That is no way to differentiate.

As for the competition, I’m happy to tell them what I’m going because it’s more than likely they either won’t go as far or they simply won’t do what I’m willing to do. That applies to delivering services to customers as well as marketing.

For me the only competition I have is with myself – how to improve the experience I provide so that I can get more leads and customers, and pay the most to acquire each new customer I get.


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 9:54 am

Love what you’re saying here Robert– the competition is more with yourself, not with a bunch of folks that likely aren’t willing to pay the price and do what it takes.

That’s why you’re dang awesome brother. Thanks for stopping by bud.



Joanne Cipressi August 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Hey Marcus,

I love what you wrote, “Stop caring about the competition and start caring about your customers.” In my field, I don’t believe in competition…except within myself. I actually am relieved that there are more personal coaches these days than when I first began 12 years ago. I can not possibly heal the hearts of everyone. In my opinion, we all need to work together to accomplish this.
Regarding my social media and marketing approach, I have learned that social media marketing is much different for coaches and other self-help experts than product based and B2B industries. When I entered the social media arena on a professional level, 8 months ago, I was originally trained by people who were in the latter industries and was very frustrated because I was putting all this effort out and seeing no results. Finally, I stopped looking at others for social media advice and went with my gut feeling as to what was right to attract those that could really benefit from what I provide. Hence, I created my own little system that works and is continually refined as needed. Since then, I have been having amazing results and now help other self-help experts learn how to get found with SEO and Social Media, as well as manage some of their accounts. It feels good to help them avoid all the frustration that I went through because now they can focus more on what they are meant to do. :)


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Joanne, wow, this was great. I mean really great. :-)

It’s obvious you have a unique abundance mentality, and because of this, your business is growing and growing, and you’ve really carved out quite the unique niche. Way to lead the way lady!

So appreciate the comment,



Murray Lunn August 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Marcus, spot on man.

One of the hardest things I tried to push at my last job was the idea of transparency in social media and the business blog.

My reasoning is that “he who gives information, becomes the authority”.

Nearly all the competition failed to share the valuable information about the industry to customers. If we had began to share what we know about our products and industry, we would become the authority in the market.

We made major steps in creating really great documents for our customers but I wanted to see them freely available online so that interested parties could find us easily and see what we had to offer.

One side effect, about the business industry I worked for, was that there WAS a massive amount of foreign scammers that would go to the point of completely copying websites and even hacking to get customer lists – it was really cut throat.

Overall, a lot of things were loosened up and we were able to get a lot of information to customers which stepped up the conversions – it was definitely worth it in the long run.


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Murray, it’s awesome that a young guy like yourself was able to initiate a paradigm shift among your entire company. And I’m sure that experience is greatly helping you today as you run your own business as well.

Well done my friend, and thanks so much for the excellent comment,



Michele Welch August 23, 2011 at 10:06 am

Hey Marcus,

Can I just say that not too long ago I had a big aha moment and it had to do with this very thing. Not necessarily scared about giving up a “trade secret”, but rather giving too much information in fear that it will take away from my training products (which btw, are not even out ;-) ).

And here’s what I got, I was being stingy!! Yup, I said it. I’m a huge believer that if you want something in life, you have to give it. If you want more clients/customers, you have to help others get more client/customers. If you want more time, then you have to give of your time.

In reference to what you speak about, if you fear others will “steal” your secret sauce then guess what will happen? That’s what you will attract. Not only that, it will stifle your potential and your self expression and it won’t matter if they steal your ideas b/c you won’t be getting the results you want anyway, b/c you are too busy hiding out.

Maybe I’m as opinionated as you. ;-)

Awesome post as usual!


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Michelle, this was GREAT! Seriously, and I’m so glad you brought it up because when it comes to online stuff, many folks fear that too much good content will kill products, but that’s simply not true.

Fact is, even though someone may have heard or read something before doesn’t mean they fully ‘got’ it, or understood it, or applied it. Repetition is a very powerful thing.

Everything I teach my web clients is already found on my website. Seriously. It’s all already there, yet they keep coming, and coming, and coming……

You rock Michele. Thrilled you dropped in to share. :-)



Al Smith August 23, 2011 at 10:58 am

Wow, another shift in the old school way. we used to hear (and still do) “always know what your competition is up to” and now here comes this “Young, Inboung Marketing Guru” who tells us “Stop caring about the competiton and start caring about your customers.” How dare he ! Ha !

Well, I for one, am buying it, Marcus. Why ? Because it works. You are a perfect example of how. With all the knowledge, ideas, stats and info. you so freely share with us (and your competitors) that support what you are saying, I would be a fool not to buy into this.

Like you and your great commentors have said. We are all unique in what we bring to life. Customers and people in general can sense when someone is not genuine or real. That’s what makes the difference. Nobody can be me and I am sure not going to try and be someone else. Why would I ? It just don’t work.

Thanks again for another thought provoking and great post. You really do “Get It.”



Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm

You’re too kind to me Al, and I hope you know how much I appreciate it. Loved how you said:

Customers and people in general can sense when someone is not genuine or real.

That’s exactly it. And do you know what else? This ‘ability’ consumers now is getting greater and greater. So businesses better get with it soon.

Keep rockin bud,



Al Smith August 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

Of course I meant, inbounD marketing guru. Sorry.


Richard Scott August 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Great advice. It reminds me of people stealing content online. People try to duplicate what you do, but they fall short. This is because they are lax and don’t duplicate everything. They pick and choose what they want to go after not realizing that success is the entire package. Everything! They will never gain on those who put in the honest time, work and effort to master their craft and smooth out the kinks. Leaders will always be mimicked, but they are leaders for a reason. :)


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Leaders will always be mimicked, but they are leaders for a reason.

Dang straight Richard!! You hit the nail on the head brother.

Thanks so much for dropping by my friend,



Steve Roy August 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Why didn’t I start reading your blog a year ago?!? Another great article that touches on a very important topic.

The approach of taking care of your customer first and worrying about the competition makes so much sense. It’s amazing that it’s not used more often.

As a personal trainer, I’ve seen this mistake many, many times. Many trainers seem to think that they need to undermine other trainer in order to get more clients. They see everyone as a competitor.

Thus, we see shady things going on, deceit, and unethical behavior. All becasue they are trying to keep their training/marketing/promotion methods to themselves.

My opinion has always been that there are enough clients for everyone! How many people out there want to lose bodyfat? How many want better health? How many want to learn how to eat better? Millions upon millions.

It’s all about teaching people the truth and when that happens, you will have more clients than you can handle.

While many trainers are struggling in this lousy economy, it’s trainers like me who get unsolicited emails from people who love what I have to say (answering questions) looking for me to train them.

Like you mentioned in our interview, our goal is to become the person at the dance who doesn’t need to go looking for a partner, but rather be the person who gets to choose who they will take.

Sorry for going off on this tangent but your post really got me thinking…


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 9:23 am

Steve, this was such an awesome comment man, and I love how this ‘abundance mentality’ is applicable to every industry—from personal training to swimming pools and beyond. You really ‘get it’ my friend. :-)

Cheers bro,



Matt Medeiros August 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

It hasn’t changed my social media approach, but it certainly changed the way I produced products and service at my company in the early stages.


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 9:00 am

Thanks Matt!


Adam Toporek August 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm


You make some great points. I think there are certainly exceptions but would agree that they are fairly narrow in scope. I think people confuse skill and knowledge with execution — and execution is what truly separates competitors from one another.

I loved the stat you shared — 15%. That says it all right there.

Hope all is well. Good stuff!


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 8:55 am

Yep, 15%…and many of those folks are my clients…yikes. Having done this now for a couple of years, and watching how slow this massive ship is turning around, has honestly surprised me. Doesn’t mean I won’t keep pushing though. ;-)

Thanks for the comment bud, hope your week is going well.



Brankica August 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Hey Marcus, I really can’t add anything to this. You can’t be more right. If companies worried more about customers they would not need to worry about the competition. There would be none, because if the customers are satisfied they are not going anywhere.

This is really a great piece and since I can’t say anything smart, I will just say that I am including this in the round up this weekend, I really hope more people read it and learn something!


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

You added a lot here Bran! ;-) So appreciate all your support and thanks for putting it in your round-up! :-)



Dagi Cueppers August 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I know a company (B2B Services Industry) who is so fearful of exposing trade secrets to their competitors that they keep their best marketing material hidden from the public. They show it only in client presentations. If they put it out there on the web, it would tell a story of success, innovation, and industry-leadership that would travel far and wide. They choose to relinquish the opportunities that would ensue because they don’t want to give their competitors the opportunity to copy their processes…

So now they are creating a real disadvantage for themselves just to make sure they are not creating an advantage for someone else… How sad is that?

When you try to hold on to things very tightly, you always lose. That’s true in business, too.

I loved reading this, Marcus. Thank you for sharing!


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

Holy cow Dagi! That is a crying shame! Talk about allowing paranoia to ruin your entire marketing department and brand– that is it…jeez….

And yes, the concept of ‘holding on too tightly’ is certainly applicable to product/company info. Great analogy…and great comment too!

Thanks so much for dropping by Dagi :-)



Michael Schechter August 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Wish it were that easy buddy, but this is often a logical answer to an emotional problem. There is nothing that you said here that isn’t spot on, but in some cases some powers that be are going to have to retire or die before this common sense becomes all that common…


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

No question Michael. In fact, I’ve been thinking about starting a new business: ‘CEO Elimination Inc’….Whatcha think?? ;-)


Michael Schechter August 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

To be honest, it lacks subtly… if we call it Old Yeller Inc., I’m totally in!


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm

hahaha, well played sir ;-)


rob white August 24, 2011 at 8:26 am

Powerful article today, Marcus. Indeed agreed, tt does not much matter how many tips or “secrets” you share, the reality is most folks just are not willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. We are the initiating force in our lives and if we don’t experience this it is for one of two reasons: Either laziness of mind or laziness of action.

It reminds me of the dominance of African distance running (Kenya and Ethiopia for instance). People would have you believe there is a secret training program or something they are missing. The reality is the training regimes and schedules are quite transparent. However, when it comes to putting in the “hard yards” only few are willing to do the work. The same rings true whether it be in business, relationships or spiritual growth etc.


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Either laziness of mind or laziness of action.

So simple yet so inherently true my friend. Love how you put that.

Appreciate you dropping by Rob, hope you’re week is a great one.



Sean Hession August 24, 2011 at 10:09 am


Absolutely agree. Vince Lombardi once said he would not only give his opponent the Packers play book, he would tell them the play he called. It’s not about secret strategy (though you do need strategy); it’s about execution. I co-founded a compnay that went from zero to $40M revenue in five years and told everyone what we were doing, even government managers. We hid in plain sight. And the more people learned what we did, the more they came to us, even when a lower cost alternative emerged.


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Sean, love the Lobardi reference. I’d forgotten about that one, but yep, that’s exactly how he rolled. Even better, he had the shortest playbook in the NFL…just did everything exactly perfect. Simple model, profound results.

Really appreciate you dropping by Sean!



Marlee August 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

Yo Marcus!
This article is off the CHAIN! Really, really, really – I think this is on of my favorite on this site. You points are beyond valid and compelling.

Here’s what I’ve found that is at the crux of what you are saying. Many, many, many business owners operate out of a SCARCITY mentality. They think there isn’t enough to go around. They think they have to keep “THEIR” customers from shopping around or dealing with “COMPETITORS.” This mindset is so detrimental to the growth of a business – especially as business practices and relationships evolve today.

The truth is there is more than enough to go around, and when you start focusing on those you are meant to serve instead of your “competition” you’ll be making much more valuable investments of time into the things that are actually going to set you apart from the competition you’re so worried about.

Get to the root of the problem (which is your mindset), so you can get to the fruit in your business (growth).



Tammi Kibler August 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I agree, Marlee.

Whenever you can get beyond the competition mindset to the co-promotion stance, you will find win/win and growth. So much of the mission at McDonald’s and Burger King is the same – encourage people to buy fast food rather than prepare food at home. Every personal coach agrees we would all benefit if we had a personal coach. Each also knows that she alone could not provide service to every person that would benefit.

I agree we have to stop thinking about the competition and stealing their customers and focus on attracting customers. Yes, some will come from our competition, others will simply have come because they realized they need what we sell. Every town has residents who do not visit the dentist, so local radio in my area has ads encouraging dental visits. “Got milk?” ads don’t tell you whose milk is best or worst. They co-promote and everyone in the industry benefits.


Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Get to the root of the problem (which is your mindset), so you can get to the fruit in your business (growth).

SWEET!! Easily the quote of the day Marlee.

Have I ever told you you’re awesome??

Marlee, you’re awesome. :-)



Tammi Kibler August 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hi Marcus,

Boy, did this post hit home with me this week. I have been talking to a client who wants to launch a fresh website and marketing campaign without a blog and without social media.

I heard some of the same objections – competitors will learn their secrets – and a few new ones too. What surfaced in our conversation was a fear that maybe this would get too big. Their boutique service is looking to add four clients per year. It would apparently be a horror show if more than four clients started knocking on the door.

I suggested they would not have to take on any clients they could not handle, but having more than four interested, eager prospects would allow their company to choose only ideal clients. I think I saw the light bulb go on. I guess I should go turn up the wattage.



Marcus Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hey Tammi!! And thanks so much for stopping by with this comment. :-)

Yes, you’re exactly right. The last time I checked, being able to ‘choose’ which client you want was a great thing, right? And the minute we’re able to choose, our prices and profit margins go up.

Ahhh yes, such is the beauty of great marketing. :)



Davina K. Brewer August 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm

“Stop caring about the competition and start caring about your customers.” This was what jumped at me because I half agree: focus, always always on the customer yes. Marcus that starts with understanding them and their needs and what your core strengths are to help provide products or services they want, need.

Caring about the competition? Well… we shouldn’t make the mistakes like Dagi suggested, miss the opportunity to truly position ourselves, what makes us different, better, smarter, more fun at parties than the other guys for fear of giving away that secret sauce. But IMO that does NOT mean you ignore them. Competition exists for a reason. There are examples of superior products taking over on their way to global domination (Google); Betamax was supposedly better than VHS, yet look who won and why; Apple is setting the bar but not ignoring what others do as it wipes HP off the map. Look at the companies gobbling up patents like their covered in bacon or chocolate.

John’s example about schools, conferences, his blog. There isn’t one-size fit all for anything .. hotels, cars, computers, etc. The differences (product, service, experience, PEOPLE) are what drive value. No we can’t and shouldn’t try to be all things to all people; but we need to know what sets us apart, our core and strengths (I know, I need to fix this for myself) .. and be able to present that to that customer we really care about, how THAT is what makes us the right fit for THEM. FWIW.


Marcus Sheridan August 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Hey Davina, another great comment here, as always. :-) When it comes to the competition and not caring, I actually agree with what you’re saying. We should watch our competition, but we should not base our social media strategy on the fear of our competition. Does that make sense? It’s crazy that we allow ourselves to set up roadblocks in customer trust simply because we think a competitor my oddly get an advantage.

Hope you have an awesome weekend Davina!



Hajra August 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Ok, reading the comments took much longer time, but it was worth every word!

I can’t add anything more to this. Focusing on customer needs and working on them is probably the secret recipe. Makes the customer feel special and who doesn’t want to feel that way!

And that chicken you mention… my mom is still trying her hand at unraveling it; till then we are just thankful that there are so many outlets here! ;)


Marcus Sheridan August 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Yep, we all want to feel special, that’s for sure Hajra. I think that’s one of the great keys to blogging, business, and life in general.

GREAT point!



Jens P. Berget August 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Hi Marcus,

I was looking at the image, and wow, finally I got the Big Mac secret sauce recipe :)

I have also been thinking about the question Melody asked you, actually I have asked you this a long time ago. One of the companies I work with asked me this question, or rather told me that they didn’t want to do anything about content marketing, just because they didn’t want their competition to know what they were doing. So, that’s why they still keep pushing messages on social media. The only thing they ever publish is “Congratulate us, we won another contract” – every single message is about them.

To me, it’s amazing that so few seem to understand the real power of inbound marketing. For instance, I talked to the leaders of a political party in my town the other day. I talked about inbound marketing, and they had decided to create videos that are going to show a personal message for each of the top 10 candidates before the election. I told them that they should also create videos about the rules of the election, and how to vote. A lot of people are kind of scared to vote, because they haven’t voted before, and they’re afraid that they’re going to do something wrong. The leaders thought it was a great idea, and now they’re going to create those videos as well :)



Marcus Sheridan August 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Jens, you political strategist you!! Great story man. And that’s the thing– these principles apply to politics no differently than they do to business. All the same thing.

You’re awesome bud,



pea August 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Actually I agree with your thoughts AND I think you’re nuts, which for an entrepreneur can be a great combination, e.g Richard Branson. I came to the same realization as you in business that worrying about the competitor stealing your thunder is a waste of time, because as you say, barely any of them will follow through. It is the same reason millions of people buy self help books every year and yet their income does not increase, they don’t acquire the lifestyle they wish for, shucks few of them even finish reading the books.

The person who would actually follow through strongly on the revealed marketing secrets from a seminar, would be the same can-do person who would put in the ground work to find out someone’s company secrets any other way, in any case. I’m with you totally on this one.


Marcus Sheridan August 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Pea, glad you think I’m nuts, because I am. :-)

Love your analogy of the self-help industry. Wish I had used that one in my post. It’s one of the biggest industries in the publishing world yet so few people actually apply the principles. That’s just reality. And it’s also why there will always be room for more self-help books.

So appreciate your comment though Pea and I hope you’re able to stop by again in the future.

Big smiles,



Beth August 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I’m lucky to work for a company who believes several things with regard to social media and Internet marketing:
[1] The more information we give a customer, the more secure he or she is in their decision to buy from us or buy our product (and the less likely they are to return their purchases.)
[2] There are no big secrets in industry. If a competitor wants to find out about our product offering or see our prices, they’ll find a way. The information is out there.
[3] The efforts we take to hide information from our competitors creates a kind of “Sales Prevention Department” that we force customers to fight through.

The lesson: A company won’t survive by digging a moat or installing a drawbridge for their castles of knowledge. Efforts to keep out competitors will also keep customers from heading their way, too. The more accessible you are, the more you build trust and relationships.


Marcus Sheridan August 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Beth!! This….was…AWESOME!! And I’m in love with that phrase ‘Sales Prevention Department’….hmmm, going to steal that one I’m sure. ;-)

Sounds like you work for one heck of a company that actually ‘gets it’. Beautiful!

Thanks so very much for dropping by,



MamaRed February 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Love that, the “Sales Prevention Department” … great way to describe that process, succintly and clearly.

Thanks Beth and thanks Marcus for starting such a great conversation.


Tash August 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm

I started reading your post without having thought about social media “helping my competitors”. I read Melodie’s question and thought it was interesting as my first response, but you’re right – so many competitors wouldn’t take the time to study and copy me anyway so I can be as transparent as I wish :)

My blog is full of tips that theoretically could put me out of work but I figure I have a skill that would take time to replicate, I have broader knowledge to use for clients, my service saves businesses time and worry, and sharing information is just right so I don’t worry about anyone reading my social media to copy me.

Like Eugene, I love “Stop caring about the competition and start caring about your customers” as that’s what is important in business.


Marcus Sheridan August 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Hi Tash!! Sounds like you really ‘get it’ when it comes to your approach to educating others and giving value online…and not worrying about silly competitors that really mean squat in terms of success of the long haul.

Just keep that up and I’m sure your business will only continue to grow.

Thanks so very much for taking a moment to comment. :-)



MamaRed February 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Oh my goodness…this brought back memories when first I thought “eek, they’ll get my secrets.” Seriously Mama? That’s what you’re going to focus on. Sigh, life provides so many lessons.

Then the other thought was when I was doing something called single-sourcing (a strategic way of slicing and dicing content then using technology to assemble content into products as needed).

One of my competitors, also an acquaintance had a thick book out on the topic, had a Phd, big clients. The whole schebang.

I was 100% convinced there was no room for me because I could look at her stuff and see that she “had it all covered and had better creds”. I wouldn’t listen to my partner or sales person.

I was the one who got the shock of my life when a student from Germany wrote asking for my advice about the topic. Seems her professor had found a white paper I had written discussing the basics and had the students using it as a 2 week assignment.

They were also assigned the book I mentioned. We’ve since become friends and her comment was “we all wished you had more content because the book was SOOOOOOOO boring and yours was fun.”

Talk about a mindset shift. DOH.

Took a while for it to sink in and now I realize my clients are the ones that like my off the wall humor, my different name, my way of saying it like it is.

I sincerely hold the picture that there are others who realize it is their uniqueness which makes the special sauce special, not publishing their content.

Wow, I’ve put a comment 3 places today…guess you got my attention Marcus! That and the amazing comments to your posts. I’ve spent the last hour reading stuff so guess it’s time to get off my butt and get to gettin’.

Big hugs, many blessings


Marcus Sheridan February 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Well a big HELLO to you MamaRed :) Loved this story, and yes, we all have own uniqueness that’s going to help us mesh better with certain audiences because of said uniqueness.

So glad you got a chance to look at some of the comments on the blog and I do hope you’ll visit the community again!



MamaRed February 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Thanks for responding Marcus. You’re stuff is definitely a wonderful guide. One of my challenges has been creating blog posts and found such inspiration from you.

Big hugs, many blessings


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