Flat Tires & Pouring Concrete: A Marketing Lesson for Small Businesses

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Small Biz Marketing by Matt McGee on May 16, 2014 16 Comments
My bike, its front tire flat as a pancake yesterday.

My bike, its front tire flat as a pancake yesterday.

What would you do if you’d gone 35 years without changing a flat tire on your bike?

On Wednesday, I decided to call an expert.

Mike Watkins and his small business — Roundabout Cycling, a mobile bike repair service — had just been featured in our local paper earlier this week. I told him I didn’t trust myself to do it right after three decades, and Mike promised to come out, fix my flat tire and give my bike a general tune-up, too.

While we were on the phone, Mike said he’d be happy to educate me so that I could do it all myself next time. “I don’t mind giving my knowledge away,” he said.

Did you catch that? “I don’t mind giving my knowledge away.”

This guy really gets it, I thought to myself. I was sold. Didn’t need to hear anything else.

Mike came out yesterday. He spent an hour with me in the garage and driveway, walking me through the tire change, teaching me how to adjust the brakes, tune the derailleur, do something called “wheel truing” and even showing me how to loosen and tighten the spokes on the wheel. (Confession: I didn’t even know you could loosen and tighten spokes.)

When he was finishing up, I told him it was fascinating and incredibly educational.

“Now you can do it yourself next time,” he said.

“I’m still gonna call you next time,” I said.

How To Pour Concrete

Story No. 2: We’re going to be adding some rock beds to the landscaping here at Casa McGee, and I have a specific vision: I want the rock bed to have a thin, concrete edging. All of the lawn edging products at Home Depot are ugly and plastic and not what I want. But a nice, thin concrete strip all along the bed will be perfect.

I figured I’d buy some quick-drying concrete at Home Depot, dig up the space myself, pour the concrete and put the rocks in. Not easy, but something I could do myself.

I went to Beaver Bark, a local garden center, to price out different kinds of rocks. Right on top of the rock display, I found exactly what I needed: a brochure titled “Redi-Mix Concrete.”

When I got home and opened it up, this is what I found: (click for larger version — seriously, do it)


That’s more about making a concrete patio, not edging, but it took less than 30 seconds for me to figure out that this is not something I want to do by myself.

Beaver Bark gave its knowledge away — told me exactly how to do what I want done — and convinced me not to do it myself.

The Marketing Lesson for Small Businesses

If you provide a service based on skill and expertise, giving your knowledge away will attract customers.

I guarantee it.

I’ve been preaching this for years, and some small business owner will always object this way: “If I tell people how to do what I do, they won’t need me to do it.”

Actually, in the vast majority of cases, I bet as soon as you tell people how to do what you do, they’ll realize it’s better for them to hire you to do it, rather than try it themselves. Sure, there are some really great D-I-Y types out there — people that would pick up that concrete-making brochure and decide to do the work themselves.

Guess what? Those people, the D-I-Y types, were never gonna hire you in the first place.

But the rest of us, people like me, are gonna see your expertise and realize it’s a better investment than trying to do something new ourselves.

Mike the bike repair guy summed it up perfectly: “I don’t mind giving my knowledge away.” He’s gonna do very, very well with that attitude.

You will, too.

Share your knowledge: start a blog, create white papers, do an online guide explaining how to do what you do, find other ways to position yourself as the expert. And — as long as you really are an expert and good at what you do — your phone will start ringing. Promise.

Comments (16)

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  1. Jason Lancaster says:

    It’s an excellent point, one that works quite well in the auto industry too.

    BTW, the “how to pour concrete” instructions had me at step 1 when they said “this will be a monument to your poor planning.” Maybe part of the trick is convincing readers that screw-ups will be hard to live down…

    • Matt McGee says:

      That’s true, Jason. Though I wouldn’t call it a “trick” — in many cases, it’s just a fact. :-)

  2. Matt, I loved this post so much. Such a perfect slice of life, completely unassuming. You didn’t set up these examples, they are real and spot-on to make the point you’ve been making for forever on this blog. This one’s getting printed out for my keeper notebook, for sure.

  3. JohnT says:

    Great! Just great!!

    These are the type of stories that every small business needs to hear.

  4. Matt Siltala says:

    I think this is exactly why I get a ton of business after speaking. I do my best to show & give real examples. I lay it out for them. They realize they don’t wanna do it & come to me anyway. 100% agree & I’ve been preaching this forever too, Matt. Thx for these examples.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Yeah, I think it’s why SEOs — and all online marketers, for that matter — do as much speaking and blogging and writing as they do. First you prove your own expertise, and second you prove to others that hiring someone is smarter than doing it themselves.

      Heck, back when I was a consultant, this blog brought me all kinds of leads. Just from giving away my knowledge in articles.

  5. Robin Moody says:

    Great article Matt.

    This is so spot on. I was discussing some reports recently and someone asked, why tell them exactly what you do, they can just go replicate it. I was like, no once they see how painstaking and difficult it, they will be glad to pay for all these steps.

  6. Scott says:

    Well put, Matt – A long time ago a client asked me why I “give away so much information” on how we do our job, and asked “don’t you think that hurts business?” and I made some of the similar points you did, primarily, that “the DIY types weren’t going to hire you in the first place”. He was surprisingly reluctant though, for quite a long time, to give away what he felt were “secrets of the trade” – but once he did he was much better off. ,

  7. GREAT article – zen in its simplicity, powerful in application: give generously with an open heart, and it will come back to you tenfold.

  8. Mark Flan says:

    Very good points. I used to work in a large DIY store and we used to produce “how to” leaflets, that showed how the everage person can do it themselves. Sale increased though it, but many still got others to do it for them.
    They just needed the confidence to know what the job was about, and how to check if it had been done right.

  9. Alan says:

    Great article. Sometimes it’s better to give knowledge away and prove you’re an expert rater than just claiming to be one and hoping for the sale. A valuable lesson for small businesses!

  10. Couldn’t agree more about the ‘giving it away for free” approach. Some call it the “drug dealer” approach. The first hit is free…then when they’re hooked they’ll gladly pay! Thanks for sharing, nothing could be more true for the small business community. Show your thought leadership and expertise by sharing it, for free, with everyone. Nice.

  11. Jay Keeler says:

    I’ve always been a fan of the “90%” approach to giving away search marketing info and knowledge. The first 90% shows that you know what you’re talking about, but the last 10% is the special sauce that’s kept in-house. It ensures that people don’t talk your smarts and use them all up themselves. Love this title by the way, definitely made me want to read more!

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