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April 19, 2010


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Great information and beautiful video quality.
Thanks for putting that together.


This is interesting but it seems easy for already-successful consultants, speakers, authors and marketers to feel comfortable giving knowledge away. There is nothing to lose. Whenever I hear this discussion raised again, I wonder what the implications are for my business, where my knowledge is ultimately my commodity. Clients call me and pay money for me to show them how to market - how does it benefit me or them to then hand that info out willy nilly?

David Meerman Scott

Chris - that is exactly the position that we are all in. That is how Seth and Tom and I got started, grew, and sustain our careers.

It is no different if you are starting out or on your 10th book. Give it away man!


Bret Simmons

Awesome, David. I preach the new rules of marketing and I hear the skepticism on giving all the time. But it is simply the most powerful posture available. Well done. Bret

David Siteman Garland

1. Visible Gains rocks.

2. I've learned this from the best (all three of you) and giving away content has been the number on long term income producer and relationship builder. This isn't theory as you mentioned, this is practice.


Giving begins the receiving process. This is a universal law.

As Seth says, you don't give with the intention of receiving but the universe has a way of making things equal.

Anne Sorensen

Thanks David. Great post .. and Visible Gains production - fantastic! Really sharp and love the editing.

Re free content - as a relatively new brand, I've contemplated this, particularly in respect to revenue goals. However like David S Garland, followed your lead and found it has supported my brand and ignited new relationships and business.

Perhaps providing free content and resources, reflects an abundance rather than scarcity approach to knowledge and creativity: eg 'There is plenty more where that came from' - rather than conveying that the knowledge is finite and therefore must be charged at every opportunity.

The internet has changed everything particularly business models. Agree with David SG, providing free content these days is just like helping people pre internet. It builds relationships and therefore is just the beginning of the business relationship. And like Chris says, being generous (online and offline) does seem to have its own rewards.

Tks for a thought provoking post! :)

Carolyn Winter

Your post reminds me of how this method of giving things away origninated with farmers - who take their goods 'to the market'. They often have samples for tasting knowing it is the way to win a sale.

As a kid I used to attend those markets with my farmer grandparents and what I remember was the conversation, the back and forth between buyers and farmers about the product, how they grew things, the weather, the implication of all that rain or lack of etc. That same experience today is a blog post, and/or other content and like at the market an opporutnity to know the seller and the back story of what you are buying.



Sound advice as always. In terms of ROI, there's even an advantage to it.

What I've found in all my content marketing experience is that you glean more value and insight from the interaction analytics you get via distribution. Those data alone are worth the cost of production and distribution.


Dave Martin

I totally get it but struggle to convince others in my trade association to give content away for free. It's a challenge when members pay for membership and part of the value proposition is that they get the content for free but the non-members do not. How do you rationalize this one, David? If you give away all the content for free then what's the value in becoming a member?


Hey, David --

On the white board in my office, I have a quote from Seth that says, "The enemy of an author is not piracy, it's obscurity."

Great quote.

You have several books out (mine comes out in October) and I'm sure we'd both agree with Seth (and Tom) -- spreading the word in as many formats as possible (free and otherwise) is the ticket to success.

Great video, by the way.

Jamie Turner
The 60 Second Marketer

kenny madden

Yep, yep, yep.

A lot of marketing teams are under pressure to deliver volumes and volumes of leads ( names)

IT vendors generally think more leads is better because it lowers the Cost Per Lead they have to pay and gives the sales team more activity. But this is approach. This approach makes as much sense as saying : Chrsitmas trees cause christmas" In fact in the long run it costs a lot more.
On average a software company will spend between $40 - $75K in additional “qualification” costs for every 1000 “leads”. (Read: Trade show leads, Whitepaper downloads etc, etc)
Alternatively, my recommendation for my clients is go where their buyers are and develop a demand generation program where you engage potential prospects buyers on their turf not yours. The clients who work from the outside in, tend to see much better results when focused on demand generation/opportunity creation as opposed to traditional leads.(registrations, name acquisition)

BTW: This is not my opinion , my opinion is irrelevant, I am just advertising what nearly 1 million IT buyers have told me.

Registration free:

Nicolas Vega

Interesting post David. I feel that a good part of marketers think if they protect their knowledge, will protect your value proposition and off course those clients continue to be sought their services. I think we must not fall into the trap of believing that the knowledge it own, the difference is about how we can use it to make diferent things (creativity). But it´s hard to understand this idea when you just begining. Today everyone could get to the blogs of gurus and learn a lot of things and them replicate them, but i don´t think that everyone could apply those things to their clients of the same way. This is the difference.

Erin Weed

Often times, the same information inspires different people in different ways. So "your" ideas may actually resonate with someone else in a totally new direction. The beauty of humanity is that we all think in unique ways, and it's our personalized spin on ideas that makes life interesting.

Carolyn Winter

Re: comments by SchwartenbachB / trade associtions:

The value of being a member of the trade association is to be part of a group recognized by peers (and so listed). You have to think of ways to leverage that basic recognition.

In our case The Repatterning Practitioners (trade) association, only paid practitioner members may join in and give away free sessions at our http://ww.worldpeacehologram.org site. If they do more volunteer work than others they may be a featured presentor at the site. All sessions actually work to promote the work of all member practitioners. Paid members also have a listing at the the only page where you can find a complete list of current practitioners who know the whole process and deliver it with a recognized level of competency (everyone may study and learn the protocal -few master it). They are given opportunities to be more visible than members who don't give away information/sessions, or non paying members with the content they give away (free sessions, articles, interviews, and recordings etc) through the organization. True - non-members may do the same things at their site only, but then they don't have the power of the group behind them.

The listings alone have brought back members that thought there was no value in the association once the quarterly paper newsletter stopped production and went online only. Current members who participate in the content 'give-away' programs so to speak, doing it more for the cause than the exposure, are delighted with the side benefits of having new clients show up. They actually had no idea how the whole thing works and are doing it from their heart.

Still not everyone in our association 'gets it' as the old advertising model is firmly embedded in the mass consciousness and hard to break. I am thinking of a repatterning for that! :)

David Meerman Scott

Some great comments here. Thanks for jumping in all.

Carolyn and SchwartenbachB on trade associations - Here is post called To gate or not to gate? Data from an ebook offer. It is from a trade organization called AIIM http://bit.ly/cuikOH


Roberta Guise

It's a hard pill to swallow for "solopreneurs" building their brands. But the advice is solid, and I'll advise my clients and colleagues to adopt it.

kenny madden

so, after a few months of researching and studying this stuff. (MORE importantly asking nearly 950,000 buyers.) The resounding answer is DO NOT FORCE ME TO Register.



Thanks David!
Totally agree... personally focusing on this to build my business as well. Feels right.

Mike Ramm

I totally support the idea to give something for free without expecting something in return. It will filter the people who are truely interested in your thoughts and ideas and who are ready to pay more in order to get more.

The only disadvantage to this approach is that those people would be too few but I believe that even few people can change the world if they have the strong intention.


Your video player needs a volume control for people, like me, using ear buds to listen.

Greg Digneo

I've actually tried and tested both methods of the exact same ebook that I've written. Everything was the same, including the landing page.

When I required the registration, I think the book got downloaded about 100 times. When I gave it away for free, it was downloaded over 10 times that amount. Not that 1000 downloads is a lot, but the results of the test were significant.

As a side note, the 1000 downloads doesn't count the amount of times the book was shared, and emailed among friends. That never happened when I required registration.

As far as sales were concerned (I'm a small business just starting out) they increased from 0 to a few new customers a month as a direct result of the ebook.

Give your stuff away for free. You'll be much better off.



Great ideas that you have. Something that I want everyone to take into account is that this way of sharing information is new and almost anyone is used to the "old" way of doing things.

My sales have increased when I show to people that I really care about helping them with what I know even if I don't make money off of that particular exchange. The free info (solution) creates goodwill and for me that's very important.

Great post and video!

Sergio Guzman

Deni Kasrel


Interesting that the whole idea of give and ye shall receive is seemingly new. It's actually pretty darn old.

In both the general sense and as applies to business.

Companies have given out free product samples for years. Free book excerpts are an old trick. Film companies often have free screenings to drum up word of mouth. So free as a form of currency has a long history of success.

That said, you bring up a good point about creating barriers to free, such as asking for too much information of people in order to get to the free. Free with strings attached may not fly as well.


As has been said, giving great content like reports and e-books away is fine once you're established, but it does not bring you what you need most in your business - leads.

Leads are the lifeblood of online businesses, and it's tough to make a living without them.

I would propose that what's needed is some clearer criteria for where to draw these lines:

------ The Paid Line -------

------ The Lead Line -------

------ The Free Line -------

Content provided above each of these lines has a purpose, and figuring out where each item you have should be placed is the key.

Would be great to see some criteria for deciding where to draw these lines for various content.

Farmville Expert

The people who produce content for the web should not be the people who produce content for print.Content publishers online require a completely different mindset from print journalists.

Julian Summerhayes


I have read nearly all of Seth and Tom's works but one book that should also be at the top of your list or you should comment on is the Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It takes the art of giving and beautifully describes how it works for the fictional characted Joe, resulting in 5 laws of success. The first law is particularly apposite. "Your true
worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment." If you read Linchpin and the chapters on giving and then the Go-Giver it just seems to make much more sense. I am lawyer but with a passion for personal development, business excellence and Social Media and if only I get the profession to see that although their true worth is tied up in the creative intellectual capital, over time it will become less and less valuable as the BRIC countries take a firm hold on the process parts of the job and they need to be ahead of the curve now and start thinking about the concept of giving as to how it can make a huge difference to their practice.

Great site and thank you for bringing these two artists together.

@ 0neLife


I have to get my cousin to watch this video! I was trying to tell him about giving away some free content on a site we are planning to do and I could see that he just didn't get it. I didn't explain it as well as your video. Thanks for making the video and sharing it with the world!


I agree that if you are master in your niche or expert in any area, you should share it for free and in return you will get for sure....i have seen this and believe it


I only partially agree with what Godin and Peters are saying. As someone working in the email marketing industry, I can say that an email address is a key asset in any company's database, even more so now that services such as flowtown (www.flowtown.com) are out there, allowing a company to create a social and demographic profile of a person simply by typing in their email address.
In B2B, but occasionally also in B2C, people may be interested in downloading a white paper, but then don't follow up with a purchase. By having the email address, the company has the opportunity to show its subscribers what other products they have, for example. If they didn't request that email address, how would they be able to market to them?
So, I'm in favour of giving away content for free, but up to a point.


I totally agree with you David.It is the basic law of Nature, you receive in the proportion you give away. A great thought provoking post!


david, i am discussing this "give away content" idea to B2B company that competes with companies much bigger in size and brand equity. Do you or anyone out there have examples of companies or people who, because they are aggressive thought leaders, have a level of awareness that is disproportionate to their size?

Jon Thomas

One of the greatest clips of video I've seen about the free economy. Thanks for putting it together and I couldn't agree more as to why giving information away for free can be so valuable to both a business and consumer.

It's more than just giving away a free sample, I feel. It's about giving much more than that. Not just about giving away a small bottle of shampoo to as many people as possible. It's about giving away a $100 (something of REAL value) basket filled with hair care products to a group of your loyal blog readers, converting many of them from just loyal readers to product evangelists.

I'm a huge fan of free, because I believe it's the cornerstone of content marketing.

Jon Thomas

David Meerman Scott

Thanks Jon -- I enjoyed putting the video together.

I agree on giving something of value. It has to be true value. I'm thankful that Tom and Seth gave me their valuable time for this "gift".

Dov Gordon | The Alchemist Entrepreneur

Hi David,

My problem with this kind of advice is that it's dogmatic. "Give your stuff away free without opt-in. That's the better way to become known..."

It advocates one method over another when the truth is that both are valid, depending on your goals and circumstances.

Just because more people downloaded an ebook that didn't require an opt-in doesn't mean that more people read it and benefited from it. When people pay a price, they're more likely to consume. On the other hand, there are times when you do want to get something far and wide, whether people end up consuming or not.

Thousands of people jump on the bandwagon of this or that "method" without ever stopping to really think about it. "What's really the goal for MY situation? What's the best way to achieve it? What's the best way to measure progress?"

As thought leaders, we need to be teaching people how to think, not just telling them what to do.

Dov Gordon

David Meerman Scott


This is a political discussion not unlike Conservative vs. liberal. You're correct - there is no "right" answer.

However, I see 90% of people advocating slapping email requirements on all their best content. Always. No exceptions. Then they wonder why their business is not growing.

I like to offer the alternative. You're free to take the advice. Or not.

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