Intellectual Property (IP) is the stuff you know. In fact, it’s the stuff only you know. It’s your understanding; your specialist knowledge; the way only you know how to do something. It’s your unique creativity and it’s what separates you from everyone else in business.
So why would you want to give this magical stuff away if it’s the basis of why your clients come to you?
Well, giving away your IP is like putting your head above the parapet, it’s what makes you stand out from the crowd when everyone else is too scared to give theirs away for fear of someone stealing it.
IP does have enormous value and is very often the basis of an entire company and its success. Think of the recipe for Coca Cola or Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Letting that out of the bag would probably cause both companies to collapse – and that’s precisely why IP is protected by law. In fact there’s a whole sector of law that deals with protecting IP alone because it can be so valuable and so incredibly complex.
So, giving yours away sounds like a really daft idea, right? Not so. Not if you’re careful and selective about what you give away.
The rules are really very simple:
- Understand and accept that it’s really good to give away [some of] your IP.
- Carefully select what you can give away that others, including (yes, including) your competitors, will see great value in. There’s no point whatsoever giving away valueless IP. People will see straight through that.
- Understand that you can give away what you do but not how you do it. Read that again, it’s vitally important to know the difference.
- Give it away, paying special attention to the word ‘give’. It means asking for, and receiving, nothing whatsoever in return. Don’t give with one hand and take with the other. Just give.
- Do not use the act of giving IP away as a vehicle to sell your services. You see it all the time; people saying “Here’s my FREE top-ten tips for how to get the very best from your online print service” … and if you need help with your stationery I run a graphic design service. This is not what giving IP away is about. By giving away your IP you will become known for what you do and this will naturally lead to more business walking through the door.As mentioned above this is about putting your head above the parapet. There will probably be many companies (competitors) sharing your market and whilst you each have your own IP, your own way of doing what you do, if potential customers find your competitor before they find you (and they don’t know you even exist as a result) you will lose your potential customer to your competitor regardless of how unique you are. So be brave and put yourself out there and be one of the few who stands out from the many.
All you need to do now is figure-out what makes you unique. Why do your customers really buy from you? What are you known for? What is it that you do that nobody else can replicate?
It’s harder than you think to get to the bottom of these questions but when you do, you’ll understand what your IP is and then what you should be giving away.