Want to know how it's possible to make money giving away your expertise for free? Listen as internationally recognized sales expert and speaker, Jill Konrath, shares how she's built a successful business attracting companies who pay her to give away her knowledge and expertise.
In this week's powerful podcast episode "How to Make Money Giving Away Your Expertise for Free" you will discover...
Susan Friedmann: Welcome to book marketing mentors, the weekly podcast where you learn proven strategies, tools, ideas, and tips from the masters. Every week, I introduce you to a marketing master who will share their expertise to help you market and sell more books. Today, my special guest is an internationally recognized sales expert and speaker. Jill Konrath is the bestselling author of four books: Selling to Big Companies, SNAP selling, Agile Selling, and More Sales, Less Time. With over a quarter of a million followers, in 2018 and 2019 LinkedIn named Jill as their number one business to business sales expert. Plus Salesforce selected her as one of the top seven sales influences of the 21st century. Wow, Jill, what an honor it is to welcome you to the show and thank you for being this week's guest expert and mentor.
Jill Konrath: Hey, I'm delighted to be here.
Susan Friedmann: Well, Jill, We go back a long time. I remember as we were saying 15 years ago, when I asked you to present at the speaker school of the new England chapter of the national speakers' association, and you just made it big time with your best-selling books, Selling to Big Companies. A lot of water's passed under the bridge since then.
Jill Konrath: You're absolutely right.
Susan Friedmann: I just recently attended a webinar interview that you did with my dear friend and colleague, Rebecca Morgan, talking about how you've made really big money giving away your information for free. So many of our listeners, Jill, have such a hard time with that concept of giving this stuff away for free. I thought let's dig into that and find out how you've done it. And some of the things that they could learn from you in terms of your brilliance.
Jill Konrath: Where do you want to start?
Susan Friedmann: Where should they start?
Jill Konrath: Let me just give a little history lesson about me in terms of where I discovered this concept, because I think it helps people to have a frame for what we're talking about. In 2008, I was reading an article by Chris Anderson from Wired magazine and I'm not really a tech geek at all, but for some reason I saw this article and said, free is the future, free is the future. And I'm thinking, shoot on my website I'm trying to sell things for 19.95 for an ebook. And I've got teleseminars and recordings and all this kind of stuff. And I'm looking at going, "I actually hate selling that stuff all the time on my website." I mean, I am in sales and I'm telling you having to push things for low cost just seems so awful to me. And so I love the concept about giving things away for free at that.
How can I do that? I mean, the truth is anybody can give stuff away for free. But the question I asked was "How can I give away my stuff for free or my expertise for free and make good money doing it?" Now that's a whole different question. It's not like I'm totally giving the world everything that I have for free. But I'm giving a lot of stuff away for free and I'm still getting paid for it. To me that forced me to start thinking along different paths in terms of, how might I be able to do that? And then because I asked a different question, opportunities came to me that I started to recognize and capitalize on them. That's kind of how I got started.
Susan Friedmann: Even the listeners wanted to do that themselves. How could they get started?
Jill Konrath: Again, let me share with you some of the things that I did, the things that came my way early on when after asking this question and the six months after asking the question, a lot of ideas started coming to me.
First one is somebody called me up, a company called me up and they asked me if I'd be willing to write an ebook for them, an ebook. And in their mind, an ebook was about two to 3000 words, which isn't for an author, a chapter or two. It's not that long. And then a whole encapsulated idea and they wanted me to do that. And they were going to give this ebook away to the kind of people who would hire me, vice presidents of marketing and sales. And they were going to give it away on their website for free. And I said, "Well, sure, I would love to do that." Because that's marketing that I don't have to do if that makes any sense because I know a lot of people don't love marketing, but here's this company that's a good company and they're telling all the people that would hire me, "Here's Jill, she's really smart. She wrote this," and they're giving it away. I did that for free.
And then a few months later I got called by Dow Jones and they said, we saw what you did over here. We'd like you to write an ebook. And we talked about it conceptually. And again, we talked about a topic that would fit well that I could write about him. It was a topic that I lived in. I slept in, it was like my expertise and one of my favorite subjects of all. And again, we're talking 2000, 3000 words. And then they said to me, "How much would you charge for that?" And I just stopped. I just done it for free and given my expertise away for free, because it was good marketing, but they said, "How much would you charge?" And I was so taken aback by the question. I said "$3,000." And they said, "Oh, we can afford that." And I went, "Holy buckets. I have no idea of the value of my expertise from their marketing perspective."
And they again were going to take me writing about what I'm really good at, just a part of what I'm really good at, not everything. And they were going to send it out to all the VPs of marketing and sales who could hire me putting their stamp of approval on it saying, "Here's Jill, she's an expert. She's an authority on this topic." And they were going to pay me for it. So suddenly I had my first case of being paid to give something away for free. I wasn't giving it away for free. They were giving away for free. But the contract I wrote with them said that they had a six-month license on it.
And after that I could use it again. When I used it again, I put it up on my website for free. I wrote this ebook that I can now give away on my website. I got paid $3,000 to write it. They had it for six months for themselves. And then I just gave it away on my website and had something where I could have people sign up so I could build my newsletter database. These are people, having a newsletter database is really important because that means people that could hire you, could use what you do, are reading about you on a regular basis. That was cool. Then the other company called me back about a month later and said "Your ebook was such a hit. We'd like to ask you to write another one." And I said, "Well, I'd really love to, but my schedule is really busy right now. I'd have to charge you for it." And they said, "How much?" And I said "$4,000 now." "Yeah, we can do that."
Now I've gone from zero to 3000 to 4,000 overnight. And then I'm talking still about writing two to 3000 words and they do all the graphic design. They do all the layout. They make it look absolutely beautiful, far better than I could ever conceptually imagine. They want to do it because it goes along with their brand image. But that's just some of the things that got me started about giving more of my stuff for free. And then more things started coming my way. Because once other people see you doing this and they start reaching out to you.
But the next thing that came to me was, again, this is in like 2008, 2009 timeframe. My brother had lost his job and I wrote a book on how to get back to work faster. I was going to give it away for free because it was like my missionary thing because my brother needed this work and I thought if he needed it, all these other out of work people need it too. So I set up a website and I was going to give it away for free, totally for free. I had no concept of making a penny from this. It was my expertise, but I was giving it away. And I called GoToMeeting and I asked them if they would give me $5,000 to help me sponsor this because I needed money to help me do this. I had to have somebody to help me with the technical stuff. And they said, "Oh no, Jill, we don't do that."
And at first I was just really sad and downtrodden. And then I went, "Oh, well what do you do?" And they said, "Well, we pay for butts in seats." I said, "What do you mean butts in seats?" And they said, "Well, we pay people to get people to come to our webinars. And we pay them for how many people they get at the webinar." And I said, "Well, how much do you pay them?" And they said, "Well, we pay 20 to $40 per person." And I said, "Well, I'll take the $40 plan." And they just laughed. And they said, "Okay." I put together a series of webinars for 18 months and promoted them online via social media. And they were very helpful. And I called upon people that I knew, but they paid me $40 for every person that was at the webinars. So I did spend a lot of time helping people know that these were available. And they did finally say to me, after the first one, they said, "We have to top stop you at $10,000 a month."
Susan Friedmann: That's ridiculous. When they're onto a good thing, why would you stop it?
Jill Konrath: Yeah. But still 10,000 a month. And then I had another client that I have a newsletter database and they wanted me to promote their eBooks to my readers. And I said, "Oh no, I couldn't possibly do that. These people, they really like me and I don't want to pollute my list by showing stuff on them." They said, "Well, why don't you just take a look at it, we'll pay you $4,000, if you'll send it out to your newsletter people." And I went, "You pay me $4,000 to promote an ebook?" And so I read the ebook and it was excellent. It wasn't slimy. It was no pushy salesy stuff. It was based on research. And I went, "Oh my goodness, the people that follow me, this is exactly the meaty kind of stuff that they'd like." And so I promoted it through my newsletter and they paid me to promote it. These are the kinds of things I've been doing and it's been really fun. And everything I do magnifies me out in the marketplace and I don't have to go out and market myself as much.
Susan Friedmann: It's brilliant. [crosstalk 00:10:23]. It just happened without you even realizing it was happening. I just sort of see it like a flower when it's seeds and then it grows and then it keeps growing.
Jill Konrath: Keeps growing. I mean, there are some years I have made more money from that kind of stuff than I have from speaking and consulting.
Susan Friedmann: One of the things that you said earlier was, "You don't know the value of your own expertise." I think that's key to what you're saying here. Would you agree?
Jill Konrath: I would absolutely agree. And 15,000, 3,000 words, I mean, you don't think it's very much, but you have to stop and think like a marketer. And a marketer's job is to get new people to come into their database, new people, the right kind of people to come into their database so that their company can have some potential clients. And when you think about GoToMeeting in that day and age in 2008, [inaudible 00:11:27] made 20 or 40 bucks a seat. That was the value of a new client. I mean, that's what they were willing to pay to get a new client. I mean, that was just a no brainer for them. And they know, the marketers know what the value of a client is. And so if you have some good expertise that might fit a specific market segment, I don't care if you're a trade show marketing, or if you're a medical specialist or you talk about aging grandparents, what do they do? What do you do with your grandparents?
And this is all area of expertise and somebody could use this expertise. They could give it away on their website, or they can invite you to do a webinar, or they could invite you to do a series, that you could do a series like I've done before too now. I've put together a series of videos that build on things. I've interviewed other people's clients and they paid me to interview because I asked the right questions, because I know what they're trying to get at. And there's just so many ways that your expertise is helpful for companies. And yes, they do get a benefit. They do get a benefit because somebody who values your expertise will sign up on their website to learn more about what you've written. And that is so valuable for them. I mean, it's hugely valuable.
Susan Friedmann: Something else that you said too that hit me was the fact that you said "The right people." To me when you're talking about the right people is looking at a niche or target so that you need to go after that rather than just anybody. There's a real strategy behind what you're presenting here. And maybe even without you even realizing at the time, obviously now looking back, you can see exactly what you did, but hindsight is always what 2020 as they say.
Jill Konrath: I mean, partly I understood exactly what I was doing once it started coming my way, because I'm in sales. I understand target marketing and I understand focusing on a certain demographic that can find value in your solution. This always made sense to me. Most people don't understand it. So if I would say to somebody, "Who finds your expertise valuable?" But in my case, the people that find my expertise valuable are salespeople and sales managers. And most of them are in growing companies, not the big stayed ones. And most of them are in technology sales or business services sales. Because that's who I write for. I don't write for somebody who sells insurance. That's not my market. I have an expertise in business to business sales in certain areas. And so the question is if okay, that's who I'm an expert for, who wants to reach those people? Who wants to reach those people?
So if I sell to VPs of sales, then I would say to myself, "Well, what magazines might the VP of sales reads? Or if I sell the entrepreneurs, what do entrepreneurs read? What websites do they visit? And for example, I mean, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and if I say, "Okay, I'm going to go after entrepreneurs. And I know what size it is because they've got some specific challenges that I can solve." I would look at entrepreneur magazine, I'd go to the entrepreneur website. I would look at conferences that entrepreneurs go to and I would see who was advertising there? Who was advertising an entrepreneur magazine? That's interesting question. If you take a look at who's advertising these specialty magazines or on these specialty association websites, you'll start to see who might find your expertise valuable and then you have to look and you say, "Well, some of these companies are so big and huge. I don't have any context in them."
So what about some of these smaller companies? I've actually found smaller companies who are trying to grow, are really good prospects because they're really looking to find new clients and bring them in. And so that makes a difference. And anybody who goes to any conferences, if you go to a conference you're going there, A, because it's interesting to you and B, because people that are there want to hear you speak or people that are there want to know some of the stuff that you know. And so what I do when I go to conferences, in the past what I've done is I've looked at who are their sponsors. And I take a list of them, look at their sponsors and I go to other sponsors websites. And I go, could I maybe add value here? And I'm asking, could I add value?
One of the things I'm really looking for is a resource page that they have. And if they don't have a resource page where you can sign up for a webinar or you can download some eBooks or get a cheat sheet on something, then they're probably not a good prospect because they're too far behind the times. But if you go to the website and you see that you can sign up for their newsletter, and then you're invited to this big hurrah that's coming up. You know they're really looking to find prospective customers and that they could potentially use your content, your ideas to attract those people. And your expertise could be an attractor to those people so then it becomes your job to reach out to them, to start a conversation about how they might be able to leverage your expertise, to attract more potential customers into their website.
They're the ones who are paying you. They're paying you good money to do this. Your expertise goes out there to all these people who never knew you before, but find what you say valuable. Some of them go to your website, some of them check you out. And it just, everybody benefits. The materials free to those who need it. The company that is sharing your expertise gets people into their database that they can potentially do things with. And you get greater name recognition and authority and expertise and your name gets bounced around and more opportunities come your way.
Susan Friedmann: It's all good, plus good, plus good. Two questions come to mind, Jill. One is, who do you approach when you go to these companies? Is there a particular department? Yes. Marketing, but is there somebody who might specialize in this from maybe a PR standpoint? And then once you've found that person, what do you say to them?
Jill Konrath: Good question. Yes, there are particular people in the title of the person depends on the size of the company. And for anybody who wants to try this, I would suggest that you don't start with the huge companies because you'll get lost because they have so many business units. And within the business units, they have so many sub business units and it's impossible. I started mine with a growing company. It was probably 30 million at the time. And what I would look for number one, who is in charge of marketing at the company? But even before that giving stuff away on their website, if they're giving stuff away on their website, then I go to LinkedIn and I look up and try to figure out who is the head of marketing. And even within marketing, depending on the size of the company, I might look for somebody who has a content marketing title that they're in charge of content marketing, or they could be in charge of lead generation or demand generation.
And those are the people who are typically, lead generation, demand generation are typically really the ones who are out looking for things and content marketing specialists. That's who you look for, titles. And then you have to approach them. And what people need to realize is that approaching people, you don't just call them up one time and leave them a voicemail. You have to really think about what you're going to do and you have to be a planter of ideas, I guess I would say. If I would reach out to somebody and identify a company, I would reach out to them perhaps on LinkedIn or if I could get their email address through something else, I might reach out and say, "Susan, I was on your website recently. And I noticed that you do a lot of content marketing. I see the subjects you've covered, but I think I have some expertise that might create value in this area. Can we set up a time to talk about how I might create some useful content for your company?"
You're being very matter of fact, you're not trying to sell them anything. You're just saying, "I went to your website, I see what you're doing. I've got some ideas on some fresh content strategies that might be helpful in attracting potential clients. Can we set up a time to talk?" And then you set up a time to talk. But again, they're not going to get ahold of you the first time. You might have to go back and if I've targeted these companies, then I will actually sign up for their newsletter myself to see what they keep doing. And I'll come back to them a couple of weeks later, "I've been thinking about what you're doing on your website. And here's one very specific idea that pops up to me." And I would share an idea.
And recently I was talking with one company, I had some ideas because I know what their software did and what they were good at and what they were good at is really helping new salespeople. And I said I see what you're really good at. And I don't see any good content about onboarding new sales people, like getting them up to speed faster. Let's set up a time to talk because I might have some ideas that could be useful. And what we had talked about is many things. But what it ended up with, we talked about maybe me writing an ebook form. We talked about me creating a one page cheat sheet that they could give away. We talked about a webinar, all sorts of things. But what we ended up is they invited me to a conference and this was last December when people actually met in person.
And they invited me to interview three of their clients that were there and to talk with them about their onboarding program. So I contacted all three of these people. They had been approved and selected by the company VP of marketing. And we're all excited to be able to talk with an expert and to share what they were doing. And so I set up a precall with them to learn about what they were doing so that when we got together and they were videotaping, it would really be focused on the cool things that that company was doing. That, that specific person that company had put in place and the results that they were getting. And so they were really good interviews about 20 minutes long and they had a whole video crew there to film us and they paid me like $8,000 per video.
Susan Friedmann: One of the thoughts here is that this is not a quick in and out process. This is a nurturing, about on average, how long does that nurturing take?
Jill Konrath: Well, some companies will never do anything with you because it doesn't fit with their strategy. And some people will start talking with you right away. It's really interesting. I mean, if you can go to them and say, "Look, I'm an expert in," whatever, you're an expert in, "I've got three books on the topic or one book on the topic. And, I thought you might find some value in sharing some of my expertise with your people." They might get back to you right away. Because they're constantly looking for good ideas. I mean, I have up on my screen right now, something that just came out today from a top rank marketing, it's about B2B influencer marketing, business to business influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is using people like us who are authorities on a topic. The whole thing is about how it's valuable to companies.
And the survey showed 78% of these companies believe that their prospects rely on advice from industry influencers and everyone who's writing a book is at some point an early stage influencer or a longer stage influencer. So they believe that people like us make a difference. And if we say that this kind of thing is important, that it's important. 74% agree that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experience with the brand. If 74% believe that bringing our expertise in is good for the prospect experience, the customer experience and the brand experience. 63% agree that marketing would have better results if it included a B2B influencer marketing program, people like us. And 90% expect their budgets to increase or stay the same for influencer marketing. They've got money for this. They think it's really good. They don't know how to reach people like us. And especially if you're an early stage person, who's stepping off for the first time you don't exist.
So they are fuddling and muddling around trying to find people to use. And here's what the other thing I want to tell people, my daughter is into marketing. And after college she went to work for actually this company, top rank marketing that I was talking about and that had the survey and she was probably 26 at the time. She was writing content for LinkedIn and for ancestry.com. Those were two of the clients that she was assigned to along with many other ones, some other good names too.
But I mean, here she is. She's 26 years old. She's not an expert. She's not an expert on any of these topics. In fact, when it comes to writing about LinkedIn guess who she talks to? Me, I have lots of followers on LinkedIn, but here's what she told me back then. She told me, "Mom, we are getting paid $20,000 per ebook by LinkedIn. And these are eBooks that are being written by kids that are in their twenties, who go out and talk to people like us and put together an ebook that includes great quotes from a whole bunch of people." Right. That's what they did and LinkedIn paid them $20,000. And so at that point I went, "Oh, okay." And now my rates have been going up over and over, over the years. But at that point I raised my rate to $20,000 per ebook. And now again, I'm talking about two to 3000 words.
Susan Friedmann: It's absolutely incredible. It really it's sort of mind blowing when, hear you say this and then, like you already said, these 20 something year olds are doing this and don't have necessarily the expertise, but they're just doing what I'm doing now. I'm interviewing experts.
Jill Konrath: Yes. They're interviewing experts. But what if the expert could go in and create a really interesting ebook on that same topic, that what might be more in depth. Mostly I read those influencer marketing things and I refuse to even participate in them right now because there's so many of them out there. And they're also shallow in so many ways, I think. And I think people who are authorities in their own subject can put something together that is really good. And it would be BD, media. I mean, we can do media well.
Susan Friedmann: Well, and our authors have written books that are chocked full of valuable expertise information that these people could use. So taking, as you said, two, 3000 words, even if they went up to 4,000.
Jill Konrath: No, no, no. Marketers don't want things that long.
Susan Friedmann: They don't want it that long? Oh.
Jill Konrath: [crosstalk 00:26:22] They don't like writing 4,000 words, they're going shorter. They're 1500 words.
Susan Friedmann: Wow.
Jill Konrath: Yeah.
Susan Friedmann: That even blows my mind more. So you really have to get to the point very, very quickly. And I know that having looked at some of your books, it's the seven ways to do this or the three ways to do that. And if you can get in and as you say, be very meaty about it, it's fine.
Jill Konrath: Meaty and interesting. They kind of want meaty, a good read, but meaty.
Susan Friedmann: If our listeners wanted to find out more about what you do and how you do it. What do they need to do, Jill?
Jill Konrath: Probably just go to my website, but it's still a good place to start. Jillkonrath.com. That's Konrath with a K. Now check things out. I'd really strongly suggest to people check out the resources much of what is up there as a free giveaway was something I created and got paid to create. And now I have to give away for free. I have a lot more stuff too, that I haven't got out there, but it's just out there and just ideas and things you can do and literally one-page cheat sheets. I mean, I've sold one-page cheat sheets for $3,000. One-page cheat sheets. Yes. Go ahead and figure that out. Any way you can combine them. Let me just say that you can combine them into some interesting programs or companies where you can put together a series of interviews, a webinar and ebook, and one-page cheat sheets on different topics. And you can create yourself a 50 to $80,000 package sharing your expertise. They'll give it away for free and you are promoted by them to all the people who value what you do.
Susan Friedmann: Fabulous. Takes me back to my trade show days when I did exactly that for companies who just wanted to give away free booklets to their prospects. And I'd just written a book and we just took excerpts from that book and just put it out in a different format. So repurposing it and they loved it and they didn't pay as much as you've been getting, but they paid. And I was like, Oh yeah.
Jill Konrath: I think too, what's really happened though, is that people with digital marketing, that online marketing and databases and it's become so crucial and so much more important and so much more valuable these days.
Susan Friedmann: Well, and people are constantly looking for information, but this is information that they couldn't necessarily just go to Google and find, Whoa, that's great. Jill, if you were to leave our listeners with a golden nugget, what would that be?
Jill Konrath: Well, to me, I mean, if people are coming out with books, they're trying to think about all this marketing stuff that has to get done. And I guess when I first came out with my first one, I was terrified. I had no money at the beginning. The reason I wrote my book is because my business crashed, my first book and I had to get back into business again. And my book was about it. And I was really feeling bad because I didn't have this huge marketing budget. It was just like me and my time. But what I decided at that point was that I was in it for the long haul. And it's not a function of having a great, big, huge book launch. It's really a function of being out there on a regular and consistent basis so people can see and learn from you. And to me, it's not about being the queen of the first three months and then afterwards not doing. It's about being a visible presence with expertise to share.
Susan Friedmann: For the long haul. Excellent. Thank you. This has been amazing. Listeners, another treasure chest of gems. Thank you so much, Jill. And thank you all for taking time out of your precious day to listen to this interview. And I sincerely hope that it sparked some ideas you can use to sell more books. Here's wishing you much book marketing success.