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How Giving Away Trade Secrets Makes For A Successful Blog

I received an unexpected response the day* I decided to start telling everyone I knew that I had started the Real Estate Tomato.  Most people ignored the announcement.... but I expected that. 

What wasn't expected was that a colleague of mine that has also been making a living as a marketing consultant for real estate professionals, called me to tell me that I was making a big mistake with this new blog.  In fact, he was very concerned; feeling that I was giving away trade secrets that I should reserve for leveraging the sale of websites. 

He said that we need to keep this knowledge close to us, this way we still have value to those whom we are pitching our wares.  Revealing our insight for free, on a silver platter, would make our wisdom common knowledge, and therefore less effective when closing a deal.

This got me thinking. If I publish everything I can as a guideline to success for the online real estate agent, will it put me at risk of disintermediation?

Will I be needed after I have said what I know when it comes to helping others?

The obvious is that I chose to ignore his concern.

Here's how I see it. 
What I choose to write about is not a secret, nor outside of experience. Some of it I have been trying to share as often as possible, some of it came to me yesterday.
If I am going to make the bold and assumptive suggestion that I am a consultant, here to educate, then running out of relevant topic articles is not an option.  Look for me to be here for a while.

I've been told that it doesn't matter whether the audience is in person or there to read, no more than 4% will put good advice into action.  Groups will nod in agreement, but it is only the inspired individual that will apply.  That leaves a large percentage that still need the personal consulting and guidance to take advantage of the advice and knowledge they feel that they need. 

What I'm getting at applies to all of us that look to use the business blog as a tool for generating clients through the exposure of one's expertise, savvy and commitment.  The blog that educates your target audience is more likely to incubate future business through the appreciation of the knowledge you offer than to provide an enlightened path for readers to move forward without you. 

In the service and education business we know that we are primarily selling ourselves. The commitment made by regularly presenting the knowledge that you have to offer (given that it is sound) is so much more effective than trying to leverage a similarly branded, static website.  In addition, those that you do happen to inspire to make it happen without your inclusion will more often than not give credit to you for your encouragement and knowledge.  Another great testimonial to the value of the information you offer not only regularly, but for free. 

Sticking your head out above the crowd.  That's what business blogging has felt like for me.  I have worked from home for the past 5 years, looking to communicate with and educate as many Realtors as possible on the effectiveness of using the internet as a marketing tool.  One-at-a-time was as good as I could ask for, unless I had a speaking engagement (which entails leaving home). 

Business blogging allows me to reach 1000's of Realtors daily, and tens of thousands monthly.  My message is no longer in the vacuum of one-on-one consulting, but rather exposed to an audience not unlike those I would normally need to leave the house to engage.  Realtors spend their days answering questions and educating their clients on the process of executing the most valuable financial investment of their lives.  As much as the one-on-one effort is appreciated and necessary, the opportunity to share the benefit among an audience of many will create an obvious benefit.

Today's article was actually inspired by a conversation I had with a new client: Marc Brinitzer from Big Valley Mortgage. He was looking for my response to the concern that others could take his ideas and tactics, and in turn use them for their own benefit... essentially empowering his competition.  I could only speak from my own experience when it comes to sharing what could be seen as trade secrets.  The originality of the ideas I have to share here varies from original to blatant rip-off.  Nonetheless, for many of you, much of it is unique and informative, and for that, I am given credit.  I see this as one of the greatest benefits of business blogging. 

Become a resource for information that is informative and desired and your blogging will not only help you establish a reputation as valuable, but work towards the development of future clients.  This to me outweighs the risk of my competition taking the ideas in my blogging articles and using them for their own success. 

There really is nothing new under the sun, and as the internet creates an ever more transparent landscape of information, it would be foolish to expect that we are the only one's offering information on such a service related industry. 

I owe a large amount of inspiration and guidance to two well known business bloggers making a living revealing their trade secrets:

I owe my desire to write with clarity and prose (a struggle in every sentence) to a well respected real estate blogger that never hesitates to tell it like it is:

I owe the majority of my blogging advice articles to my clients' and prospects' questions that need to be aired for all.
I owe my commitment to regular blogging (another struggle, this one for time) to my ever growing audience, who look for nuggets of knowledge to keep them coming back.

*This was months ago (footnote from above)

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Sharing is what blogging and business is all about. I too write daily about how I conduct my business as a Real Estate broker and have no problem with sharing my expertise and "trade secrets". In fact, it's what I enjoy doing the most. I agree that a very small percentage of readers will act on the information that you are disseminating. The majority, that are interested, will contact you direct to help them because you have established yourself as the expert. Sharing is a good thing.

Like you said, the majority of a room will nod in agreement with any 'secrets' you share with them but only a small handful will actually implement anything.

you get credit for sharing & being a good guy with very little risk of putting yourself out of business. ;-)

I teach other real estate agents how to blog, I help people who send me emails with blogging questions, I help new agents in the business and I post information on my blog and web sites that I hope helps consumers buy homes. Like Lee said in his comment [and you said in your post] very few of the agents will implement and the consumers come back for more.

Your blog is a buffet of tasty treats and whether everyone decides to fully sample each one, your reputation for having such a wide array of yummies will soon spread - both by word of mouth and via search engines who love blogs that offer more than a boring vat of plain oatmeal.

Your competition may very well steal your recipes - but a stolen recipe is never quite as tasty as the original due to the experience, savvy, care and thought put into it by the original creator - thus, like a "purple cow" the thief will never be able to succeed... especially considering that a true success has the discipline and dedication to create his own recipes.

Kudos, Jim for "giving away the secrets" because the fact is there are no secrets. If people choose to dig deeply enough they will discover them for themselves. You are just doing what an expert does... giving expert advice. I agree with you and follow your lead.


Most people fail to understand that all Internet users are moving through a spectrum of understanding - many are very new, many are very experienced, and a big bubble in middle have the sense to hire professionals.

The majority are slowing picking up tips and advice from a variety of sources. As you point out, a very small percentage will find most of the puzzle pieces from many sources and assemble them in ways that may make your advice irrelevant. However, this is an acceptable risk given the slice of the pie that has neither the time nor expertise to assemble the puzzle - these are the folks that will gladly hand you cash for what you know; it is cash they have and time they need. ;-)

And speaking of time - there are customer segments that want to do everything on their own, and there are segments that understand the distinct difference between core and context and why successful businesses understand the advantages of outsourcing. Some people that are very technical and fully capable of doing it all, still hire professionals because time-to-market is often much more valuable than independence.

[Solicitation removed from end of comment, sorry Bill]

The other thing to remember is that there are still some dinosaurs that would never have come to you because they didn't know the options you've shared existed. By sharing "secrets" you're creating an itch that needs to be scratched. I certainly wouldn't go to your colleague in the business because I'd have no clue who s/he was!

Couldn't agree more...the equation is CREDIBILITY + TRUST = SALES.

What Jim (and other business bloggers) are doing is building credibility - can we call it "blog cred"? - with an audience of potential clients. That is also what I aspire to build with my audience of potential home buyers: credibility that I know what I'm doing and that I know my market.

Then you combine that with a phone conversation or face to face meeting with a client to start to build the TRUST. Once you have the two you can do the transaction.

Personally, when I found the tomato, I read the whole thing in one night and knew in my gut it was the right thing to do. I purposefully copied Jim's format/formula - thanks, Jim. And if and when I desire professional, online consulting services, you know where the first place I'm going to go, right? To Jim because he has credibility with me.

Besides, I agree with the rest of you here: You can give most people the recipe and all the ingredients and they still can't make the pie -- they wind up going out to dinner.

I recently attended a very good Keller Williams University listing seminar where some very specific techniques were taught to about 250 agents, many my competitors as well as colleagues.

At the break on the second day, I went up to the presenter and told her that I thought the content was great but was worried that when i used the techniques the clients would recognize them as a training technique because quite possibly another Keller Williams agent would be speaking with them too.

She smiled and told me not to worry. As powerful as the techniques were, she said that less than 5% of the people in the room would ever even look back at the training material, much less implement the techniques.

Any "secrets" you share, we will gladly give you the credit for. Which ultimately will only result in links back to your site. Thanks for sharing it, you site looks great, and clearly what you are doing is working for you. Good job!

I agree with you, we can't take credit for all the knowledge that is out there, you are just bringing it to the attention of others to either take or not. "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make them drink."

What makes you a cut above, is that you give credit to those that you feel deserve it and you are an ethical business person which is refreshing.

One day you'll be president and that guy will be sorry...

This is the same mistake people make when it comes to buying a piece of property on-line. The web provides us with information (for a great discussion of this, see the Social Life of Information by Brown and Duguid which looks at this principle inside of Xerox.) A website or a blog provides static information as opposed to wisdom. This is the "how to" in a specific circumstance. Every real estate transaction is different. So is every blogger and their specific needs. I once was advised to give away your best and they'll keep having you back again and again. This has been true for me--keep giving them your best Jim--it's awesome!

I find you reference to the fact that only 4% of the people will put the learned ideas to work both truthful and inspiring. Most people in our respective industries will rather remember how "smart" you are and want to do business with you

I just read your blog about "how to comment" so I will include information abou me:

Thanks for doing what you believe is the right thing...a couple of thoughts that always travel with me as a consultant and coach....

1. While working at Clorox years ago a peer said..."oh I don't create any thing...I just take what's there and make it better." I realize that there is very little new original material, rather applying our own unique perspective and filter is what gives that old idea a new and unique spin that can do wonders.

2. "Words do inspire emotional connection"...heck that's what attracts people to you and why I'm responding...your blog rocks, but

3. "the average person talks about it, but doesn't take action"...when you said only 4% will actually to what you say in your blog post, I think that is high. That's why you'll do even better in your work, because the ones that really want to take action know that the key to their success will be partnership with some one that has experience and believes in their bigger picture vision and goals (sounds like that's what you do).

I'm glad I found your blog and look forward to more!!!!

Regards, Michele

Jim, very well said, it's very similar to the philosophy we are taking over at ActiveRain. Long term you are much better off providing a great benefit to a lot of people for free. This helps gain trust, respect and will grow future business exponentially. I think of it in the same way as making a monetary investment in something.

Jim set up my new blog and when I say new I mean new (just a week old) I am not techincally savy or internet savy. I had just been struggling along trying to figure out what I could on my own.
Jim, is the most patient and knowledgable teacher and coach I have ever had! My blog is already successful - The biggest blogger in my area is linking to my new stories everyday. He got 11 comments on my post about needing a dog park in my town! This morning the big blogger guy in my town linked to my scary Halloween Real Estate Story and so far someone already left a comment. I did not expect to have any comments or activity for a long time. Jim has helped me look like a Pro (and believe me I am not!- hardly have a clue what I am doing) He not only knows how to teach, he knows how to teach Real Estate Agents (Very Difficult to Do!) If you want to be succesfull blogging in Real Estate and you want to learn from the Best and you want to have FUN - Sign up with the Real Estate Tomato! Here is the Blog he did for me

I have enjoyed your blogging on AR and see that your philosophy is one of sharing. Great stuff

Jim Lee-
Glad to have made it to the 'good guy' status with you. :) I will work too keep it.

Teresa- I have heard great things about your teaching. Would you like to guest author a post for us here at the Tomato?

Debbie- You are awesome! See you at the top.
Cheryl- You get the Gold Star for sweetest comment.

REBlogGirl- Hard to believe I could lead such a trailblazer. Thanks for the encouragement.

Bill- mmmmmmm Pie!

Bonnie- You nailed it. That's really the essence of this whole article. Keeping the secrets close and you end up have to drum the business up one-at-a-time. Let yourself and organization of knowledge be heard and they come out of the woodwork to work with you.

Kevin- Did you just coin "Blog Cred"? Me likey.

Paul - You are too kind

Gena- I am saving up to give you a lot of credit here soon enough. The patience you have shown and the suggestions you have given us while getting TomatoBlogs off the ground are so appreciated. I love having you as a client.

Norma- I like the sound of that... President Tomato.

Bernice- Nice real estate comparison. I should have dug a bit deeper into the application for my clients, thanks for shedding some light.

Brian- Is we smart? Wicked smart.

Michele- Glad to have you as a reader and a participator. Hope to see you around.

Matt- This is going to be the most influential reason your business works. The availability of knowledge with no financial investment.

Well said. I've got dozens and dozens of books I only apply 1.7% of by my rough guess, so no worries that people will suddenly up and run with my wisdom either.

In the end - if you hold back you end up giving nothing.

Hey Jim, It is always my opinion that there are "NO ORIGINAL THOUGHTS" just ideas reworked and reworked and reworked until they spark... Many people have "ideas" few TAKE ACTION!

The more you give the more you get!!! Stay the course.

Here,here...and here again!

I absolutely, 100% agree with your philosophy. The fastest way to build trust is by offering your wisdom for free. Let then, the people decide, whether or not they want to go it alone or hire a professional despite themselves.
I recently started a mortgage negotiation and consulting service,, and my web-site and blog basically give away my "secrets." The response has been overwhelming. This is the only way to go, plus I can look myself in the mirror every morning knowing I'm doing the right thing.

How true! I've had other agents tell me I shouldn't allow my website visitor 'free access' to the mls, etc. That I should make sure to capture their info first but what I've found is that people want this info, want it now & don't want to give up their identity for it. If they don't find it here, they will go back & search for another site that does give it.

More on to your post about giving 'trade secrets' away...

I think your 4% statistic may be too high. I think less than 2% of a given audience actually puts what they are learning to use. They either think they already know it or else think its too much work to implement.

Thank you for sharing this philosophy and the references to folks who inspired your position.

I was struggling with the question myself.

As a Realtor, Coach, and Consultant, I get "USED" a lot by people who don't want to pay.

This tends to sour me. (My Bad). I am sure I need to be bigger than that and keep giving.

You have inspired me to do just that.

Lonn Dugan

Hi Jim - followed the link from P2A to read the rest of the article, and was not disappointed. Thanks for sharing your knowledge so freely. Lots of us are shopping for future help. When we're ready, we'll know who to go to!

Would many of you feel the same way if it was your trade secrete that was being passed on by another party?

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