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Lethal Generosity: The Key To Your Online Content Strategy

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April 23,2012


By Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

The concept of Lethal Generosity was first coined by social media pioneer Shel Israel in 2008. Simply put:

- Lethal Generosity is the concept that the most generous members of any social media company are the most credible and influential and as such, they can devastate their competition in the marketplace.

In short, the company whose representative posts the most tips, links, advice, case studies, best practices that followers find useful will always [rise] to the top, not just in influence but also in search results. The more outbound links you post, the more inbound links you are likely to receive.
Although Mr. Israel focuses this point in a social media context, the application of this idea is much broader.

Those companies that give away their industry insight and expertise on a consistent basis, and publish that information free and through multiple channels, can dominate their industry niche – including social media and communications in general.

Can You Share Too Much Information?
Many traditional marketing thinkers hide their competitive information, and believe that:

  • Sharing secrets and expertise arms customers with too much information.
  • Sharing secrets and expertise gives an advantage to the competition.

Neither of these is true.

Most companies believe that their competitive advantage is in some process, some product, some service. That’s hardly ever the case (except maybe for companies like Apple and Google). Anyone, at almost any time, can copy your process, product or service, especially today.
Your true competitive advantage rests in your communications, your marketing, your brand (hat tip,Don Schultz).

What’s Your Secret Sauce?
Once you realize that, giving away your “secret sauce” makes sense. Giving away your expertise and teaching your customers what you know does one amazing thing — it positions you as the expert in your industry. That is the core of content marketing. Once you are known by your customers and prospects as the industry expert, it will be almost impossible for any process, product, or competitive service to come between you and your customers.

Keeping your “secret sauce” to yourself does a few things:

  • Customers / prospects will never know that you are the expert in your field.
  • Customers will never share your expertise with others because there is nothing to share.
  • It gives a huge opportunity for someone else to share their secret sauce and position themselves as the industry expert.

Lethal Generosity turns traditional marketing on its head. It can be used to dominate any industry vertical to position your company as an industry expert. Once initiated and replicated, it’s challenging to duplicate.


Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is first and foremost a content marketing evangelist, and founded the Content Marketing Institute, which includes client-vendor matching site Junta42 as well as the premier international content marketing event Content Marketing World and Chief Content Officer magazine. 


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