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Don’t give a man a fish; teach him to fish (but do you charge him for it?)

12 May, 2010 McKell Naegle

Have you heard this idiom?

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

I believe in this principle, but it is possible the person you are teaching (or feeding) may become codependent or milk you for your generosity.

I find this a lot in the marketing space. People want to meet with me about thier marketing or advertising issues or problems, but sometimes I question their true motives.I must often ask myself some questions:

Are they looking for ideas they can take back and implement themselves?
How much do you consult and advise in these preliminary meetings?

I love to be generous, but there is a point where this must end. I am being paid by my employer, and my employer is not a non-profit.

How do you resolve this issue?

Starr Hall gives a pretty good rule and some much-needed advice in her article entitled “7 Ways to Convert Online Contacts Into Sales.”

She discusses the 3/3 rule as follows:

You have to set some boundaries online so as not to give too much away. When you are directly e-mailed or approached for advice, offer your services no more and no less than three times to that contact before you ask for the business. Don’t spend more than three minutes responding or chatting per person or group. After the third such activity, just ask. This is the one thing that separates the broke from the prosperous–asking.

What are your thoughts on this? Any ideas on how to show competence but not give away too much without being duly compensated for your expertise?

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