In the Seattle neighborhood where I live, Little Free Libraries have been popping up all over. Usually – often beautifully – handcrafted, the libraries are basically a box on a post in someone’s yard where passersby can take or leave a book. The books are always free to borrow, with the hope that they’ll be passed on and widely shared.
As I dropped off a book at a LFL near my home, it occurred to me that these are an interesting parallel to the sort of free intellectual property many of our partners give away on their websites, through blog posts, speaking at events like Worldwide Partner Conference, and even just casually, in conversation.
There’s something truly inspiring about someone who gives away hard-won expertise for nothing, with no expectation other than that someone else may find it valuable. And while “profiting” from such generosity isn’t usually a giver’s first priority, there is real value in giving away knowledge.
  1. People love free stuff and those who provide it

    When someone has a LFL in their yard, I immediately assume they’re generous, good people who want to enrich the lives of others – why else would they provide this service that generates no revenue? Giving away valuable content for free in today’s monetized world can help you stand out, both as a thought leader and as a trustworthy person. Of course you want to be selective in what you offer so you’re providing unique value without giving away your business, but what you net in good will can more than make up for what you might sacrifice in quick revenue.

  2. There IS such a thing as a “free lunch”

    These days it seems like nearly everything comes with a price, so we’re suspicious of anything advertised as “free.” After all, as we say in the U.S., “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Or is there? It’s hard to prove the ROI of a partner’s “how to” blog or Social 101 session at WPC, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a return. After all, their blog or session will probably help me remember that partner when I need a solution, and now I’m more likely to turn back to them for more information. The important thing is I’m not obligated to buy, and that generates trust.

  3. Don’t be misled by size

    The Little Free Libraries are, by design, little. Most in my area house maybe 20 – 40 books. But just like SMBs, little libraries can pack a lot of information in a small space. Your organization may be small, but chances are you’re a warehouse of ideas and expertise, so dig for that unique, specialized knowledge within your workforce and share it. Blogs, social media, podcasts and demos, conferences, and events are great equalizers, since businesses of any size can leverage these powerful channels and tools to add to the pool of know-how and get their name out there.

  4. Community matters

    One of the great benefits of the LFL system is that it promotes community. People strike up conversations, share information, and get to know their neighbors over the top of a Little Free Library. Introduce yourself to your community by providing a place to share ideas. Blogs, Facebook pages, or other social channels where readers can leave comments and share their wisdom on the topic of the day can be great virtual community builders – with your organization squarely at the center. And that terrific conversation you’re having might just be with your next great customer or partner.

  5. Readers are hungry and hunting for quality

    When there are 30 books crammed into a Little Free Library, probably not every book is a work of genius. But, as in all things, if you maintain a consistently high level of quality in the content you provide, people will keep coming back to you for more.

If you and your team have valuable information to share, our Smart Partner Marketing site has some great ideas for how to go about sharing it. Check out the videos on creating a destination website, basics on blogging, and more. Then let us know on Facebook or Twitter how you’re building your “library” of free expertise to share!
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