During our recent Summit, I spoke with a marketing client to help him strategize about building a thought leadership program for his company’s professional services business unit. He clearly saw the value of using thought leadership content to boost inbound marketing and demand creation results. On the other hand, the head of the consulting practice wasn’t so sure, believing that this knowledge is the company’s “secret sauce.” He didn’t see the benefit of giving some of it away.

That’s a common initial reaction, especially since the intellectual capital to create consulting offerings and deliverables is built by investing long (and sometimes painful) hours of work on multiple customer projects. And there’s always the fear that dispensing information means that customers won’t buy your services if they can figure out how to do it on their own.

Determining how much to share requires balance. Consulting leaders who leverage thought leadership strategies most successfully know that contributing compelling insights on market trends and industry issues is a highly effective way to build brand awareness and credibility. Customers looking to contract with a professional services organization want to know that the company understands the business problem, has a strong methodology and can rely on the expertise of a deep bench of specialists to solve it. Giving away a sample of the “secret sauce” allows potential customers to get a taste of the value before they buy.

Instead of comparing an organization’s business model to a recipe with secret ingredients that can be duplicated in anyone’s kitchen, perhaps a more useful metaphor is the master chefs who appear at local food expositions or charity events. Dazzling the audience with culinary prowess and gorgeous food, they know the samples they give away will draw crowds to their restaurants. So, appetizers, anyone?