Is it ok to reveal your tactics and techniques to customers? If not, what would you say? If yes, how much would you say?

I work in digital marketing, it this helps.

2 Answers 2


It is a tricky one. What we do as freelancers is to deliver a service that has value to the customer. We hope that value far exceeds the value of the time and effort it actually takes to achieve that service. So, a little bit like a magician, we add a bit of pzazzle here, a wiffle and a waffle there, we teach them the magic words, but under no circumstances whatsoever should you ever reveal how the trick was actually done.

The game is a little like evolution. The obvious tricks get leaked, people learn them and cheapen them, they become widespread, blogged about, websites emerge revealing the 'Tricks of the Trade', services start being run called DIY, how the experts do it. What was once special is now common place. But during this time our sophistication increases, we say, yes you can do that, but what we do now is THIS - TADA. And so the cycle goes on.

Unless you are one of those freelancers that specializes in doing drudge work (and there is nothing wrong with that), like "I can type 100 words per minute for less than $10 per hour", then you have no tricks to reveal. But if you have any tricks at all, any shortcuts, that you have spent years discovering or perfecting, they are your bread and butter. They are your secrets and should not be shared, disclosed or even hinted at in any way whatsoever. And if you can sell that for a $1000, rather than $10, then do that. That seam of precious gold will soon run dry, exploit it while you can.

Final analogy, you are a guide to a strange and mysterious land. You spent years learning to navigate the treacherous routes and pathways. You give guided tours for huge bowls of gold. Then someone says, would you mind drawing me a map? You say, ok. The following week the land is crowded with tourists but no one wants your services any more. Why? Because there is a map for sale in the local shop for $1.

Thats my take on it anyway.


Edit: PS What would you say in answer to the customer that asks. Simply that it is not a process, more of an art form. Every assignment is different and every one requires a special and individually designed approach. There is no one answer and you can google for entry level methods and techniques, but they are often already out of date, and can often cause more harm than good. We are experts at what we do. You might need at least 3 years of continual development and in house training to get even in the same league as us, then five more to get to where we are today. Your business is to sell X and Y to the Z market and you do that brilliantly. Our business is to do A and B and we do that brilliantly. It you are looking for a university course or a training company, there are companies offering courses, but we don't do that. What we do today will be being taught in a couple of years time in those courses, but we are bang up to date, cutting edge and in the real world. We offer exceptional value for money and true professional expertise in our field. You would not generate your own electricity, or build your own car, or buy your own printing press. In the fast modern world of digital advertising, it would be an equally unprofitable task to try to replicate what we do. Let us do it for you, because that is what we do, and we are good at it, very good at it. That leaves you to get on with what you do best right now, while we ...... You could go on for ages, about helping them to avoid the pitfalls, the dead ends, the costly mistakes, the missed opportunities because they were busy learning a new trade, or doing so and so in an amateurish way etc etc.

PPS Final Edit I Promise As great magicians always say, part of the reason they do not reveal how a trick is done is because once it is revealed, often the mundanity of it, the lack of genuine magic and the real buckets of sweat and drudgery are revealed, they are no longer attractive or mysterious. You will be replaced by some spotty 17 year old in the office with his hand up saying 'sir, sir, I can that for you', and he probably will have a good go at it. Anything to get away from his daily churn of data entry or customer services. Either way, you will be out of a job.

  • Well said! Exactly what I was thinking
    – Canadian Luke
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 18:58
  • Great and amusing explanation. I kind of understand what you're saying.
    – Aurora A
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 21:04
  • Re-reading it now, I did go on a bit :-)
    – PaulD
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 21:16

I'm going to respectfully disagree with @PaulD's answer. Keep in mind, I am a programmer, not a digital marketer. Also keep in mind, most of my consulting work has been through agencies, not through my own sales and marketing.

In my field and in my opinion, revealing my tricks makes me appear confident and knowledgeable with little downside.

To use an analogy, if you watch me perform a back flip, will you know how to do one now? What if I explain how I did it? After I explain it, will my back flip seem less impressive?

Even if you wanted to copy me, you wouldn't get it right the first try. You could even injure yourself without having me there to guide you.

Again, I don't know what it's like to be a digital marketer, but I imagine there are skills that can't be copied just by explaining them, right? Instead of thinking about those as secrets, think about them as marketing material.

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