Can Knowledge Be Sampled?

What can be said in order to truly persuade the customers of consultancies or agencies (professional service providers) that they’ll buy knowledge? Unless a customer has experienced it in prior projects or someone has recommended the professional service provider, it has to be communicated. However, a mere statement in an advertisement is not a proof and anyone could say so. Companies that produce and do not sell services have an easy method to prove the quality of what they’re offering: sampling.

On saturday mornings, I often go to a market to buy fresh food. On this market, there is a turkish stand that sells mediterranean delicatessen. I’ve started buying their vegeterian creams regularly because they’ve basically forced samples on me – and they were delicious. Another example: Would you ever buy a car without test driving it?

But how can you sample knowledge? That can only be possible when it is codified. How can you communicate codified knowledge

  • a company blog
  • white papers
  • studies / surveys (or a synopsis of it)
  • case studies
  • presentations
  • opening innovation processes to the masses

Then, however, you don’t know whether the customer also believes that the employees he will pay for have that knowledge. Secondly, you can’t give away too much because your competition or your customer might profit from it (the open source dilemma, described in an earlier post).

Thirdly, doesn’t sampling show weakness? A company like Apple would probably never need to sample because the demand is high enough. However, does that mean that all automotive companies are “needy”? In my opinion yes. If professional service providers sample knowledge, does that mean they are “needy”? Again: yes. But is needy negative? In my opinion: no. No, because neediness just means that there is high competition in the market and the service provider tries to acquire new customers.


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