FREE. No Cost. Complimentary. No charge.
Have you noticed? We have gotten so used to getting things for free that it's nearly impossible to find any product, service, experience, or program that doesn't include something given away for nothing at some point in the selling cycle.
The trend to free is certainly not new. I remember "free" sticking it's claws into my business back 15 years ago when I was in the women's underwear business.
Originally, we offered a twice yearly sale at 20% off. Then people got numb to that so to maintain our numbers, we went to 25% off twice a year.
Then customers had to be enticed with Buy 2 Get 1 Free (or 33 1/3%) off. Now it's Buy 2 Get 2 Free.
Without FREE, women stopped buying. This trend to FREE killed the department store business and forced manufacturing offshore.
Now let's take a look at what's happening in the service and information sectors of business....
Why Free Stuff For Business Has Taken Over
Information may mean power, but we sure don't want to pay for that power.
One massively successful marketer wrote his book, and sold it on Amazon FOR FREE for an entire week. Why? To get it on the Amazon best "seller" list of course. Amazon counted free downloads as sales!
More and more you find books and e-books, audio courses, video courses, entire modules of programs, free sessions, free masterminds, free blogging services, free free free everything. I've seen courses and programs overblown with bonuses and freebies to entice the sale. They are so overblown with bonuses the customer has forgotten what the main value proposition is.
So who's buying anything with real money?
It is taking more and more for people to part with their money for even high-value content and services.
Because we have trained them to expect almost everything for nothing. We who use FREE are responsible for this dysfunctional mindset.
I recently saw something that just about blew my mind:
I was reading a question in a very popular marketing forum.
One business owner posted the question: "Is clothing deductible on my taxes?"
Asking marketing entrepreneurs whether they think clothing is a valid tax deduction vs. asking (and paying) your highly qualified CPA for the best answer for you and your taxes?
And the business owners in the forum answered! As if they know or are qualified to know.... they don't know the question-asker's business entity or her tax situation.
Free is costing you a fortune.
That's right, I said it.
- If you are trying to piece information to help you grow your business - with free information
- If you are trying to get legal advice to protect you as you grow your business - with free advice
- If you are trying to use free financial, marketing, business planning, production, web development input
.......your business is pretty likely going nowhere fast.
I can give you example after example of people who got free websites from "friends" that took ages to finish and are still not properly designed and developed.
I can give you case after case of people who bartered for business plans. Guess what? Those business plan writers suddenly vanished in the middle of the project leaving these folks high and dry.
Like you, I love getting free info, reports, books, but understand this:
There is a really high price for not paying for quality, service, or information. It's going to cost you much more in the long run in time, mistakes, and effectiveness.
I see this FREE mentality as an addiction; a disease that is killing off robust, healthy, responsible enterprise.
Expecting a lot for nothing. As a business owner and professional: do you see anything wrong with that equation?
One of my favorite business gurus, Michael Hyatt recently wrote a great blog post on How To Use Free To Drive Your Marketing Strategy. In his post, he also shares his concern about free as a business strategy, but distinguishes using free as a marketing strategy.
I can sort of get behind this. Sort of.....
Why? Because where do we draw the line?
We train our prospects and clients how to treat us. Free is a very dangerous and powerful tool.
Use it right, and it can open lots of doors. Overuse it and it's like going on a drinking binge and waking up after a blackout. You don't know where you're going or where you've been.
In Chris Anderson's book FREE: The Future of A Radical Price (Hyperion 2009) he says:
"Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it is."
FREE becomes an unhealthy drug , because we don't have to take any risks. And as humans, we are afraid of loss much more than we are drawn to gain.
So where does that leave you as a service business owner?
Am I recommending No More Free across the board?
Am I being a hypocrite because I still offer some items for FREE on my website and my blog?
The Solution To Tire-Kicking Free-Stuff Seekers
I recommend FREE in selective, well-controlled doses.
I recommend establishing very clear guidelines in your own mind about where FREE ends and FOR FEE begins.
Here are my recommendations for you to get off FREE and build respectable FEES so your business can thrive.
1. Train prospects and clients that your knowledge, expertise, information, and tools comes with an corresponding appropriate price.
2. Selectively offer appetizer-sized bits of information and tips to prospects giving them a fair, reasonable taste of what you can do to help them be successful and accomplish their objectives.
3. Stop giving FREE sessions. That's right. I said it.
By offering a for-fee introductory session ( I have no problem offering this initial session at an "appetizer rate") you will quickly learn who is willing to have skin in the game and who is just kicking tires, who just wants something for nothing. If you are the only one with skin in the game, your prospect has zero accountability and values you and your expertise less.
As Michael Hyatt indicates, using FREE as a marketing lever to build your subscribers is a viable strategy. The key is to not overdo it and begin to train your readers and followers that they can get lots and lots of FREE from you and hold off on hiring you.
FREE should be the appetizer, not the meal.
What's your feeling about FREE?