wowAB 070809-Word FREEFree! 

Free sample!    There’s no such thing as a free lunch. 

Free — no strings attached.    Free is the new business model.

How does “free” sound to you? Read on…

• • •

Free is a naturally compelling word. Often followed by an exclamation point. As if it weren’t exciting enough by itself. It shows up on all the lists of marketing power words. Who doesn’t want something for free?

Free sample!

When you stop in at your local coffee shop, and they’re serving teensy cups of their new latté, or they’ve got bite size samples of their newest pastry treat, it’s soooo tempting to give it a try.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

When I’m speaking before a group, and I ask them what comes to mind when I say the word “free,” the no-free-lunch phrase always pops up right away. Along with skeptical laughs, and the counterpoint saying, “You get what you pay for!”

We’re all suspicious of something that claims to be free.

Heck, email marketers know the word “free” in a subject line can get you caught in spam filters. Some use an asterisk (FR*E) to try and outsmart spam software.

Sellers forget that the biggest filter of all is the recipient who sees (FR*E) and smirks… “uh oh, here comes the hard sell, or the bait and switch”… or just plain trashes the unread message.

Plenty of hard sell vendors have given “free” a bad name, but it still grabs our attention. The new buzz phrase, especially online is:

Free is the new business model.

Used to be, giving away a free trial, premium gift , or purchase incentive came after careful market analysis or testing to see if that was necessary to build awareness, word-of-mouth and loyalty.

With free as the hot new business model, are we kidding ourselves?

A couple of years ago I spoke with an entrepreneur who planned to start a networking group with monthly events and other member benefits, and wanted to promote it. When I asked what revenues were anticipated to support the group, the response was “Oh it will be free, there will be no cost to members!” Not even sponsorships were planned to sustain growth. She was not open to my focus on that topic.

Twelve months later, I noticed the entrepreneur is growing the group, with sponsors and a membership fee. Since I’m still on the general prospect mailing list, I got a notice that member dues, in line with the local market, which was courted as bring hiked by 115% very soon, as a way to boost response . Free as a business model? Hmmm.

• • •

Free — no strings attached.

Today is a good day to meditate on what free really means to your business, and how the market really interprets your free offers. They’ll sniff out gimmickry, the same way you do.

Free trials work in business. Free forever doesn’t. Even on the Internet.

I love free stuff as much as anyone. But you and I know, as consumers, that the free lunch does not continue forever.

Free as a business model… is really just about slowing down your selling cycle to suit your prospect’s timing, not yours.

It’s giving people the information they need. Free is OK at this stage. Let them get to know you. 

When your marketing is free of hype, you attract clients who value what you stand for, appreciate what you offer, stay loyal, and spread the word willingly.

Now that’s a terrific way to earn free publicity!

• • •

P.S. If you want to talk a business models, let us know and we can provide an objective outsider perspective to add to your development process.

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