"Free" can kill your business

by MNord 38 replies
I'm inspired to write this after downloading a free report in the War Room that looked good and promised significant value...but that delivered ZILCH other than a lame sales pitch.

Don't underestimate the power of "free." Because "free" can kill your business if you do it wrong.

True story: (Long - if you want to skip the story and read the point, skip down to where you see BOLD TEXT)

Last month, my wife and I stayed for five days at an expensive resort. Our package included complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres in the resort's exclusive restaurant. We also booked dinner reservations there for two nights.

For perspective: Dinner was $30-$40 per entree, With appetizers, cocktails etc. we'd easily drop over $300 there. More if we decided to book a third evening.

On our first day, we headed to the restaurant for the wine and hors d'oeuvres. We didn't have a dinner reservation that night, but figured we'd sample the goods. The place was beautiful, but practically empty.

Soon we found out why.

The free wine was ok. The complimentary "hors d'oeuvres" on the other hand...oh my. We received a sad-looking platter consisting of:

--two small slices of limp, room temperature "gourmet pizza"

--six pretzel rods.

--a teacup-sized bowl of plain potato chips.

Nothing to dip the pretzels in. No bleu cheese crumbled over the chips. Not even a fruit garnish. At a sports bar I'd be ok with it. But here??? Unacceptable.

(Side note: If the hotel had called them "free bar snacks" instead of "complimentary hors d'oeuvres" we probably would have gone in with lower expectations and been less disappointed. There's a copywriting lesson in there if you look for it.)

When the server was gone we just started laughing. We drank our wine and left. I promptly cancelled both dinner reservations we'd made: No way I was going to pay $40 for a steak when they couldn't even get hors d'oevres right. Another restaurant got my money.

So, for your business...

If your list isn't converting, think about the quality of your freebie. Do you think potential customers won't expect much when they get something for free? Or that they'll overlook low quality just because they didn't pay for it?

WRONG.

What you give people for free becomes the standard they use to predict the quality and value of your paid offerings.

Don't slap together a "report" that's really just fluff written at a 4th grade level. Don't give a "consultation" that is vague, provides nothing actionable and is not delivered with professionalism. If you do, it will be the most expensive "freebie" you ever gave.

Rant over.
#main internet marketing discussion forum #business #free #kill
  • Profile picture of the author knishida
    Pretzel rods??? Seriously?

    Great post! Could not agree with you more.

    Give away your best stuff. Knock their socks off and people will be happy to buy what you're selling.

    Kim
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    The sting of poor quality lasts much longer than the temporary high of a low price.

    Good reminder in this thread.

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    Solid advice. This is why I never hold back on free ebooks I share. The product is my brand's credibility.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
      Banned
      Absolutely outstanding post - really. Many thanks for it!
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      • Profile picture of the author Jeff Schuman
        Good post. I have had many meals at all inclusive resorts just like you described. I think quality is something we should all strive for in any area of our lives including what we do online.
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  • Profile picture of the author JensSteyaert
    Yes that's correct, you should always deliver quality, even if you're giving it away for free.

    Here's some advice if you want to give away a free report and promote a product in the backend:
    Choose a high quality product first and create a tutorial or even a case study about a high quality product. For instance, there was a squeeze page plugin claiming to get 70% opt ins, much higher conversions than regular squeeze pages. What i did was test it, sent 100 clicks to a regular squeeze page and 100 clicks to a squeeze page created with the plugin. The results were accurate and the same as claimed on the plugin's sales page. So i just created a free report with this case study, send some traffic and result: lots of sales.

    So yeah it takes more time, might cost some money even but you'll get way more sales than giving away weak, outdated information....
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    • Profile picture of the author MNord
      Originally Posted by JensSteyaert View Post

      For instance, there was a squeeze page plugin claiming to get 70% opt ins, much higher conversions than regular squeeze pages. What i did was test it, sent 100 clicks to a regular squeeze page and 100 clicks to a squeeze page created with the plugin. The results were accurate and the same as claimed on the plugin's sales page. So i just created a free report with this case study, send some traffic and result: lots of sales.

      So yeah it takes more time, might cost some money even but you'll get way more sales than giving away weak, outdated information....
      Yep, THAT is how it's done. Good one, and an idea worth stealing!
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      • Profile picture of the author JensSteyaert
        Originally Posted by MNord View Post

        Yep, THAT is how it's done. Good one, and an idea worth stealing!
        Yes that's true

        Anybody who is just a little creative can come up with hundreds of variations of this idea, and the good thing is, there are a lot of new products coming out every day.

        Here's an additional tip on this method:
        Check out the hook on the sales page of the offer you are promoting and create your free report around that. If you can make your lead say "Hey yeah that works!" then sales will come soon after.
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  • Profile picture of the author tybolton
    Of (5) course, YOU get what you pay for -- sometimes. Those who are serving: stale, pre-made and cold list will eventually find out that those looking for quality (that you aren't serving) will never make another (order) reservation. The life time value of a customer or client is everything. First impressions really are, for the most part, everything.
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  • Profile picture of the author celente
    we sold out my mates ice cream shop by getting girls in bikinis to hand out awesome free taste samples of the icecream. The shop was previously going bankrupt. But not after that. :-)

    His business sold later on for $400,000 AUD.

    The free sample thing rules. This is a classic example.
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    • Profile picture of the author MNord
      Originally Posted by celente View Post

      we sold out my mates ice cream shop by getting girls in bikinis to hand out awesome free taste samples of the icecream. The shop was previously going bankrupt. But not after that. :-)

      His business sold later on for $400,000 AUD.

      The free sample thing rules. This is a classic example.
      Let's see: the freebie was awesome, and guys got a nice "value added" from the distribution method. Sounds like a clear winner to me!
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    • Profile picture of the author Sarevok
      Originally Posted by celente View Post

      we sold out my mates ice cream shop by getting girls in bikinis to hand out awesome free taste samples of the icecream. The shop was previously going bankrupt. But not after that. :-)

      His business sold later on for $400,000 AUD.

      The free sample thing rules. This is a classic example.
      I approve of this post.
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  • Profile picture of the author Highway55
    Originally Posted by MNord View Post

    Nothing to dip the pretzels in. No bleu cheese crumbled over the chips. Not even a fruit garnish. ... Unacceptable.
    Unacceptable, indeed!
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  • Profile picture of the author IrisMKH
    So simply put: always deliver quality.
    Great lesson!
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    • Profile picture of the author The Niche Man
      Good point and reminder as others have already stated. The bar has raised on the word "Free" but there's still hordes of marketers (if you want to call them that) who didn't get the memo yet.

      In order for many marketers to offer something free they have to have gotten it free themselves. I'm not totally innocent, I use to think the same way so I know. Fortunately, I woke up.

      Most people don't look at their freebie as a reflection of their business as some have already stated. I've received so many free offers I've almost become blind to them, similar to "banner or classified ad blindness".

      My philosophy is if you couldn't sell it in the marketplace now (not 5 years ago) don't offer it as a freebie. Because it represents you and your business to your customers ... like it or not!

      No freebie at all -- is better than a cheap freebie!
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      • Profile picture of the author UsedName
        Originally Posted by The Niche Man View Post


        My philosophy is if you couldn't sell it in the marketplace now (not 5 years ago) don't offer it as a freebie. Because it represents you and your business to your customers ... like it or not!

        No freebie at all -- is better than a cheap freebie!
        That sums up my thoughts on it exactly. If I'm considering an offer, either for my own use or to model after, then they've lost me if their freebie is crap. The freebie sets the expectation for me, since all of us here know it's not really a freebie so much as buying your subscription to their list. I get enough spam email; my email real estate is more valuable than a 'report' you cobbled together without spell-checking and contains no real information.
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  • Profile picture of the author Anne Laidlaw
    Very good post! Freebies are like banner ads to me, I don't really notice them any more.
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  • Profile picture of the author Zanesta
    Free can kill your business, but if it's of value and in a small volume, it can definitely enhance it.

    Have you been to a mall where services just have employees standing outside offering a quick spray of their new cologne on your hand, or offering a small piece of their new cheese cake? Not only do they want feedback of their product/service, they want to entice you into buying it.

    Offer something for free if you can, but rather than giving them the entire thing, give them a bite

    Good luck!
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    • Profile picture of the author MNord
      Originally Posted by zanesta View Post

      Free can kill your business, but if it's of value and in a small volume, it can definitely enhance it.

      Have you been to a mall where services just have employees standing outside offering a quick spray of their new cologne on your hand, or offering a small piece of their new cheese cake? Not only do they want feedback of their product/service, they want to entice you into buying it.

      Offer something for free if you can, but rather than giving them the entire thing, give them a bite

      Good luck!
      Absolutely agree. Free samples can be great for getting new customers. But the samples had better be good, right?
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  • Profile picture of the author Adie
    Great eye opener. Not a good idea especially for food business. I am hungry and I want to eat delicious food. If yous serve me something that could turn my appetite away, I better leave.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rbtmarshall
    complaining about free hors d'oeuvres yet giving away free plr articles in signature.

    classic
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Originally Posted by Rbtmarshall View Post

      complaining about free hors d'oeuvres yet giving away free plr articles in signature.

      classic
      It seems you've completely misunderstood the point. The complaint was against the quality of the hors d'oeuvres and, relatedly, the manner in which they were presented/promoted - not the fact that they were free.
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      • Profile picture of the author Rbtmarshall
        Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

        It seems you've completely misunderstood the point. The complaint was against the quality of the hors d'oeuvres and, relatedly, the manner in which they were presented/promoted - not the fact that they were free.
        No, I didn't miss the point of OP's post, I think he was more disappointed in the hotels free snack headline, and felt duped because of the fancy sounding french finger food paired with wine didn't come out as imagined.
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        • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
          Originally Posted by Rbtmarshall View Post

          No, I didn't miss the point of OP's post, I think he was more disappointed in the hotels free snack headline, and felt duped because of the fancy sounding french finger food paired with wine didn't come out as imagined.
          All of which is irrelevant to whatever is being offered in his sig.
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          I've just put Richard Branson's number on speed-dial. I call it my "Get-Rich-Quick" scheme.

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          • Profile picture of the author Rbtmarshall
            Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

            All of which is irrelevant to whatever is being offered in his sig.
            No. It's not irrelevant at all. I bet, its just a story to promote his signature
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            • Profile picture of the author Highway55
              Originally Posted by Rbtmarshall View Post

              No. It's not irrelevant at all. I bet, its just a story to promote his signature
              I can see it both ways. But the irony is certainly recognized.
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              • Profile picture of the author MNord
                [DELETED]
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                • Profile picture of the author Highway55
                  Originally Posted by MNord View Post

                  Actually, it's only ironic if what I'm offering for free is not good. Have you read it? I welcome informed opinions
                  I have not read your stuff. However, when someone pointed out that you were taking issue with bad "free" stuff, while trying to promote free stuff of your own... I agreed that there was some humor in that - because quite frankly, there is.

                  "Stay away from that 'bad' free stuff. And oh by the way, I have free stuff, too. But my stuff is good free stuff."

                  I have no opinion on your stuff. It may very well be great! I am only commenting on the intent and delivery, which qualifies as irony in my book.
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  • Profile picture of the author mdrosenkrans
    Outstanding advice I'm sure a lot of newbies are not aware of - and a great story to go along with it!

    Thanks for sharing that story, I'm sure a lot of us can relate but never had it laid out in such a way that really makes it "click".
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  • Profile picture of the author Beergut
    Free ain't what it use to be that's for sure. Great post an advice you have made here. Thanks for sharing your tips!
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  • Profile picture of the author N4PGW
    Originally Posted by MNord View Post

    What you give people for free becomes the standard they use to predict the quality and value of your paid offerings.

    Don't slap together a "report" that's really just fluff written at a 4th grade level. Don't give a "consultation" that is vague, provides nothing actionable and is not delivered with professionalism. If you do, it will be the most expensive "freebie" you ever gave.
    I was on a list a few years ago where the owner sent freebies once a week or two. But on his download page were three ads that anyone who has been in IM for more than a month or two has probably downloaded and knows it is all trash. The item that stands out was the 15000 PLR products that are spun so poorly that they are not humanly readable.

    I told him that the freebies were great, but with him selling known trash on the download page, I doubt anyone would risk giving him money. Three months later, he called everyone on his list leaches and he was deleting his list.

    ALWAYS SHOW YOU ARE ABOUT QUALITY
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  • Profile picture of the author thisisraz65
    Great post. Thanks for your effort
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  • Profile picture of the author Katie Rich
    And yet, all inclusive in a Sri Lanka hotel provided an over-abundance of quality food, and hors d'oeuvres of exceptional standard. Just because one freebie was disappointing is no reason to judge them all by the same standard.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Hess
    I think with anything free the key is to find balance...

    FREE produces a ton of freebie seekers which can be a drain on your resources (time, bandwidth, autoresponder space). I've seen some marketers attract these hardcore freebie-seekers like moths to a flame and in the end they get frustrated because after all the effort and good will, these people still won't buy. They attract these people because they do FREE so much, they devalue themselves.

    Free also creates a lot of hassles like people who then want free coaching, recommendations for more free stuff, etc... it never ends.

    I think it's important when doing FREE, you let people know at the same time you're not afraid to sell and this isn't some big 24/7 giveaway event or all-you-can-eat freebie buffet. You need to set boundaries.

    You create an awesome freebie then produce a ton of sales because people like your free information sounds good in theory, but I've seen this go disastrously bad for some.

    The red carpet should be rolled out for PAYING customers where you constantly should strive to deliver value (yes, give them your best freebies) because they will attract other customers through word of mouth, testimonials, etc...

    JensSteyaert has the right idea where free is so closely tied to the paid product they are basically intertwined. Hardcore freebie-seekers will be instantly turned off by that sort of thing...
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  • Profile picture of the author SEOJerry
    I wish everyone thought like you. I don't even read free reports now because I know it is going to be garbage.
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  • Profile picture of the author gcbmark20
    Hi,

    Besides you can still get people to join your email list etc by not offering
    something with the word "FREE" in it and target the buyers out there who
    have a need for something and are more than happy to pay for it.

    If you do your TESTING and test out different traffic sources you'll soon
    find that a lot of people are willing to invest right away.

    Not everyone are just freebie seekers anyway.

    So this need to offer ONLY FREE stuff and beating around the bush
    isn't always necessary.

    Sure I agree with your piece but that's if you only state that you're offering
    something for FREE in the first place.

    Good post anyways.
    Gavin

    "We cannot change the cards we are dealt. Just how we play the hand."
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  • Profile picture of the author Stuart Walker
    OP nailed it on the head.

    Your free report shouldn't be any old garbage just because it's "free" and people won't care.

    People do care.

    Make the free report the best report in the world on the subject and people will think "wow he gives that much information away for free then imagine what the stuff he charges for must be like" and then bite your hand off to buy it.
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    A few years ago, I wrote an article called "When Is a Gift Not a Gift?" It was pretty much a rant on the mismatch between many businesses' idea of what constitutes a gift and what the average person's idea considers a gift.

    Yesterday was my wife's birthday, and she's signed up to just about every email club in this neck of the woods. Just about all of them offer a "free gift on your birthday." So you open the email, and you see "print your coupon for your free birthday dessert (or whatever)." Print the coupon and read the fine print...

    "Dine-in only, between 2 PM and 4PM, with purchase of two adult entrees and drinks..."

    WTF?

    That's not a gift, that's a coupon.

    Others gave true gifts. If she wanted to, she could print the email, walk into the establishment and walk out with the freebie. Guess where we spent our money? Yup, the place with the real freebie, not the place that tried to coerce us into spending money under false pretenses.

    Crappy or misleading freebies can blow up in your face. I used to tell consulting clients all the time that a really good campaign could bring a good business to the next level or send a bad one into oblivion sooner than it would otherwise. The rise of social media and user review sites makes that more true than ever...
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