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August 31, 2009 / jasonpinto

The Cost of Free

What exactly is the cost of “free”?

In the worlds of business and marketing, one way to attract new leads and attention for your brand is to give something away for free.

It might be a white paper or an eBook. It could be a webinar. It could be a meeting where you provide dinner or drinks for a group of people.

Those are all things that you could ask people to pay for. But… the strategy goes like this: provide compelling content at no charge. People may appreciate the gesture and the content, and start thinking of you as an expert.

Thus, when they have a need and $$, they will turn to you when they need to buy a product or service to solve their problems.

In a lot of cases, this strategy can help lead to a successful marketing and sales effort.

When FREE Causes Trouble

When a customer has trouble with a product or service, they certainly have a right to call and complain. A company would be prepared for this — they would have a customer support staff, and a program in place to help provide resolution.

Well, what if a problem happens with the stuff that we give away for free?

Here’s a recent example:

The Webinar: Last week, I logged on to view a webinar that I had been looking forward to. A few minutes after the starting time, I could not hear any audio, and the slide deck was still on the cover slide. In the “chat” box, people were complaining that they were also having the same trouble.  I hopped over to Twitter, and people were also complaining there.

Yes, a webinar that was being offered for “free” was generating complaints.

How to treat your free items

The items that you give away should be treated the same as the items that people pay for. It may not be fair — but if people have a negative experience with the things you give away, they may think bad about your company, product, or service.

If your webinar has technical troubles – apologize. Promise and do all that you can to re-schedule, or to make it up to people. You may even want to provide something else for free to the people who may have inconvenienced.

The bottom line is to be prepared. If we create free content, we may only think of the wonderful things that could happen (a thousand people will watch the webinar! The ebook will go viral!). A positive attitude is essential and great. But it’s also important to have a plan just in case things go wrong.

Care for Free

Yes, free items can affect how people think of us.

If someone is disappointed with our product or service, we often do whatever is possible to make them feel better.

We should put in the same effort when it comes to our “free” items. Because trust me, they can cost us in the end!

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