Creative Marketing Solutions: Fresh, Effective Strategies for Attracting Clients and Customers from Marcia Yudkin
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Free or Fee? 
Marketing Minute Subscribers Weigh In

by Marcia Yudkin

The Question Put to Marketing Minute Subscribers in 1999

Today marks the ninety-fifth week I've sent out my thoughts on marketing for free. Why do I bother if I'm not being paid? With the Marketing Minute, my articles posted online and talks to business groups, I've seen "free" become the passageway to "fee."

When a consultant asked if she should give away her perspectives and ideas in her newsletter, I told her, "The more you give away, the more they'll understand why they need to hire you."

Direct marketer Bob Serling disagrees with my approach. "Through many years of trial and error, I've discovered that making a sale on the first try should always be your primary goal. Accordingly, I recommend you rarely give anything away for free as a lead generator, especially on the Internet."

Serling continues, "Without some type of commitment on the prospect's part, you don't really have the beginning of a relationship. Worse, by continuing to give more and more away for free, you're conditioning prospects NOT to buy -- but to expect even more for free."

What do you think? What does your experience show?

The Overall Tally

Of almost 100 respondents who responded to the above question, 68 percent said that they agreed wholeheartedly with my approach, 9 percent said that they agreed with Serling (most "reluctantly") and 23 percent responded with some form of either "it depends" or "you're both right."

My Experience Shows...

Here are excerpts from the comments of those who had seen my approach work for their business.

"I give out free advice often over the phone in my music demo service and landscape biz too. I'd say 50% of the time the inquirer becomes a customer." - Bill Watson

"I am working with a client right now as a result of his having heard me speak at a national conference a few months ago. Everything I am doing for him was covered in my talk. But rather than his taking the information and doing it himself, he realized what I could do for him." - Herb Fox

"As a puppet maker, I do free demonstrations at craft stores, booktores and schools. Each and every one of my free workshops has led to at least one order or reservation for a paid workshop. If I wasn't out there, showing people that they, too, could learn, then they may never have known that they wanted to." - Margie Ann Stanko

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"As a consultant (Training and Human Resource Development), the selling cycle for my services (large value sales) may be many months long. The decision is too big and the consequences too great for a snap decision. I've noticed that the first thing I have to do when selling to a client is establish myself as an expert. This often means giving away quite a lot of free information and expertise - a risk to me because I never know if they're actually going to sign up. However, the client needs to be confident that I can solve their problem before they make a commitment to pay me. I'm always willing to talk to a potential client regarding a few simple ideas. I need a way to 'get my foot in the door' - what better a way than to be helpful from the start. Now that I've had one successful contact, it's easier to start building a business relationship. Giving away the information doesn't build a relationship -- it gets you the sales call." - Kevin Eggemeyer

"I have tried Serling's approach. While sometimes I have been successful using this approach, I have almost always had to use some type of manipulation to get the customer's 'commitment' to buy. Almost always, this is an unstable basis for any type of long term or even short term relationship. And I refuse to use manipulative sales techniques any more." - Marianne Smith

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"As a consultant (workplace safety and ergonomics), my marketing consists almost entirely of public presentations (some paid, some not) where I share my perspectives and have the opportunity to shape the perspectives of those in attendance on what many would consider a dry, objective, technical matter. Providing this type of information helps establish me as an 'expert' in the field, which brings my name to mind when these types of services are needed. I frequently have colleauges and competitors in my audience, as well as people who obtain enough 'free' information to meet their needs. This last group of people are either competent enough to go it on their own, or would never hire me anyway. I have been surprised by the number of referrals I've received from the first group of individuals, by positioning myself as a prominent member in the field, and maintaining positive visibility." - Philip Jacobs

"My approach to my web site business is to offer a tips booklet for free first. My strategy is to distinguish myself from the other zillions of web site designers out there and to provide something more than people expect. In addition, recipients are more likely to keep my booklet and put it in their 'web site' file for future reference. The booklet also is a means for me to obtain mentions in various legal publications. It's my 'hook,' and so far, it has been quite effective." - Barb Leff

"In my experience as an image consultant, some people aren't going to hire me no matter how much I give away, but it still creates goodwill and they might refer me to someone who does want/need my services. On the other hand, all it takes with the people who are on the fence is to give them a taste of what it would be like to work one-on-one with me. Not to mention that it keeps my name in front of them all the time and keeps them aware of all the services I do offer. The more I give away the more it comes back to me. And, I feel good doing it!" - Ginger Burr

"I have built my entire business by giving information away for free. When you give you receive and you build brand, trust and customer loyalty. Our Dressing Well newsletter has been in circulation for seven years. It was originally designed as a marketing piece and is now fee-based for new subscribers. Everyone who was receiving it before it was available for a cost still receives it free of charge. Every single time it goes out we get a call, 'I've been on your mailing list for years, I think I'm ready for a private consultation....' or 'I love your publication! I was just promoted to HR Director and I think our people would benefit from an Organization By Design seminar.' I could go on and on!" - Mary Lou Andre

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"As a business owner, I believe Mr. Serling to be incorrect. I provide first aid to special events and teach first aid. I often provide free CPR and first aid classes. The people I teach tell others about me and have increased my business." - Jack Hendrix

"I strongly disagree with Bob Serling. In a market inundated with 'experts,' how is a potential client going to know why you're the best? I'm a headhunter/recruiter, working ecommerce/internet technologies in Silicon Valley, and I've learned to never be afraid to share. It comes back to you in ways you'd never have imagined. I regularly give away my '25 Trick Interview Questions' as a prep-sheet to all my current and potential candidates. (For a free copy, contact I've had people call me YEARS after receiving the material, and a successful placement result." - Rick Cohen

"My own experiences show that 'giving it away for free' is a worthwhile endeavor. I do my own e-newsletter, The Career Tip of the Month. History has shown that 6-14 months down the line once somebody subscribes they will contact me for my resume writing services. I've even picked up a couple career coaching clients that have easily justified the time/effort by themselves. It has also brought me clients for marketing and website consulting!" - Dave Dolak

"I think giving information away -- in a controlled way -- is essential to proving you are the prospect's right choice. My proposals are very detailed. I've often thought that a prospect could take that information and go through the marketing steps I've outlined. They could, but the steps they'd go through would lack the expertise I bring to the marketing efforts. Most prospects realize this after they've read my proposal. Of course, not everyone signs up with me, but an overwhelming majority see the expertise I can offer because I've shown them in my proposal." - Sarah Pilgrim

"I'm an Alexander Technique teacher who always does a free demonstration before asking people to commit to a series of lessons. How else can they know what they're signing on for? I think sampling of work is a great sales tool in itself." - Stephanie Segers

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"We have been giving away a little of our knowledge/experience for 23 years via publication of our Spectrum Newsletter. Now, we also publish some helpful info on our Web site. As far as we can determine, it helps generate business -- although not necessarily in a direct manner. you can present general ideas, explain problems, outline principles to clients/prospects; but that doesn't mean that they will be able to use that information on their own or carry out a program effectively without your professional help. An example: we sometimes feature information about the necessity to have a business card in the language of a country you're going to visit, e.g. Japan; and we explain the procedures for the card exchange and other niceties of dealing with Japanese business execs. But our prospective client still can't translate, typeset, and print the cards without us." - Dick Weltz

"I have been self employed for over 10 years. It has been my experience that Bob Serling is very wrong. I teach my clients (for free) how to do my work. Why do they use me?

1) They don't have time to do it themselves;

2) They don't have time to experience the learning curve necessary to do the job right the first time.

3) I am very good at what I do and they trust me." - Jim Strickland

"My field is marketing research. This past year and a half, I have been able to "give away" ideas about how companies can do market research themselves. I do this by making presentations locally and around the country, whenever I can. In the year and a half since I've been speaking, 'giving away' ideas, my business has increased almost 50%." - Lon Zimmerman

"I have built a nice income over the past two years by giving away my knowledge on my unique approach to guitar playing. As a clinician with Taylor Guitar company, my mini concert/workshop clinics in guitar stores all over the country draw bigger and bigger audiences that generally are inspired at the knowledge I share while playing and endorsing the Taylor guitar. By giving that knowledge away, and making that a part of my clinic that adds to the participants' value, it adds to my income by making more sales of my CDs and instructional videos, and by having more requests for me to return as the store receives so much positive response from their customers, the participants." - Steven King

The Philosophical Underpinning of "Free"

"The gentleman who disagrees with you is missing out on the best part of being in business -- the sheer delight of sharing your message with as many people as possible and attacting those who are ready and able to hire you. I would rather spend hours 'joyfully' writing the newsletter than one hour 'painfully' making a cold call." - Mary Lou Andre

"I try to get away or deflect from the mecenary aspect of my business and attempt to demonstrate a real service oriented business model. I encourage my call centre agents to care about every caller and if it becomes obvious that our organisation is unable to help, then they have licence to advise the caller to contact specific organisations that we know can assist them with their unique problem. They are also encouraged to give real solutions to real problems, even if the opportunity for a sale is a 'no way' or a long way down the track. Our callers love it and it costs us nothing, and how do you put a cost on goodwill? Besides we get a lot of referral business that way." - Adam Jacob

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"I've always believed that if you freely share your knowledge the positive energy comes back to you tenfold. As the saying goes, 'You get what you give.'" - Marlo Miyashiro

"Your weekly newsletter gives prospective clients a way to recognize your talents better than a commercial with talking frogs-- even if the frogs are usually funnier. Please keep up the great work." - Robert Durant

"To the debate, I would like to add a cultural twist. I have heard from American sales people who sell to both Americans and Europeans that the Americans like free samples and value low prices. Many Europeans feel that if something is less expensive, it suffers in quality. I have heard that about dental materials and other things such as clothes, restaurants and groceries." - Anonymous

"I prefer 'free' becomes the passage way to 'fee.' It is a perspective that comes from a feeling of abundance (and therefore will attract abundance). The Bob Serling approach comes from a belief (and experience) of lack. Both views might lead to building a business. But the experience of 'free becomes fee' would be more pleasurable and stress free." - Betty Perkins, M.S.

"Bob Serling is right and so are you. Each method works. Each can increase revenues. One gives and receives. The other withholds, plots and plans and also receives. What's the real goal here? The 'world' has no trouble making money with gimmicks, slick words and well scripted sales pitches. It's called 'free enterprise'. The goal is to get the most toys. If that's what you think life is all about then you shall reap what you sow. On the other hand those, like you, who are not so avaricious understand that life is about helping others, not manipulating them. 'Give and you shall receive' has its own rewards." - Alan Trombetta (who also provided the following Biblical quote)

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." - Luke 6:38

I Myself Am Proof...

"Having bought two of your books, I can say without reservation that I would not have even thought about buying them without first reading your FREE Marketing Advice!" - John Henry Blues

"Keep up the good work, Marcia. Because of the Marketing Minute, I have referred several folks to you looking for marketing assistance." - Mary Lou Andre

"Take me for example, I want to work with you. If you didn't send me the Marketing Minute every week, I may have forgotten your name and what you do. You probably didn't know me as an individual, someone that really reads your stuff, and thinks about it, or how close I am to doing business with you. There are probably others like me, and it doesn't take many. There is a certain passion for what you do that comes through in your email messages, and more importantly it shows when you send us something each week, a commitment of time and effort. I don't know that mass mailings or advertising would have gotten that across." - Joe H. Perates

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"If you would have came at me with a hard sell I would have deleted your message and our relationship would have been over. I have yet to purchase your services and advice, but over time I feel like I know you and your talents. I would not be surprised in the future if I take you up on one of your offers. I read and enjoy the Marketing Minute each week." - Troy Marshall

"I love getting your free newletter and because of it, and the credibility it has given you, I have bought from you several times. I receive numerous ezines each week for free. Some of these firms automatically cancelled the ezine if I didn't buy form them in a reasonable time frame. Since it costs them nothing to keep me on their listserver, I wonder why they would stop delivering their ezine to me. What these firms don't know is that I am a very successful Executive Recruiter and I spend a lot of money each year on training materials for myself. Sometimes I'm impulsive and buy things quickly and often I wait a while because I am unsure or too busy etc. If these ezine companies had been more patient I too might have become their customer." - Norman Lieberman

"In every Marketing Minute you 'give away' valuable advice, but you also ask for an order. Your free advice does not condition me 'NOT to buy'...and 'expect more for free.' Quite the contrary. It persuades me that you have the only thing I might want to buy: real marketing skills." - Bryant Sandburg

"You've been sending out your thoughts on marketing for 95 weeks and I've been receiving them for 3. I find them thought provoking. In time I expect that you may move into the top of my mind so I may start to make connection to you from places in my marketing life. That will inspire the desire to work together. In my experience, that's one way marketing works, and works well by building credibility, trust and confidence. I sell audio and video production and post-production services. If I didn't give away examples of works as well as consultation time, I could not encourage my prospects and clients to fulfill their electronic communications aspirations." - Lee Rooklin

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"You sent me a postcard at least six times before we got online and began getting the Marketing Minute. I save the ideas you send us in a folder and look at it regularly. When I'm ready *to buy* some consulting time, do you think I will spend even one cyber second looking for someone? Of course NOT,...I know you and trust you because I've seen your work. We'll call ONLY you...and never doubt we made the right choice. Giving it away is the first step toward being the ONLY choice your buyer considers...nice market position!" - Janet Taylor

"We sure know your name. Maybe the price is out of our range, but we still check your seminar schedules. The price is right when we have an awful problem." - Frances Lee-Vandell

"When I owned a business in New York City for ten years, I learned that giving away items or services for free was well worth the time and effort. As a matter of fact, during the times I was most generous with my time, knowledge, services, and items my business was thriving. Oh, and by the way, I actually purchased your books after I read some of your ideas." - Karen Marie

"Although you are giving something away, I think the 'conditioning' actually builds trust. If you care enough about me and my success to provide a free product or service, I would certainly be more prone to use you for a paid service in the future. The commitment you have made to deliver this free service weekly, without fail, assures me that I can count on you." - Jill Ackerman

Serling's Proponents

"I'm afraid I have to agree with the charge-em philosophy. For much of this year I have sent out a 2000-word newsletter each week to a group of 330+ well-paid, apparently highly professional technologists in New Zealand. The bulletin is filled with up to the moment news, features, information on upcoming events, opinion, forum-type discussion involving their own people - and they tell me they can't live without their weekly e-zine. They applaud the fact that I have established an interim web site for their industry and am about to launch a more sophisticated version. They like the humour, the factual stuff, they like to read about themselves, and to contribute occasionally. Early this week I asked for a moderate subscription to cover my costs - and I've received only 10 'Yes' replies. Too many people are users. I have to agree with Bob Serling. The more quality you give people for free, the more they expect - for free!" - Graham Hawkes

"I'm usually of the ethic of giving stuff away free - but all the years of doing it has generated little in return for me. Your contrarian may be correct in that prospects now expect free stuff and give back little in return, except for their appreciation (again encouraging you to continue giving the free stuff). I've always tried a balanced apporach, where I give some information for free but try to leave the reader/user with unanswered issues or questions so they would want more. Yet it stiil has not generated much for me." - Harvy Simkovits

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"In my experience giving away samples is a bad idea. There are web sites dedicated to helping people get free stuff. I got tapes, booklets, and herbal remedies for free. I had no intention of paying for any of it. What is even more bizarre is that I exchanged personal information for these products and (as far as I can remember) I did not get a follow-up phone call or e-mail asking me to buy more. As far as I know all of the web sites that gave out free stuff to me are out of business. Also, I have a shareware that I have been using for over ten years and have not gotten around to paying for it. By the way, I am overdue for my free six weeks of Investors Business Daily. I want to get other like minds like me to get the IBD so we can have a continuous feed of free papers all year long. As far as my experience with giving things away, 'If you give it away once it is a gift, and twice it becomes an entitlement.'" - Albert Johnston

"I see a general decline in the economy due to all the free giveaways. You have Joe over here selling light bulbs for $1. But go over there, you have GIVING AWAY light bulbs... and using ad $ to make up the lost revenue. What happens to Joe, a specialist in his field? He loses revenue and has to eventually go out of business. I know the Net has jaded my view about value. Why pay my insurance agent for his "service" when I can save $100 a year with an internet company? What has he done for me lately that I should pay for? The flip side is.... party's over fat, rich insurance agent. Gotta get your butt up and work now!" - Robert Mohon

"For the same reason you wrote and distributed for free your Marketing Minute, I wrote a leaflet about the going rates in freelance work in a couple of professions. I advertised it and sent it out for free. Nice reactions, orders for it, but no sales whatsoever. The people who are looking for free information either don't have enough money to pay for a specialist (for me) or are always looking for a bargain, often ending up with solutions that are in the end more expensive. Penny wise, pound foolish. But not my kind of customers. I also don't think the 'everything is free on the Internet' approach is successful. The secret successes are the sites with paid information, but the people that dominate the public opinion about the Internet have no interest in telling this." - Hans Hermans

"When I would do a 'free consultation' people would naturally ask as many questions about as many areas of their home as they could think of asking. Now I feel that getting some $ up front is a way of qualifying clients and getting them involved in a business relationship with me. Then when I 'give away' something they are more appreciative than otherwise. I no longer resent them or myself for feeling and even being taken advantage of." - Anonymous

"The serious customer will pay a consultation fee (refundable when they place an order) for ideas even when they go elsewhere." - Ginny Rivenburg

Mixed Views

"The only kind of business that can get away with zero freebies is my current business - software services. The demand is far too much and thus it is a suppliers' market. In a buyers' market, freebies are often the only way to open the doors." - Shefaly Yogendra

"I don't think it's an either/or proposition. I think an entrepreneur, based on my experience, 'gives away' just enough to let clients know that there's more to come, and that the entrepreneur who he/she is about to do business with is not so poor or stingy or limited that they CAN'T offer juicy tidbits (aka bait) to lure the client in." - Eleanora E. Tate, Author

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"There are no fast and hard rules. What works for your business might not work for mine. What works today might not work next week. But if I were going to hire a marketing consultant, would I be more likely to find a name in the Yellow Pages, or contact you, who has shown herself to be insightful, experienced and dependable over these past ninety five weeks? Perhaps you should add Mr. Serling's name to your mailing list. It sounds as though he could use some marketing advice." - Anonymous

"I'm a psychotherapist in private practice (for 24 years), and this is what I've come up with:

1. If you can 'target your market' very specifically, and give away free advice in a general way, you promote your own visibility and expertise. You are perceived as approachable, nice, competent, and referrals will flow (although it may take years). These referrals stimulate other referrals, which is the best way to start and maintain a thriving practice, in my opinion.

2. If you don't know your market really well, giving free advice may fall on 'deaf ears.' Worse, some people may pick up on your attempts, may misperceive it as 'being part of the family,' may ask for more help and be unwilling to pay for it. You can hurt your own reputation in this way, since some people see it as 'fake,' having a hidden agenda, not truly wanting to be helpful. In a small community, 'news' like this and reputations do travel.

I did have audio tapes made on 'Choosing Your Psychotherapist,' and got a lot of referrals based on it." - Alice V. Graubart, LCSW

"I bring people in from around the world, and place them on American dairy farms for a one-year work training experience. What I give away for "free" to non-clients is advice on how to work with training programs, how to get visas, how to get people in from other countries, etc. Many of these people become clients when they see how complicated it is to do on their own vs. pay the administrative fee to me. With the technical dairy tours, I am a bit different. People contact me occasionally, wanting to have a list of farms to visit in x area. Since that's what we do on our tours, and since I don't want people that I work with to be bombarded by visitors all the time, I am not too quick to give away this information. I figure that they are people who don't really ever want to pay for that sort of service anyhow." - Jill Stahl Tyler

"Consumers are not all the same. Your approach works on some and Serling's approach will work on others. As a music producer and performing artist, I know that there are dozens of factors that determine someone's response. One singer/song can reach Jo, but it may take a different one to reach JoAnn." - Darryl Girard

"The fact that your name was given as a reference in a magazine together with the advice to subscribe to your 'Marketing Minute' is proof enough that your approach works. Yet I, for one, suffered the impact of what I call 'the gimme, gimme, gimme more syndrome.' Based on a lifetime of international experience, I was able to point out vital cultural and business approach differences which, on the whole, were not apparent to my business colleagues or potential clients. My advice averted ruinous consequences, secured contracts and, therefore profits, but I got nothing, not even thanks. My impression was that, since it was for free, they didn't really value my information and/or advice. Granted, I was working as director of international marketing, not yet established as an independent consultant." - Norma de Sauvignac-Hobbs

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"I enjoy reading your Marketing Minute emails but also realize you are, in fact, getting something for free from me. You are getting the opportunity to put your name and company in front of a potential buyer. That's good advertising for you, for we all learned in marketing school that frequency builds recognition, which equals future buys. On the other hand, Bob Serling has a point. Say you were offering a free T-shirt to anyone who responded to your email. It is likely that many (if not most) of the people asking for the shirt would be unqualified leads from which you would not make any future sales. But what you offer--a short tip about marketing--doesn't cost you much to give and isn't interesting to Internet souvenir hunters (what we call "trick or treaters"). So, you are giving a low cost but valuable item to those who are truly interested. Your message is going only to those who would want what you are ultimately selling. You are hitting your target market regularly so your message is repeated often. It seems like good marketing to me! - Sandra Salzer

"I agree with you both in that I believe giving a tip or two 'greases' the skids and creates visibility and credibility. Yet, I know from my own experience that if the web site gives away more than a useful teaser and does so repeatedly, I feel disinclined to seek the service for a fee when I can get most of what I want for free. Because surfers expect to find useful information of some sort at your site, I think it inadvisable not to provide something. But what is provided should be just enough to demonstrate to readers how much they need your wisdom and expertise. In my less savvy days I used to give away the store and then wonder why no one hired me." - Signe A. Dayhoff, Ph.D.

"I think Serling is right in that you can condition people to think they will always get things for free. But that's not the only alternative. In our work, we give a fair amount for free. But we also give more through a variety of fee structures. With every increase in price, the client gets more and more of our expertise, customized for their particular needs. The free stuff is very general. The high-end consulting stuff is very customized. This structure built us into a multi-million dollar consulting firm. Often, the people who consistently receive the free stuff become our best salespeople to the people who eventually hire us. In addition, our free stuff led to being featured in the magazine Business 2.0." - Jared M. Spool

"Having spent 30 years selling complex high value services I find myself, sadly, agreeing with Bob. Truth is that people value what they pay for, people pay attention to services they buy and the truth is that what people value most is what they have to pay for. All of this said- there is undeniable promotional value in giving away a nugget from time to time. I think that when your tactic is to give away a little it must be accompanied by period calls to ask for the recipient's business." - John Galavan

"I have offered free 10 min. treatments of Reiki and chair massage at many health fairs etc. At those events we usually treat about 100 per day and hand out flyers/coupons/marketing materials etc. PEOPLE LOVE THE TREATMENTS - it doesn't turn into committed buyers orcustomers, however, and sometimes people do expect getting more for free afterwards. The freebies at these fairs tend to attract people of low-income. This being said, in my coaching practice, I have found however, that offering a first 15 minute free consult has led to committed long-term clients. So, I think it depends on WHAT you are offering for free and where and how." - Ulrike Dettling

Is Serling's Position Consistent?

I quoted Bob Serling's views on charging instead of offering free materials from comments he posted in an Internet mailing list. However, in his 1999 mail-order course, "How to Market Your Way to a Million Dollar Professional Services Practice," which presumably also represents his views (and which I purchased), he repeatedly recommends freebie marketing, through offering free seminars, free samples in the form of free initial consulting, free audiotapes, etc., to qualified prospects.

At his Web site, you could sign up to receive his free e-mail newsletter - just like mine - or read recent issues for free.  There seemed to be a contradiction of someone arguing in articles that anyone can freely read that you shouldn't offer free information.

Is This a Valid Survey?

Of course, input from fewer than 100 business people does not amount to a representative sample. In particular, I wonder if those who subscribe to a free newsletter are already predisposed to the view that "free" leads to "fee." Perhaps those who strongly disagree are so busy making money out of every business encounter that they would regard reading something like the Marketing Minute as a waste of time.

Nevertheless, I believe it's significant that the number of people who wrote in, "My experience shows that you are right" dwarfs the number of people who responded, "My experience shows that you are wrong."

My Purpose in Asking

Some subscribers interpreted my question as meaning, "Should I give up?" or as implying despondency because my giveaways weren't working, or as feeling criticized by Serling. None of the above is the case.

As a direct result of writing and distributing the Marketing Minute, I have enjoyed:

  • paid speaking engagements, such as one in North Dakota

  • new clients

  • additional work from existing clients

  • valuable input from subscribers, enriching my writing

  • being hired to write a similar newsletter for a niche company

  • additional sales of books and tapes

  • additional seminar registrations

  • geographically distant prospects in the pipeline

In addition, I acquired a syndicated column that came into existence only because I was already doing a weekly e-mail column and went looking for a way to distribute it in print.

Don't worry, I have no intention of stopping!

Conclusions from Your Input

Here are a few things I have realized from thinking about the responses to my question.

  • The "free" marketing approach requires patience. Those who concluded the method didn't work may have given up too soon. People don't buy on your schedule.  They buy when their need or desire becomes acute.

  • Those who seem to be taking advantage of something "free" with no intention to buy may refer you to others who do become clients or customers.

  • In many cases, what you give away for free is not the same thing as what you are selling. This is smart. For instance, if you make money by providing consulting services, giving away information in the format of articles, newsletters, Web site material, etc., does not amount to giving away consulting. People who hire consultants do so because they want customized solutions for their problem, not generic information.

  • I agree with those who pointed out that what I call the "heroin" strategy can backfire: giving something away for a period of time, then instituting a charge once participants are hooked. Currently I am facing the decision of whether to pay for seminar listings at a site that has announced they will no longer provide free listings. I resent this move on their part.

  • I agree too that you need to be careful that you do not "give away the store." I invite people in my seminars to e-mail me or call with their questions. If it's something I can answer in five minutes, I'm happy to do so. If it involves more than that, we need to consider it consulting.

  • Life involves more than profits, and a reasonable degree of generosity helps make the world a more pleasant place.

Thanks again for your participation and interest, and if you're reading this and have not yet subscribed to the Marketing Minute, please click here for subscription instructions.

2010 Addendum

Apparently Bob Serling later decided there was something in the giveaway approach after all.  I spotted him using it to promote his course, Million Dollar Licensing.


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