The best things in life are free – not always when you are providing the free stuff

A few years ago I had to meet with a consultant who had asked to see my boss but who had to settle for me first. It wasn’t a good start, but determined to make the best of it I listened to the lacklustre patter that would not have sold iced water in a heatwave. I thought some questions would improve the situation, but I made it worse; after the 3rd or 4th question on what his solutions would be to particular problems, he became agitated and then angry. He said that he did nothing for free and if I wanted any further information, I would have to pay for it. I wonder what he’s doing now?

Giving something free has always been part of marketing. I have a publication written in the 1920’s that states that “free” is essential and never ask for orders in your advertising. From my own experience as a charity fundraiser, I would always offer free fundraising advice and appraise (and sometimes rewrite) funding applications as part of my marketing. Although this promoted some paid work, I was inundated with the “free” side and had to withdraw the offer until I cleared the backlog.

As a manufacturer of price tags, I always provide free samples in anticipation of an order – about half pay off. I’ll also write free blog posts to promote this side of my business; the return on this is much less, but there is no other way to do it.

FREE is an essential part of marketing. Actually, just FREE is not enough – it’s got to be QUALITY and FREE. Gone are the days when you could give a prospective customer a free, cheap pen with your name printed on it and expect them to be so grateful that they would give you orders for ever more.

FREE gets you business, but I don’t know the limits. All I know is that if I don’t provide FREE a competitor will.


2 thoughts on “The best things in life are free – not always when you are providing the free stuff

  1. Your assumption that a competitor will give away an item or service for free is correct. However let me just say that I have seen whole industries go by the way side (look at the banking industry for example)by giving money away for FREE, 0% credit cards that’s free but what’s the long term result of that? We are seeing it now massive debt and people that really don’t understand that unless you are fully aware of what free really means then perhaps its best to pay for Quality in the beginning which will cut down your time doing things the wrong way in the first place? Just a small point here I am going to quote an article that my wife showed me in the news paper sometime ago it read: “My husband has after nearly 40 years of marriage finally accepted that if at first you don’t succeed, try doing it how your wife told you to in the first place”.
    Not sure many men would agree with this but it is food for thought? Good article anyway.

    1. Thanks for your comments.
      You are quite right, giving away too much free could ruin you. But it’s a marketing process that won’t go away. The BOGOF offers in supermarkets have in some instances become But One Get Two Free, which suppliers must be paying for. I suppose that is one way to fund FREE – get someone else to pay for it.
      I also think that FREE has greater marketing clout than VALUE. I use both words – they both work in generating leads, but FREE probably has the edge.
      As for your point on “if at first you don’t succeed ….”, I always listen to all marketing advice because I don’t know it all and other people have given me some remarkably good ideas.

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