Sunday, 28 February 2010

Strategic Suicide

There is an approach to web marketing which goes like this...
  1. Create some content with utility value
  2. Give it away for free
  3. Attempt to convert these freeloaders into paying customers
On the face of it this marketing tactic seems like a good idea. A web marketer uses the freebie as bait, attracting hoards of people to his/her site and collecting their contact details. It's a well know and widely used approach.

My own view is that this approach to web marketing is flawed. Here's why...
  • It builds a list full of people seeking freebies (i.e. cheapskates)
  • The resulting list may be targeted in the sense that it contains people interested in the product category the freebie relates to. But did you really mean to build a list full of cheapskates?
  • Everybody is using this strategy. And 99% of the people using it are giving away low-quality rubbish. Anybody with any sense now knows that giveaway reports and services are less valuable than preserving their email privacy. The people you want in your list probably won't sign up
  • The low bar set by the people using this strategy mean the lure of free no longer works
Put another way, I think this approach to web marketing is ultimately a form of strategic suicide. A sale is made when somebody wants what you have to offer at the price you're offering it for, and trusts that you'll deliver it.

Without that trust, the sale won't occur. It's something you need to earn, or borrow from a trusted third party (e.g. a referral from a mutual and trusted friend).


Kelly Simons said...

Plenty of people do make free giveaways work for them. I don't believe the freebie is dead.

Your point about building a list full of 'cheapskates' is probably true. The trouble is, nobody wants to pay for anything anymore. So how do you actually sell stuff on the web?

Wayne Davies said...

When I say the freebie has lost its lure, I mean that it is no longer persuasive in and of itself. If there are 10,000 free web marketing reports out there, the fact they're all free has zero persuasive value.

Making sales comes down to working on your credibility with the people you'd like to sell to. There are numerous ways to do that. I guess that will produce a few more articles in this blog.

Mitsu Fisher said...

Not dead, but in decline, like cold calling. The "freeloader" model still works for lots of people. It just does not work as well as it used to. I totally agree that the word "free" has lost and continues to lose it's power to persuade.

Wayne Davies said...

Hi Mitsu

My contention is that 'free' as a strategy will ultimately fail. Of course, if free generates a LOT of traffic, it can be monetised (e.g. AdSense). The original inspiration for this article was advice I saw given on a marketing forum that essential said 'Write an ebook and give it away to build your list. Then you'll be rich'. This might work for a well known and sought after author. It's never going to do anything for 95% of the people currently trying to do just that.