Everyone Wants Something For Free

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freeMany of us do most or at least some of our business online. We scout prospects, market our services and communicate with colleagues on a daily basis. Add blogs and social networking to the mix, and you’re probably online more and more each day.

The intrinsic nature of the Web is providing and receiving free information. Anyone with an Internet connection can find a lot of what they want to know online for free with a simple keyword search. Informational web sites, value-packed blogs and free downloads are everywhere and information (some of it good) is abundant.

But this can introduce a unique challenge for professionals who want to participate in the free information world, yet have to make a living at the same time. Should you be giving it away? And what happens if you decide to charge for the information you possess?

Let’s look at why free might make sense. Here are some of the reasons why you may choose to keep information you provide online available for free.

Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free

How many times have you gotten a freebie that you really didn’t need or want? Because we’re a society of instant gratification and wanting to have it all, all the time, it’s hard to turn down a giveaway, even if it has little immediate value for you.

Plus, if someone can get the information you are trying to sell somewhere else for little effort and no investment, it’s a no-brainer. Free will win almost every time.

The Web Is about Sharing

Sharing is vital in today’s online world. If you have a blog and are active in social networking, a big part of what you may do to build relationships is provide valuable information to help others in your situation. If you’re not willing to impart any of your hard-earned wisdom for the good of others, it may be difficult for you to network effectively online.

If you share what you know and help support the efforts of others, it’s easier to establish yourself as an expert, which can lead to more (paid) opportunities. Many times, the value of the exposure and future prospects is worth giving it away.

Free Can Lead to Paid

A loss leader (when you offer a product or service at a loss in order to attract consumers who you hope will purchase from you again) can build trust in you and your brand and lead to additional sales in the future. For example, if you use the loss leader strategy with information you make available online, you might give away a free report or guide, and then market paid products and services to the people who received your giveaway.

Where to Draw the Line

Once you start giving information away, it can be difficult to work paid products into the mix. You may find that:

  • You’re losing potential clients because they no longer need to pay for what they want from you.
  • You don’t have a value-added, paid offer to follow what you’re giving away.
  • You invest more than makes sense to provide the free information.

If any of these situations come into play, you may need to revisit your approach and try a new strategy.

How do you feel about the free-for-all purpose of the Web? Do you use it to your advantage in your business? If so, how?

Image credit: Jeffrey Collingwood

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
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Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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