Free comes with a catch. Sign up for a free newsletter, and you get spammed. Attend a free event, and it’s an infomercial. Get the first month free of a service, and you’re locked into contract. Free rarely means good. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. And customers know this. They’re leery of free offers.
The challenge is most marketing is based on the notion of free. But it doesn’t have to be. I wrote about this in my post, Monetize Your Marketing Content. Adding paid experiences to your marketing mix creates rich opportunities to deepen your relationships with your prospects, customers and centers of influence.
I learned this lesson first hand. In 2010 I ran a series of public workshops on digital branding. They were highly interactive, half-day sessions. The original intent was to use the workshops as a marketing platform, and we offered them for free. We wanted to share high quality events so companies could ‘try before they buy.’
The first two events we ran were disappointing. We ‘sold out’ the rooms, but 60% of the confirmed guests no-showed! I can’t tell you how frustrated I was with those empty seats. So we tried an experiment. Rather than ‘giving away’ the experience, we sold it. We charged $100 a seat, and worked hard to sell out the room. Charging for the event changed the audience’s expectations. 90% of the confirmed guests showed, and 100% paid.
Dollars demonstrate value
The content and format of my workshops were identical in the free and paid versions, but valuing the experience changed the dynamic. The price increased engagement, because only people really interested in the topic attended. And the price elevated the expectations, because people showed up to learn and had no fear of being pitched. They were there, because they bought a service.
By valuing our workshops we were creating even better marketing. We had more attendees, higher engagement, more follow on conversations and we converted more attendees into clients.
People don’t buy content, they buy experiences
Not all marketing can be monetized. It’s not likely you can charge a subscription to your email newsletter or your blog. Articles are generally free online, but experiences are billable.
Experiences come in many forms: events, workshops, competitions, and so on. Experiences are moments in time. For example you can watch a TED presentation online for free, but to attend the TED Global Conference is $6,000. Attending the live event is an experience worth paying for. Attendees not only get to consume the content, they get to see it live and they get to experience the venue, the format and the other attendees. It’s an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
People will also pay for products: books, ebooks, DVDs and so on. These pieces of content are more than an article or a webinar, because they too create an experience. To read a book requires a commitment of time. And a well-crafted book takes the reader on a journey, and hopefully opens her mind to new ideas and information. A good book is worth $10 to $25.
Add paid content to your marketing mix
Paid content adds a rich layer to your marketing mix, because it creates experiences that people will value and remember. The paid experience gets them engaged, delivers valuable information and helps to solidify the relationship with your brand.
Take a look at your market. What are high-value, billable experiences you can deliver to your prospects, customers and centers of influence?