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Taking The R Out Of Free For Your Products and Services

By Terry L. Brock

Marketing is about providing value and quality for paying customers at a price they find acceptable. Free is usually acceptable (at least initially) if you’re in the buying position. However, what about if you’re in the selling position? What should you give away for free in order to get business? How much free do you give before you can lose the R and make it for fee? Remember that taking the R out of free makes your bank account look a lot better.

A good model is to offer free initially then dazzle them with enough value that they upgrade from free to fee. Your job, as a marketer, is to take the R out of free. You have to develop a marketing funnel strategy to move them along.

How can you do this? You have to provide so much value and earn trust with free that customers want to know you more. They want the better stuff. They want the best you have to offer.

My belief and that of many successful business people, is that the marketplace will ask for FEE vs. Free. Yes, people will want to pay for something to get better quality. Why is that? And does that apply when the economy is going through increased challenges?

This might sound counter-intuitive but we need assistance. If we don’t pay for something, it is hard to complain about it. Something about gift horses and looking in their mouths! However, if you are paying for a product or service, you have a built-in God-given, Free Market, Adam Smith and Milton Friedman-sanctioned right to complain about the quality you’re getting. You can always take your business elsewhere. You can complain to others. However, if something is free, the old saying that it is worth what it costs comes into play.

Smart business leaders know you can increase the value when you pay for something. By putting your money on the line, you have a much stronger vested interest in the outcome.

I was talking about this a while back with Australia’s Guru of all things Marketing, Winston Marsh. He was instructing me — as he often does — on the benefits of charging for products and services. You can’t keep giving things away for free and expect to stay in business. Once again, Winston Marsh is right.

Yet, things are a bit different today.

Rich Schefren, another marketing maven, has made some strong points that the line for free has shifted. More and more stuff (quality, usable material) needs to be offered for free to gain the confidence and trust of potential customers.

So what is the approach that you, as a successful marketer and businessperson can take? Many have found a multi-tiered approach works best. Have one level of services and products that are your loss leaders. This is a classic way to approach the challenge. You see it all the time at grocery stores. They often have wonderful people serving delicious samples of some new product. Store shoppers can get a free sample and if they like it, they can purchase the full product. Sales tend to increase when there is a special reason (discount, extra packages included, etc.) for buying today. You’ve provided a sample, those who like it are inclined to purchase and they enter your marketing funnel being happily involved with you.

This is what we all want anyway. Think about it; you want to do business with companies who provide good quality products and you don’t have to keep shopping around for something that works, tastes good, minimizes hassles, etc. If you like a particular beer, for instance, you tend to order that again and again. If you like a particular store, you tend to go back and do business with them often.

Free is good. You have to provide that because we expect it. Not just today but this has been true for generations. However, the trick is to find a logical path for customers to enter and remain happy in your marketing funnel. This requires thinking and planning. Buyers start with free (potential buyers at that stage), then move to small purchases. From there, as they get happier with what you have, they purchase more. Your goal is to have customers who are devoted and loyal to you no matter what product you bring to the marketplace. Let potential buyers know the value they will get when they move from free to fee.

That means you have to provide solid quality. If you ever break that confidence, you can lose them. Then it is very difficult to bring them back. Market heavily to happy customers. Keep them happy. Provide lots of products that are valuable to them and cost you little or nothing. Be creative and continually come up with new value-enhancing ideas.

Your job as a marketer, is to be a value creator. Constantly create fresh, new hot-off-the-griddle value which your customers love. Winston Marsh loves to tell us we have to make our customers say, WOW! Your job, dear marketer, is in the WOW creation department.

Create enough WOW experiences in the marketplace and your customers will love paying a fee for your products and services and you will have effectively removed that R from free!

And your bank account will look a lot better!

To learn more about how you can boost your marketing and sales, visit for some free videos, audios and information that can help you now. Sign up for my FREE (yes, it is free) newsletter that is packed full of business-building ideas. You’re gonna’ love this stuff!
Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and columnist who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using time-honored rules and practical technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at [email protected] or through his website at

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