Giving Content Away For Free Is Good Business

It Takes Two To Share

Sharing The Good Stuff

Do you hold back “the good stuff” until you see some cash?

Or do you give away content with real value to convince potential buyers that your product is worth a serious look?

“Moving the free line” is the new marketing buzz word. Internet Marketers compete to “wow” us with ever more amazing free content – which then lures us into buying astonishingly expensive classes.

Record executives, on the other hand, tried to prevent the legal owners of CDs from playing their music on any device they chose, imagining that this was the only way they could protect their profits. Instead of protecting the bottom line, they almost destroyed their industry.

Locking down content has failed spectacularly.

Anecdotal evidence that excellent free content boosts sales is abundant. The Baen Free Library revitalized Baen Book’s backlist. Cory Doctorow and Seth Godin sell more printed books with every ebook they give away. WordPress knocked off the blogging titan TypePad by using free GPL licensing. There are dozens of similar stories.

So how does “Moving the free line” work?

First, the free content has to be truly exceptional. Giving away something that no one would ever pay for is not likely to boost either your reputation or your sales.

Second, you have to have depth of inventory. You can’t increase sales of your backlist if you only have one title to sell. You can’t upsell people who buy an  introductory DVD if you don’t have any other DVDs available.

Third, you have to have depth of content. We’ve all seen movie trailers that contain the best five minutes of a new film. After watching the trailer, there is no need to see the picture. Just so, customers who buy your product based on a great pitch and a free sample, only to discover that the remining 45 minutes on your DVD are all fluff and repetition, will not be happy.

The internet leads people to expect free content. Whether it is born of the slogan, “Information wants to be free,” or the “It isn’t stealing if I just download it for personal use” ethos of some file sharing networks, the sheer amount of material available with the click of a button is staggering.

The genie is not going back in the bottle.

Information product producers can’t waste time fighting a battle that has already been lost. People now believe that you not only can get something for nothing. They believe you should get something for nothing.

Build a relationship of trust and respect with your customers. If you truly give them useful, worthwhile content upfront and still deliver value on the backend – then you can benefit from sharing the best stuff for free.

Photo by ryancr Released under Creative Commons License