Marketing Genius from Maple Creative


Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Free Is Bad. Bargain Is Good.

This came up in dialogue with a client today. It's one of those lessons that I have learned and re-learned. The principle is true ... pure human nature. Yet it's one of those principles that is all too easy to forget.

Free is bad.

When you offer something for free, people will attribute little or no value to it. Need an example? How many of you have been invited to a free seminar? It caught your interest, and you had every good intention of attending. At the last minute something trivial came up--and you bailed out of the free seminar.

I will admit that I do this all the time. I was going to participate in a free webinar discussing the wonderful new Dove skincare marketing campaign. On the day of the event, I got busy and opted to spend my time cranking out a client project. I bailed, and the cost was zero.

When something is free, it is literally without value. It is easy to find something more important to do. The free thing, whatever it is, will be nixed in favor of something more valuable, even if it is something unpleasant. (Think of avoiding pain or avoiding cost. Both are more valuable than a free item or service. Think of getting the oil changed or taking the cat to the vet.)

From another perspective, how many of you have ever planned, organized and conducted a free seminar ... only to have one or two people attend, or perhaps no one? Sadly, I have been on the receiving end of that scenario a time or two. Many years ago when I was working at GE, we had a doozie of a free seminar, planned down to the tee. People were receptive. The handout materials looked great and our presentation was sure to dazzle all. We even had a promising number of confirmed participants. But on the day of the event, my GE cohorts and I were staring at an empty hotel suite and three steaming platters of Swedish meatballs. Nobody showed. Nada.

People don't get all that jazzed about free, but they love a good bargain. Our world is filled with far too many free offers. That's why marketing geniuses know to charge something (anything, really) for their seminar, even if it's $19.95. Once people have committed and invested with money, they will invest with their time and attention, too. Instead of a free, charge a price for your seminar or trial product or service that will be deemed a bargain. Then, watch your prospects go from ambivalent to invested!


Blogger Pertmaster said...

This is great, and I was so close to getting approval to charge for our ongoing free seminars because of these reasons.

But it fell through for some reason or another, and we have a 50% turnout rate all the time (which is really good, i think!)

Problem is, our seminar is a soft sells pitch hidden under an educational workshop. (You ultimately need our software to execute your new practices). How do you rationalize telling someone they have to spend money to hear us sell?

9:22 PM


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