Free: Here, There . . . Everywhere?

How much free is good for your marketing?

I’ve written bunches about using “free” as a marketing tool. Generosity is your greatest marketing tool. Don’t use it sparingly; spread it around like manure and watch things grow.

Generosity and free aren’t the same thing. Generous can include over-delivering on what you were paid to do. I’ve had generous helpings of fish at our favorite chippy in St. Paul. Paid for, but still generous. When you hire me to help with your writing and publishing, generosity will be ladled over you like gravy. Good white gravy like we make in Texas for your sausage and biscuits; that kind of generous.


My newsletter is also an act of generosity, one which also happens to be free. Membership, though, is stalled out at 140 of you good folks. When we hit that magic number, a couple people unsubscribe, and then someone else finds me and we roll back up to one Tweet’s worth.

One thing I realized is that the signup form simply offers “more information.” Not the most enticing offer, perhaps. I considered giving away something more; a whole book, maybe?

The highly successful and whip smart Chris Brogan suggested otherwise. He made the point that if we get folks through the door with “free” we are simply training them to expect more free.

Here on the blog, it’s all free. That’s what it’s about. Or on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, wherever else you might be exposed to my sagacity.

The newsletter, though, is the inner circle, the folks who’ve said the blog and other social media isn’t enough; I want more.

What smart marketing person could miss the fact that these are the folks most likely to spend real live money on the services I offer?

It’s about context. A free sample doesn’t lead anyone to believe the product is free as well. If I give away my first mystery in a series to get folks hooked, they don’t believe they can have all the others free.

If folks sign up for my newsletter to get the free book, I think Chris is right: it sets the tone that this newsletter is just more free stuff. While it is, itself, free, the goal is to engage further, to wrap that inner circle a wee bit tighter. Chris’ signup form makes it clear that his newsletter is the best stuff he does.

I’ll be taking a page from his book and making my signup form (to the left under our logo) clearer: this newsletter is the best thing I write online.

And then I’ll start doing even better, in order to deliver generously on that promise.

7 thoughts on “Free: Here, There . . . Everywhere?

  1. Perfect strategy. Use your superb writing skills to get more subscriptions. Makes perfect sense.

    Now do the same thing in multiple places. (I’m sure you already have. I’m not everywhere.)

    Make the pitch so juicy, so delectable, so enticing, we just can’t help but sign up. It doesn’t need a freebie, just a better sell. You’ve done that here in this post. I’ll bet there are even other arrangements of words that would get someone to sign up.

    Keep at it. Mulitple ways, multiple days.

    I’m in.
    (aren’t I?)

  2. My free short story, The Missing Capstone, is free (found on Smashwords). It’s a gateway drug to the .99 cent book. As the addiction grows the next book will be $1.99.

    I’m writing a 12 step program to cure yourself of the addiction…it will be $4.99. Free works, but it comes with a price

  3. Let’s face it… we are online to do business, but business is NOT always about money. When you give something, you are in an essence saying “Here…take this. I want you to enjoy this.”

    FREE is not an obligation to continue with me. That next step is determined by YOU, the reader, not me. Otherwise it would be a forced sale.

    Good article, Joel. Practice giving. A centuries old truism that still works today.

  4. In old school selling, salespeople assume they’re in command of the process. You’ve got it right: whoever’s doing the buying (or the not buying) is in charge.

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