Friday, December 24, 2010

When Free really means "trade ya; won't tell ya"

At this festive season, we know marketing tries to hit new heights to entice sales. There's one technique that has begun to grate. It's the promise of "free" that doesn't really mean free. Has this happened to you? You're sent a link to something that sounds super helpful; it claims to be free, but then here's what happens:

first step: - an email address is requested Hmm.  Why do i need to provide this email address? We are now moving out of the world of free and engaging in an exchange, are we not?

Second step: confirmation. It turns out giving an any email address is not sufficient - i must confirm the email address by clicking a magic link in an email, and then a link to the promised free material will be provided.
Why not just give me the "free" link?
Ah! there's something tied to the email address - a desire to use it?

Third step: mailing list . finally becomes apparent when the link is sent that one is really subscribing to an email list to get more mailings and "offers" from this person.

Is this exchange actually as promised, free? Well, no, it's not: it's a trade. The currency is my email address and willingness to be on an email list before i get the goods.

Of course (presumably)  i can "unsubscribe" from the list, but these terms aren't shared because we're not actually told that we're signing up for an email list. but have you tried to do this with any companies whose mailing lists you seem to be on? Some lists seem never to want to let go despite how much time one takes to go through the process.

But i stray from the point. What gals me is that FREE doesn't mean free. When i go to the store and am offered a "free" sample, it's given to me as an actually FREE sample - no strings attached. When i go to someone's web site, and i get information, that's FREE - no strings attached.  That's free.

What most of these mailings are about is not free, but is about a trade: my email (and subscription) in exchange for the item. My time to conclude this exchange for the item.

What also bugs me is the lack of transparency in these exchanges: the page that claims FREE STUFF does not say " once i get your email, you can have this thing." That's only a state one infers many clicks in that one finds out what's going on, and sometimes not until the mail starts pouring in after the fact.  And so how evaluate if this exchange (not free give away) is fair value? is worth the price?

There are alternatives. Why not simply make it clear that the vendors are keen to trade what they have on offer in exchange for a confirmed email address & free subscription to said vendor's mailing list? That seems both more honest and more engaging? The terms and conditions as it were?

Isn't this what reputable businesses do? I was fascinated recently by an "affiliate marketing" product (and yup this is an affiliate link) recently that went through long pages of detail about what's in the product, how it works and also went into human-readable detail about what this product would NOT do -  so that if you still wanted to get the product after that - fair warning. That was amazing.

Aside. Indeed, if you're interested in marketing at all - as a discipline and a demonstration of psychology and have some time, i'd encourage you just to move through this thing - it's Dan Brock's Super Deadbeat affiliate how to program/course thing 

All i can tell you right now is that i've bought it; i'm fascinated by the material and presentation, and look forward to some time in the first quarter of the new year to have a go with it. It's not free BUT i got as said more than enough information from the overview to make a decision about spending 29 bucks on the potential to get a return on that investment and maybe a bit more.

I can also say that from a brief look through the actual course/material, just as the warnings for the product claim, while the couase makes the steps easy to follow, it does take some attention to detail to have a good go. One may only spend an hour in the office with this, but it's going ot be a *very focused hour*
Ok, that's a for sale example. Another example of free stuff has got to be Brad Pilon's site on Eat Stop Eat - lots of value in the information posts about eating and working out. And yes, Pilon has stuff to sell, but you can get a ton from the web site. I'm happy to buy his stuff as a sign of gratitude for all the free stuff.

I go on and on about precision nutrition: it's 40 page overview book IS free: click the link. Ta da. download. Do they still sell product? Yes.

Now, i'm not going to blame these folks for bait and switch who use the term Free when they mean Trade. THere's a ton of marketing guidance that seems to suggest that this is exactly the way to sell stuff online. Promise FREE as a way to get a name on a mailing list, and build clients from there.  It seems that's become so common, we may even no longer expect "free" to mean "free" - it's more like "free, wink wink nudge nudge"

Me, all i'm saying is that that's not what Free means, and i'm sick of it. And perhaps folks who think they do well with their fake free may even do better with real trade. And wouldn't that be a wonderful gift for the holiday season.

All the best,

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Piers said...

Yeah it's very true, i think it's most sad though when it comes from someone who you would sign up to a mailing list for because they are reputable. No one expects something for nothing these days but it would be nice for people to be up front.

Dr. John said...

how is the "super affiliate" working?

dr. m.c. said...

you know JOhn, i just don't know yet. I've read through all the materials.
THey seem tractable and well organised for pretty step by step plug and play. So credible all round. BUT that plug and play takes cycles to do assessment, set up what you want to try, etc.

These past few months, i've had other priorities. As soon as i give it a go, though, i'll report back. Indeed, i'd be delighted to hear from others who have tried it.



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