The Problem With Free…The Age of Entitlement

People have difficulties with synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same thing…most of us learned that in middle school or so.  Unfortunately, there must not have been much practice of real-world usage.  I’d like to take a minute to identify words and phrases that are not synonyms.

“Online” is not a synonym for “Free”

“Free” use, is not a synonym for “You own”

“Bacon” is not a synonym for “Pork” (Despite my years of declaration to the contrary)

All kidding aside, there has been a movement in the online world to equate things that don’t need to be equated, and in reality we can all blame Frank Kern.

Frank Started It!

It was an awesome internet marketing program, Mass Control.  It took the interwebs by storm.  It was called a Money Magnet.  Something that you give away free, with SO much value, that it prompted people to give us their emails and such to be marketed to like crazy.  The problem is…that it worked.

Just like the dot-com arms race in the late 90’s, the “Free” arms race is still escalating to this day.  What started with a cool little 19 page, 24-point font eBook or newsletter; now exists as huge 50 page term papers of Masters-level info just to get an email address that’s most likely a throw-away…(just me?).  People are adding free videos, people are adding free audios.  Free coaching, free classes, everyone is giving away something valuable for free…and the internet loves it.

I’ve Created a Monster!

People are not that difficult to brand.  The radio does it every day.  Remember that song that you hated when it came out?  How about now?  It’s your JAM…right?  Same thing with the internet.  Sure they complain about having to give their email to you, but don’t you dare say that you’re not giving a free-trial, or test-drive, or 30 days free on your site and expect people to sign up.  Nowadays they want something free without giving you ANYTHING.  Now we have to crap nonchalant links into the .pdf files to try to get some clicks that we can analyze through Google Analytics to see if anyone even likes the packet that we spent 3 months creating for someone to lose in their documents folder…

Enough is Enough

My mom used to tell me that if you don’t love yourself, then no one else will love you.  I thank her for that advice, and the open invitation to narcissism that she gave me so long ago, and would like to give it to the internet now.

Value Yourselves

If you don’t value the .pdf that you worked so hard to make to get a blip of attention from your Twitter audience enough to put a value on it…neither will they.

If you don’t value the information that you’re giving away on an hour long webinar…neither will they.

As industry professionals, many of you trade time for dollars.  Very few create products, and many of those that do give them away for free.  The potential reward seems to outweigh the risks, but very rarely do we realize that as soon as we release our, “killer” content, someone will be smart enough to update our documents and make them obsolete.

We’re the ones to blame.  I have a friend who is always giving his audience a, “way to do things for free”.  One day I asked him, “How are you going to get them to pay you, if you keep conditioning them to get free stuff?”  Silence.

Telling Good Free From Bad Free

A lot of what I’m about to say is covered in Mass Control in depth, and I think you can still buy it from Ebay here and there if you’re really interested.  The #1 take away from that course that relates to this topic is this:

Give away the “Why” for free; make them pay for the “How”.

The, “How” is your intellectual property.  You know, “how” to build a brand online.  You know, “how” to market a business in the digital world.  For free, tell the internet “why” they need to listen to you.  This has been used in TV, and radio for years, but somewhere along the lines marketers thought that they needed to give away their entire brain to get attention online.  Stop it!  You deserve better.

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