It’s one of the online business world’s raging debates: FREE content.
How much should you give away, should you give it away at all, and where do you draw the line? If you share too much without charging, will prospects expect freebies and never take you seriously?
As Sales Keynote speaker Marcus Sheridan put it, “Great content is the best sales tool in the world.”
And in my opinion, that INCLUDES free content.
If you look at this website, you’ll notice all kinds of downloadable guides and goodies designed to help you boost your sales. You also might have caught my Facebook Live show Coffee Is For Closers or listened to my podcast Success Unfiltered.
These are all examples of free content. They all help me accomplish my most important mission: to help entrepreneurs reach more people, get more sales, and make a more significant impact in the world. And all of them are absolutely FREE to you.
Now, you might be thinking something like, “Sure, Michelle, but I run a business, not a charity.” In other words, how are you going to make any money if you give away the store?
But when you gift your audience with something free, you’re not giving away the store. It’s more like getting a sample at Costco. It’s a chance for your people to have a taste of what you offer, see how they like it, and decide if they eventually want to buy the “family size” package.
Sharing special freebies can do even more for your business, too. They can help establish you as the go-to person in your field. They can help you show your personality and your unique expertise that will help you stand out in even the most saturated markets.
Most of all, your free content can speak directly to your ideal client. A free downloadable guide, video series, or podcast episode just might be the sole reason that a customer calls YOU when they’re ready to buy.
Of course, if you take it too far, your audience could take advantage of your generosity. But if you read on, you’ll see how free content can do a LOT more good than harm if you use it properly.
I’m going to share with you the ways that free content is an investment in the future of your business. We’ll talk about how it can positively impact your community, how it can position you as an expert in your industry, and how much of it to give away before you refer someone to a sales call.
Let’s start with the WHY of it all.
What will sharing free content do for you, your potential prospects, and your business?
You will build an audience and show your expertise. Let’s use Kevin, my videographer, as an example. He is a film school grad who helps entrepreneurs get their message into the world through the power of video. What could he possibly offer potential prospects for free that would spark their interest in working with him? Maybe something like a tutorial on how to shoot a website-ready video in less than 5 minutes with nothing but an iPhone. Possibly a quick video that shows you trade secret trick on your smartphone to make your videos even more awesome.
These things are not only valuable to his future client, but also share his unique perspective and experience. Kevin’s audience receives something fun and useful, they get to know more about his unique expertise, and they’ll eventually see him as the one to call when it’s time to hire a cameraman.
You will build rapport with that audience. If you’ve read my blog posts, seen my show, or listened to my podcast, you’ve learned some fun facts about me. I love working out, I’m way into my coffee, and I’m not big on washing my hair. And when it comes to it, people buy from people. You want to know, like, and trust the people that you hire. Things like live videos, podcasts, and webinars help people get to know you, like you, and eventually trust you.
There’s another reason why this kind of rapport matters. If you’re part of my tribe and I launch an offer, you’ll know what it’s all about because you know what I’M about. You’ll know just what you’re getting if you decide to work with me. We’re both on the same page. No surprises, no mixed messages. That means we can hit the ground running.
You build your tribe by increasing your contacts. Let’s say you’re Kevin and you’ve created that one-of-a-kind video tips tutorial. You also have a plan to build an exclusive free community where you regularly share tips and tricks. How do you entice people to join your community without asking for the sale just yet?
Offer up that tutorial as an opt-in in exchange for an email address. Collecting contact information is crucial, and free content can be a way to get it through an even trade. Getting contact information is such a big deal because it helps you create a group of pre-qualified leads. We’re talking about people who were intrigued enough to allow you space in their already full inbox. This action indicates more than a passing interest in what you do.
You’ll show the world proof that you’re the real deal. The more valuable free content you share, the more likely you’re going to get compelling feedback about it. That does two things for you. First, it builds trust between you and your audience. Second, it creates intrigue in your paid services and ups your perceived value. It’ll get your people thinking things like, “If this is how good the free content is, imagine how awesome the paid stuff is!” And if both your free content and your paid offers are solid, your prospects would be right.
It’s an easy way to do market research. Ever had a product or service launch fall flat? Maybe you had something that seemed like a sure-fire hit, but it turned out to be something your ideal clients neither needed nor wanted. By creating and sharing a smaller, free version of an offer you have in mind, you have a relatively low-stress way to test the waters. It’s a cheap and quick way to gage your community’s interest before you go overboard with creating an offer.
You can put your personal spin on stories. On my podcast, Success Unfiltered, I do what’s called a recap and an outro at the end of every interview. I recap the highlights then share my take on it. It’s a chance for me to relate my interviewee’s stories to my own experiences. Why is this important? Because sharing personal stories is what makes you real, relatable, and trustworthy – and the kind of person people want to hire.
You set yourself apart from the competition. Let’s go back to the example of Kevin, the video expert. He’s been sharing his 5-minute tutorial with the world, it has gotten a ton of positive reviews, and he is building a tribe of raving fans. Now think about his competition. What if all they’re doing is pitching without invitation? Maybe they just ask for the sale before showing people who they are and what they’re about. We all know that’s the fastest way to get turned down flat.
But by sharing that free content first, be it a tutorial, a blog post, or a podcast, you get to know Kevin. You grow to like what he shares. And eventually, you trust him to be your advisor and assistant when you’re ready to up your video-making game.
The Downside Of Freebies (Or, When to Say WHEN)
Now you know the benefits of complementary content. But that begs the next question: how much is too much? When does generosity turn into selling yourself short? And for that matter, how do you know what to include in your freebies so that they don’t devalue your paid services?
Here are three key points to keep in mind. Consider the content of your free content, where you should draw the line in giving it away, and why people who are only after free advice don’t need to get you down.
Free content should be about the WHAT and the WHY not the HOW. What should your free stuff entail? Focus primarily on what your business is about and why you do what you do. How do you actually help clients reach their goals is what you are selling? That’s the magic that should be reserved for paying clients ONLY.
So share your favorite tips, share your passion for what you do, but keep HOW you do it for those who are ready to commit.
Free content doesn’t mean free access. Let’s use my personal brand, the Pitch Queen, as an example. Now, I love to share free content. But when it comes to getting personalized one-on-one feedback and guidance, that requires the next level of commitment. That requires an investment of both time and money.
If a prospect is contacting you looking for personalized advice for free, this is the moment to draw the line. If they just want to “pick your brain” for free, it’s a good time to opt out of the conversation. Know what that boundary is for you, and keep it in place.
Free content will help you weed out the unqualified prospects. There will always be “window shoppers” out for free advice, tips, and tricks. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that they’re out to take you for all that you’re worth. It just means they aren’t your ideal client.
Then again, free content will also draw in your ideal clients – the ones who see your content, love it, and know that you are the one to take them to new heights in their life. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether a window shopper or a dream client uses your free content. Everyone will get what they need out of the deal.
So if you set your boundaries, create something that will wow your prospects, and share it everywhere that you can, free content is a wise investment in your business. It will help you share your message, make an impact, and most of all, draw in the people who loved the “teaser trailer” and can’t wait to see the movie.
Now that you know what free content can do, are you ready to create the ultimate opt-in for your Ideal Client? Check out this video and download my brand new guide “3 Steps To The Ideal Freebie: How To Make FREE Content Work For You.” Create something unique and valuable that shares your genius without devaluing your worth!