Give the User What He Wants: Something for Free

However, is that free item what they really want?

The internet is changing. More sites in trying to find ways to monetize their content are charging for what they have. Users still want to find bits of information for free.  Well, more than bits. For most of us who are providing a service our knowledge is what we charge for, and giving it away for free seems counterproductive. Yet, we hear stories of those who have done just that with great success for their business. I began thinking about giving away something for free, because of two incidents yesterday.

   I had been on a job the week before to examine a specific job done by a contractor. In fact, the contractor was the one who hired me. While going about my work, I noticed a problem which had nothing to do with why I was there. This was a potentially dangerous issue, so I informed the contractor’s client. This nugget of free information led to the client calling me about further work. In a way that is what I do with writing a blog post. A nugget of free information may lead to further work, but how many free nuggets should I give? Does there come a point where I have given too much away? I think that is where experience comes into play. I can mention what I do, but a user may not be able to replicate it exactly, due to the experience factor.
    I received an email offering me a free trial of an internet service for a month. The problem is that there is a similar site which is quite popular offering this service always for free.  This caused me to consider about what we offer. Free is good, but do we offer value? If we state that we are giving away something for free, did we actually offer something? Will the user pay for it at some point? Here is where small businesses may be failing.
    Marketing is hard and expensive. Blogs provide a cost effective way to do marketing which can be quite simple for some. Lets face it, writing a post does not come easy to everyone. Going back to my job where I shared a bit of data. I obtained the call back because a gave a piece of valuable information away for free which demonstrated my experience, my knowledge. Would that work on the internet? Well, in my scenario, I gave a bit of specific data which struck home with a potential client. Internet users are generally faceless though. My information could help others. If I write the blog post in a personal way, and explain the situation as I did to the client, I may touch the user with this free nugget like I did in person.
    Now consider your competitors. Are they providing such free nuggets? You may be reading several internet marketing sites to find ways to improve your business. How many of those sites are giving you free information which is entirely different from what you have read on another site?  I imagine that few truly are. So do you read through your competitors’ sites? You should. Being in real estate, I looked through several sites from people in the same specific real estate field.  I discovered that you will see the same topic come up on various blogs with much of the same thoughts. One way to break away from your competitors is to write content on one aspect of your business. For example, you could focus on writing about new products in your field.  Maybe a more specific example. Alright, you are an accountant. Maybe you specialize in tax preparation. How about writing about new laws? Just that. Not how to prepare your own taxes, or your thoughts about taxes. Laws which effect the financial market and how they may effect income, which is a factor on tax.  You have a niche which no one else amongst your competitors has tackled.
    Can we take this further? You have limited the topic of your blog; you are giving away free content; but you could do more. Creating ebooks or resource documents for journalists or other package for the user, you can build up word of mouth, as long as you brand the resource. Let us jump back to real estate. Everyone has a mortgage calculator on their site. Offering your own does not make you stand out. Changing the language to Spanish is a first step to being unique. However, we could offer something else. We could have a utility bill calculator, or a calculator that shows how paying more of the mortgage’s principle will effect your mortgage over time. The utility bill goes in a totally different direction which meets a current concern, while the principle mortgage calculator offers a variation to the other calculator which can be a concern for the client/user.
    Free works. Study your competitors. Provide something which shows the user something that they cannot find elsewhere, and which shows that you have value. Those are the take aways from this post. At least once a month find out what your competitors have done. Also find out who your competitors are. This can quickly change on the internet. Find a niche, and exploit it. This may be your experiences  on the job. The soap drama that goes on behind the scenes may be what the user needs. You have to find it.

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