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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ecommerce And The Power Of Free

Ecommerce And The Power Of Free
There is a powerful word in marketing. This word is challenging the thinking of many who have been in business for a while. This word strikes fear in the heart of many business owners because it just doesn’t seem possible.

That marketing word in question is – FREE.

Watch television and you will see that cell phone companies will routinely give their phones away for free. Banks offer free snacks when you drop by for a visit and a free gift when you sign up for an account.

Websites offer free services to anyone who visits their site. Music download companies offer free downloads with a membership.

Wikipedia offers free information. The web itself is an incredibly large global entitlement program. Customers have come to expect free stuff. If you don’t have it they will just keep looking for the all-important FREE until they find it.

Honestly the expectation for free products, services or downloads is huge. The role of the Internet has made this a reality.

How does a business cope? After all, logic itself dictates that nothing is free. Someone has to pay for free information. Someone has to pay for free products, and downloads have value.

The truth is websites have had to evaluate how they do business in the 21st century.

If the expectation of the consumer is that they can always find a free phone for cell service does it make sense to try to sell a phone to a customer who knows they can find one for free at another store? The reality is the cost of the phone will be factored into the obligatory service plan. The customer is happy with their free phone and the business recoups their costs over the life of the cell phone plan. Both are happy.

In an online environment free downloads or information can be offset by banner ads, PPC ads or sponsor listings.

Businesses are increasingly looking to freelance writers to supply fresh content for their sites. So in the end the burden of information sharing costs the business owner money. However this can be offset either by advertising or as a means to develop improved marketing efforts.

Free doesn’t have to be a dirty word in business, it simply means that the business owner has to develop creative ways to pay for what is given away. Sometimes this cost is actually taken care of by the consumer or by advertisers who believe that the free item will bring increasing foot traffic to your site and ultimately to their site.

In an online environment this concept is what I like to call Trust Marketing. I’ve talked about it in other articles, but the point is by providing high quality at no cost you leave multiple choices in the hands of your site visitor and they like the feeling of empowerment.

The prevailing premise is that your good will gesture translates into trust. That trust is then transformed into a purchase.

The idea is to help potential customers see that even when no money is involved you will still choose to provide free tools or products to help your customer succeed.

You figure out how to pay for “FREE”. Your site visitor may learn to reward your generosity with a business proposition of his or her own. That is the beauty of trust marketing.

Author : Scott Lindsay
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