Internet Marketing - When Something is Free
November 16th 2005
Why are things
What are consumer expectations when
something is free? Realistically, consumers subconsciously assume free
means free, and while that might be the initial intent rarely is it the
What Exactly Does Free Mean? Very few things these days are free
in the real sense of the word. There are very few free items that do not
have any strings attached.
Why do Companies Offer Things for Free? Companies or individuals
may promote a free offer or service for any number of reasons. From
branding to ad revenue, companies often use "free" to attract attention
or interest. As a consumer, it is important to realize what "free" might
Reasons Things Are Free:
Companies may offer something in exchange for a link back to their
website. As the web becomes increasingly more competitive, linking can
effect more than just search engine placement, and providing a product,
service or information free of charge in exchange for a link can be a
good business decision. Often, publishers will create articles like this
one and make it available for syndication, with the stipulation being
that the author resource box that follows the article remain intact,
providing links back to the author's website. Bottom line, authors often
make content available for syndication in exchange for links back to
their websites, which they benefit from.
Some companies provide a product or service free of charge and generate
money from advertising. Perhaps they sell banner advertising on their
website. A free product draws web traffic so that the number of visitors
seeing the advertisement increases. The more visitors a site attracts,
typically the more revenue generated from the ad space. Perhaps a
software application is free of charge, but has embedded advertisements.
When ads are clicked, the software developer earns a percentage of the
revenue paid for serving the advertisement.
Goodwill Branding / Public Relations
On occasion, companies will provide a product, service or information
free of charge. If the offering is extremely magnanimous or socially
sensitive, they will often receive significant press exposure,
generating free publicity for their brand. Pepsi Cola sponsors a number
of athletic events and generates enormous amounts of brand loyalty and
positive PR with their target audience.
Sometimes companies or individuals will provide something free in
exchange for contact information. Ebooks are often provided free of
charge if you provide an email address. The contact information may be
sold at a later time or be used to market related products. It is
important to check website privacy policies to determine how personal
information can be used.
Companies will often provide a light version to gain attention for
fee-based products or services. This often allows potential customers to
see a product's or services potential. The hope is that providing
something free will generate both brand loyalty and interest in
fee-based options or services.
The Problem with Free
If a business or individual is truly providing something for free, there
is a cost involved. Whether time, resources or services are consumed to
provide the free item or service there is an expense involved. If the
cost is at any point greater than the benefit or perceived benefit of
offering the free item or service, the business or individual will
likely review options to better balance the cost-to-benefit ratio.
Companies or individuals that provide a free product may continue to
provide the item free of charge but discontinue the support. If the item
is something like software, the expense has already occurred. By
providing the item without technical support or customer service they
can reduce their staffing costs. The only ongoing expense to provide the
item free of charge would be ongoing hosting costs, which are usually
relatively small. If the item is critical to a business or individual's
operations, the value of the item will be lost if technical support or
customer support is no longer available.
Businesses may simply discontinue offering the free item or service
Individuals or companies may begin requesting donations, compensation,
volunteers or a benefit listed above in order to continue to provide the
item or service free of charge.
Often free items are of reduced or inferior quality. Cost-conscious
businesses or individuals often try to minimize the expense associated
with free items and will use less expensive materials for free items.
There is value to "free" just be sure that you know what it is. Next
time something is offered for free, evaluate the quid pro quo and
determine what you are giving in return, because very little is ever
Sharon manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing,
publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing
for FeedForDev an RSS component
Keywords and misspellings: internet advertizing