When you treat your friends and advocates as customers, some will become customers. Those that don’t may spread your message to future buyers.
The old model is treating customers like royalty, while encouraging others (via marketing) to become customers so that they can enjoy the same preferential treatment. The web in general, and social media in particular, have changed all of that.
Offer the Experience of Your Work for Free
Virtually any web-based service that you can think of offers a free trial. The understanding is you are reluctant to buy just about anything until you have the opportunity to experience its benefits.
If you are a content creator like me, this is easily accomplished. Everything I share here on JeffKorhan.com is free – and always will be. I’ve offered other information products for sale that I have since discontinued, but rest assured there are several on the horizon.
If you happen to offer a customized service, then a demo is a challenge. I understand this because that describes my business when I was a landscape architect – every project was designed and built specifically for each client.
Our challenge was to help prospects experience our work through images, videos, and physically walking through completed projects. In many ways, this is how I developed my skills as a content marketer.
If you put your creative skills to work, you will find a way to make this happen for you. Let’s say you operate a dry cleaning business that offers a chemical free service. Are you telling me you won’t do a few shirts for free to prove the merits of your process?
Consultants frequently offer 15-30 minutes of free consultation to demonstrate their skills. Even if the prospects don’t buy, they may well become advocates, which means the value of your investment is compounded.
Create a Distribution Process that Illuminates Your Expertise
When you think about it, word-of-mouth is a distribution process that illuminates your expertise. Satisfied customers are the best source of referrals, but you should not overlook those that will never engage with your services.
Advocates for your business could be fans, former customers, or friends. Don’t overlook them, because many times they are more loyal to you than your current customers.
Think about it, when your customer refers you, others may suspect they are doing so to earn preferential treatment. This is why some may give even more weight to the recommendation of a fan or advocate.
Some of the better ways to distribute your expertise are through a blog like this, a YouTube channel, or a Facebook Page.
Clearly Draw the Lines Between Free and Paid Products and Services
If you cannot find a way to offer a free trial of your work then don’t. It is better to be transparent. Here’s an example.
I read USA Today online everyday for free – all of it. I also frequently check in on ESPN.com for my sports news, and 95% of its free. They do charge for access to the blogs, which for the most part is for the superfans – and that’s not me.
Given these conditions, I read USA Today and ESPN.com online regularly. I almost never read The Wall Street Journal anymore because they treat customers and friends unequally. They give everyone access to all of their content, but then ask you to subscribe to get 100% of the more descriptive editorials.
It’s deceptive bait-and-switch. You thought you were a friend, but now you aren’t.
Free is free – or it’s not free. It’s that simple.
It’s better not to offer a free trial than to pretend. This is why I no longer subscribe to The Wall Street Journal after being a loyal subscriber for nearly 30 years, despite the fact that I enjoy the quality work they produce.
Times have changed my friends, and we all need to recognize that.
Like it or not, social media has democratized media, with the result being a democratization of marketing in general. Just treat everyone equally and you will be fine.
Your prospects understand you have to make a profit. Just be clear about how and when you do that.
In the meantime, give everyone a free taste of what you do and your business will grow by leaps and bounds when the value of your capabilities is shared on the social networks.
Leave a comment below or share this with your social community on Facebook or Twitter. You may also wish to try the Google+1 button in the red bar at the bottom of your browser.
Until tomorrow, Jeff