What is the Real Value in Free

freeFree is zero, nada, zilch, nothing. In the mind of the consumer, free means whatever you give away for free has no cost to you. The same applies to your time. If you are giving away your time for free, how do others adjust to understanding your “real” value? Do they realize your true worth?

Most people are very leery of free offers. Based on experience, we are trained to look for the fine print, the exceptions and qualifications.  Our better judgement tells us that there is usually a “catch” to getting something for free.  A free day at the spa comes with the catch of attending a vacation rental sales pitch. A free juicer included with a top priced refrigerator comes with the catch of spending more on a product just to get a small appliance you may never use. A free soft drink when you buy the big meal comes with the catch you have to super-size your entire meal. If we are always suspect to the catch, how does that reflect on the perception of you giving away your time for free? Maybe there is a catch.

We are all very susceptible to the attraction of a free offer. Free works. We often all like to take advantage of free! Significant purchases are emotional. Free sparks our interest, it draws attraction to possibilities. Free also plays on the strong emotion of fear. The fear of losing out on the free.  Will someone else get our free?

What is not often measured is the “buyer” remorse of a free offer.  Why?  Well, you didn’t pay for your free, how can you be remorseful. You got what you paid for – zero, nada, nothing. You can’t return “nothing”. Your stuck with your free.  The cycle continues, giving and getting for free and then we are left wondering was it worth our time as the giver or receiver. It might be easier to leave the emotions behind and get to the real offer of people paying for your services. Paying for your valuable time without an emotional gimmick.

Free feels like it should have value. We perceive that whatever we get will be of greater value than what we have to give to get it.  It is very difficult in business as a service provider and solopreneur to not give away your time. We often justify this as a “marketing and sales” expense.  Unfortunately, the expense is not something you can list on your expense records as a tax deduction. You can not expense your hourly rate as a cost of sales. It’s lost time or to put in a more feel good term, an investment.

When you give away your time, what you do and who you are is represented as free.  It may appear to be a good idea. If you give your time away regularly others will soon see that your time has no value and what you perceive to be a great gift often goes unused or disregarded. Are you creating the perception that you are “free” for the taking?

The best advice for giving away time for free is to set a specific free time budget.  How many hours can you afford to give away each week?  Also, keep your “power of negotiation” at your central point of where you do business.  Meeting at coffee shops and for lunch may seem like a convenient way to give away your free services; however, you are no longer in a business setting, which demonstrates that your business is the priority. 

We all desire to help others, pay it forward and do good. The best good you can do is to make sure that you get value for what you do. Free is a teaser, a sample. Maybe it is required to build a relationship and establish an opportunity for a transaction.  Then again, maybe if what you give away for free is so valuable people will actually pay you for it. Limiting your exposure and risk, means you have limited availability to always give away your time and services for free. Use your time wisely.

If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” — Sophocles

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

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Market to Your Strengths

Market to Your Strengths

Recently at an entrepreneur camp for high school students, I worked with several teams in preparing a 3 minute pitch to sell their inventions and innovations to a panel of professionals.  My focus was to help these young entrepreneurs identify their business and product strengths so they could convincingly sell us on their idea in a very short amount of time — much like the real world.

I shared my experience in managing sales teams and evaluating investor presentations about what works and what does not work in pitching.  I let them know that even the most seasoned professionals can mistakenly focus on the “hot” features without direct alignment to what makes you stand out against your competition.

My lesson, you must compete for mind share before you get market share. Whether selling your idea, your services, your business or just you, always use your valuable marketing resources to promote what makes you better than the rest — your strengths!

Have you identified your market strengths?  Recently? And once you found your strengths, have you effectively managed and built them up in your marketing?

The easiest tool to define your strengths is the simple risk assessment that every marketing plan must include — SWOT Analysis.  No matter the size of your business, you must know your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  

Complete a SWOT Analysis to Find Your Strengths

If you have already completed a SWOT analysis on your company, product or service, dust it off and review it today.  Is it still accurate?  Hopefully you have evolved!  Your strengths are not set in stone.  They are dynamic based on competition, economics, innovation, market growth or decline and shifting attitudes toward your business and products from consumers and employees.

If you have not completed a SWOT Analysis, take out a piece of paper now. Draw four boxes and label them: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  In each box, list out what you currently say, believe or understand as your strengths and your weaknesses, the opportunities you see where you can grow and threats in your business to achieving your goals.

This initial SWOT Analysis is meant to be quick; however, a thorough strategic marketing plan will take more time and resources for a complete evaluation.  You will ultimately want an assessment that has multiple inputs including employees, executives, vendors, partners and current, potential and lost customers.

A SWOT analysis is useful to make sure you are current with messaging on how you are perceived and understood in the market place.  It is a business planning tool that should be evaluated quarterly to make sure market opportunities are seized and threats are assessed and mitigated.

The next step is to audit your current marketing programs and communications to see how effective you are in defining your strengths.  Are you placing all your strengths on the first page, first paragraph, above the fold and in your elevator pitch?  Review your marketing tactics to see how well you represent your strengths. Start your assessment with:

1.  Branding – Do you clearly communicate and represent your strengths in the essence of your brand and your identity?

2.  Communications – Do you detail your strengths in all your marketing communications, including sales presentations, collateral and on your web site?

3.  Sales – Can your sales representatives and customer-facing employees recite your top five strengths?  Where are they detailed in your standard sales presentation?

4.  Public and Analyst Relations – Does your boiler “About Us” include your marketing strengths?  Are you able to weave your strengths into every new release?

5.  Social Media – How often do you remind your fans and followers about your strengths?  Are they listed in your social profiles?  How many weekly posts include mention of your strengths?

In order to create demand and achieve anticipated growth, you need to market to your strengths. Make sure you are consistent, clear and current in your messaging and get the word out why you are better than all the rest.