When I go to Whole Foods, it’s not uncommon to see someone standing at the end of some aisle or another handing out a complimentary tidbit on a toothpick. It’s a sample. Enough to decide whether what they’re slinging is tasty enough for me to load a box of it into the cart. And admittedly, sometimes I just want a snack. When I lived in Vegas, my friends and I would spend the entire morning climbing out at Red Rocks and then we’d go to Costco. Why? The samples! Every damn aisle had someone sampling something – it was a free lunch.
Are you handing out a free lunch?
I wasn’t Costco’s target demographic with that sampling, but they (just like Whole Foods) know they’re going to get the grazers like me and my rock climbing friends. It’s part of doing business. But if they started giving away whole boxes of crackers, loaves of bread or cuts of meat – therein lies a real business problem.
Because people aren’t going to pay for what they can get for free. I spoke about this recently in my post It’s Not Free. Today, I want to dig deeper into how to set that threshold between free and paid in your business. The best examples I can give are those I’ve worked through myself and situations I’ve helped clients through. Maybe you’ll find value in the following thoughts on not being the neighborhood slut and start with some strategic whoring (because we’re all selling something, and it’s best to admit that right up front).
On Handling Grazers
They call you. You email. A few (multiple) conversations (transcripts of which could masquerade as handwritten versions of The Fountainhead) are had. They call and email again. You send over case studies. You send samples and recommendations. They comment on a blog post. They call. Another email. You reply. They send you a link to a pedestrian blog post with a question attached on how this affects their business. You reply. Another email. A phone call. An in-person meeting that stretches on for an hour and a half, leaving you hauling ass to your next meeting with your stomach grumbling like a radiator from the late 1800s.
It’s fucking exhausting. And that, my friend, is your fault (just like it’s mine). I don’t know a single businessperson who doesn’t struggle with this type of prospective client on occasion, but every time the situation rears its ugly bastard head, it’s your responsibility to look at the situation and call bullshit.
Processes are what help me a great deal. For example, I now get off email with inquiries ASAP. I take it to a brief phone call. Determine needs. It’s likely that the next communication from me is setting a full-on meeting (if required) or a Scope of Work and pricing. No more la-la-la. Take a look at your processes and how you can revamp them to better handle those who like to graze. And for those who continue, there’s always this response:
“I would love to help you out with ______. I work in one of two ways: an hourly consulting rate of $XXX or we can define the entire scope of your needs and I can put together a project rate for you. Let me know which one sounds like a better fit for you and we’ll get you put into the production calendar and headed towards a solution!”
On Being a Slut
There comes a time we all need to get paid for what we do. It’s the same reason that grocery stores don’t give away whole boxes of crackers but they’re happy to give you a sample. That’s because free doesn’t keep the lights on. It doesn’t keep my dogs fed or my rent paid and it certainly doesn’t put gas in the car (at WTF a gallon especially). Why do we act like we’re ashamed to be in business? When you give it away, you’re nothing more than the dorm slut. Easy, but nobody’s going to put a ring on it. Here are four ideas to help you get your rep back and find clients who are looking for a connection and not just a one night stand.
- Webinars: Offer a free webinar with 36,000 foot view information that’s a prelude to a paid series. The trick here is actually showing people that you’re worth paying for without ending up the drunk girl who can’t find her bra in the sorority house the morning after a kegger. HubSpot is the king of the free webinar, but if you want access to their product, you’re going to pay.
- Whitepapers: Spend the time developing a shit-hot whitepaper with great, actionable information. Let people download it for free in exchange for an email address. If they like what they found there, you’ve put out a single effort that applies to potentially thousands of people and in the process, added them to your pipeline.
- Guest Blogs: Most guest blogging opportunities will be for free, so when you take on one of these opportunities, get the nitty gritty. Track your followers, fans and subscribers BEFORE the post goes live. Track comments. Retweets. And then figure out if that venue is worth your time. Maybe the subject matter was off, maybe it’s not the right place for you. But don’t keep putting out without knowing there’s a discernible benefit for you.
- Quora: Been there yet? Many people have. As the fastest growing Q&A platform on the planet, you can offer your perspective on a variety of questions. Not only is it a great venue for establishing expertise, other users vote on the usefulness of your answer. I know multiple clients and colleagues beginning business relationships on the site. A tip? Don’t answer questions with more than 20 responses already unless you have something materially different to add. Look for fresh questions and get in the first 5 responses.
The Bottom Line
It really comes down to (in the most blunt of terms) how much of your time are you willing to waste? I’m 38 and have a beautiful life. I’d like to be able to spend most of my time enjoying that life and be more effective in helping my clients get to where they need to go. How much will you give away and why will you give it? Every freebie needs a strategy behind it. Don’t be the guy who thinks that a girl will fall in love with you because you buy her presents or the girl who thinks that open legs are the way to a man’s heart.
That Guy will find that the girls will happily take their gifts.
That Girl will find that the guys will happily take her clothes off.
Stop giving it away. Be smart. We’re all smarter than that. Costco’s looking for members, not grazers. Meaningful, revenue-generating customers. And it’s rare (rare…did I say RARE?) that those one night stand and grazer type of interludes ever turn into something meaningful. I’m looking for meaningful, in every facet of my life. It’s a better life on account of it, methinks. Maybe yours is, too.