Why do some people sit for hours at slot machines, their sweaty little fingers dropping quarter after quarter, eyes glazed over as pineapples, gold coins and 7s spin in circles?
It’s the allure of the random payout. Gambling would be much less fun (though much more lucrative) if you knew exactly when you would hit. It’s the not knowing that keeps us coming back for more.
Random payouts are the same reason we sit for hours staring at TweetDeck and Facebook, our sweaty little fingers scrolling down hundreds of random updates, eyes glazed over as RTs, likes and quotes spin in circles. Social media addiction is a lot like gambling addiction, but instead of betting money, we bet little bits of our time and attention.
Oh, happy day! No more cold calling or evil outbound interruption marketing. No more rejection or wasteful direct mail.
All pre-revolution relics, that’s what they are!
In fact, the magical wonders of inbound marketing are so amazing that we can, nay we must, forget everything we’ve ever learned about marketing prior to 2008. It’s all obsolete now, like choosing the telegraph over Skype.
I’m being snarky. I get like that when great marketing strategies become sullied by unnecessary hype. It’s how I know I’m a marketing nerd, and I’m okay with it.
To be clear, my issue with the inbound marketing rhetoric is not over its validity. In fact, content is the foundation of my entire marketing philosophy. Content marketing and a strong inbound strategy are critical of you want to compete in the age of Google.
However, I take exception to the notion that anything outbound is somehow dirty and wrong…that the only way to attract customers moving forward is for them to find you first.
Freemium is a “business model that works by offering a game, product or service free of charge (such as software, web services or other) while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services.” (Wikipedia)
David Rogers’ article How to Make Piles of Money from Charging Nothing sums the concept up nicely:
“The freemium business model works like this: Everyone gets your product or service for free, forever. But those customers who really like it, and find most value in it, will have a strong temptation to upgrade to a “premium” (paid) service which has lots of additional goodies. It is, at heart, a strategy of pricing by customer segmentation. It also requires a lot of insight into your customers and how they use your product.”
Spotify let’s you listen to a certain number of songs for free, with a premium paid option for heavy users. Skype lets you call any computer in the world for free, with a premium paid option for those who want to call a real phone.
But this concept isn’t just limited to software and websites. Freemium is more than just a business model, it’s about the fundamental shift in how buyers expect to interact with and sample products and services. Whether you sell software or consulting or custom kitchens, if you compete with other companies that give away content for free in order to engage an audience, you are officially in the freemium business.
Cheaper is easy in the short term. Easy to advertise, differentiate, compete. “We’re Cheaper!” says the ad, website or proposal.
Cheaper works really well for retail. Walmart was built on it. But retail chains and websites have an advantage that professional services don’t: They can sell in volume.
Sell 2,137,211 doggie chew toys through your blog at a 3% margin, and you’re probably making some money.
Provide legal services, consulting or training at a 3% margin, and you’re making minimum wage.
Go back 20 years or so.
You read an article about how one day you’ll be able to produce your own TV show, magazine column and radio talk show. You can do it cheaply and with no network suits restricting what you can or can’t talk about. In fact, you’ll own the network. You can build an audience your way, over time, and establish an almost insurmountable competitive advantage in your market.
No guarantees of course, but a shot. And all it will take is some effort, creativity and a couple of pieces of equipment.
What type of show would you create? What would you write about every week? What topics could you discuss? What value would you bring to your audience?
Go do that.
When you first start creating your content, understand that you will be the only one enjoying it…for now.
So until you build your online audience, reach out and put your ideas right in front of a targeted list of prospects. Write letters, make calls, give talks.
The media you use doesn’t matter. The ideas you share do.
Branding advertising campaigns for professional services (Insert firm name here, tagline, “Industry-leading something or other,” phone number and website) exist not because they are part of a larger, well thought out strategy.
They exist because they’re easy.
It takes thought and time and commitment and effort and tough decisions to develop an effective business development strategy that attracts clients by creating value, solving problems and engaging them with relevant content. So much easier just to buy some ad space, throw your name in front of the audience and wait for someone to care. They won’t.
If you aren’t willing to invest the time and energy to connect, why would they?