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Grow Your Business by Not Charging for Your Services

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili PeppersWant to grow your business? Give it away.

I love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Great tunes especially at 3AM on a Friday night. They’ve also got an incredibly relevant message for how you can grow your business: Give it away, give it away, give it away now! (I’ll spare you the repeats).

No. I haven’t fallen and hit my head again. I routinely give away our stuff. Our services. Our content (ummm… yeah, you’re reading a FREE blog full of our intellectual property and the only price I ask is comments and telling your friends – you are telling your friends, right?). But I give it away deliberately and with purpose.

Have you ever been in that “free seminar” that was nothing more than a disguised sales pitch? Infuriating, huh? Did you buy the speaker’s stuff? Didn’t it grate on you when they’d say “so those are the first two steps in our secret ten step process. Buy the other eight steps for just $999.99!”

Those folks aren’t successful long term. They need to learn how to give it away. So do you. Allow me to explain.Have you ever been to Baskin Robbins? Pink spoon. Give it away. Eventually you find something you like and buy it. But the thing is you’re already in the store and already have that ice cream craving. The method I’m describing is about getting them to come into your store (so to speak) in the first place.

We have content and intellectual property. We routinely speak for free at conferences, group events, etc.  When we do, we cover the subjects that are the basis for our training programs.  And yes, that takes time and energy. Sometimes we’re even giving up client time (read: cash) to attend such events.

Once we take the stage, we give our entire methodology away. We teach the folks in the audience the ENTIRE framework. They LEARN something while they’re with us. Of course at the end we make our contact info available and gently mention we teach classes and provide coaching on the subjects we speak on. And then the magic happens – clients ask us to come work with them.

Why?

They’ve seen the entire methodology and can envision how it can apply to their organization (rather than having to divine what the secret 8 steps are and if they’ll be relevant to their teams). They’ve seen that we’re confident in the quality of our content and our instructors. And most importantly, they’ve seen we are genuinely interested in participants walking away from a seminar with real, practical knowledge they can apply (which isn’t possible if they’re missing the 8 secret steps).

On other occasions we’ll have conversations and give advice on a client’s or prospect’s business problem at no charge. We’ll do our best to help them as much as possible in that discussion. And sometimes they’ll hire us to help them because we’ve demonstrated competence in our domain. Other times they don’t hire us (but they DO remember us and refer us to other folks because we’re helpful). Bottom line is we are again giving it away.

My accountant? He gives it away. I occasionally go to him with a question or two. He answers. He provides some thoughts and guidance on how I might manage my books and my taxes (I do it myself). Rich doesn’t charge me. Ever. Even though I’ve DEMANDED he send me a bill even for the time I’ve taken from him. No bill. Guess what? I TELL PEOPLE HOW AWESOME HE IS! He gets giving it away (and just email me if you want his name).

Too many folks are afraid of giving their stuff away. They believe if they give it away then clients won’t have a need to hire them. They think people might steal their stuff (chillax Captain Paranoid – there’s a little thing called copyright law to protect you).

Get over it.

Try giving it away for a change to see what happens. Sure you have to charge people for it at some point but they’re much more willing to pay for something they’ve seen in its entirety and that they’re pulling into their organizations. They’re much less likely to buy if you’re pushing it on them with the promise that the secret 8 steps will solve all their problems.

Give it away. I challenge you to think about your business and how you might give it away in various ways. Free advice over coffee? A free workshop (where you DON’T SELL!)? Participate in a conference? How can you show off your content and capabilities in a manner that makes prospective clients clamor to bring you in? Try it. I dare you.

Have you had any success come from giving it away? Any bad experiences? Please share!

- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

10 Responses to “Grow Your Business by Not Charging for Your Services”

  1. Bonnie says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for this post. We are definitely on the same wave length here!

    My life has really been enriched since I’ve been ‘giving away’ inspiration sessions and been getting to share my methodology too. Not only is it exposure but it has been a very rewarding to experience the feedback and interaction with my (prospective) clients. I get to tweak, experiment and refine as I learn even more about my target group. And they get the added value.

    Not to menton, through these live appearances, I’ve been successful in creating an interest for my approach and working with me too.

    I’m from the school of thought ‘to know me is to love me’ or not. Giving these sessions is like a first date. If there’s a click, there’s a followup. Pretty efficient. Very exciting. And slightly addictive in a good way, too.

    Yours,
    Bonnie

  2. Brian says:

    Mike,
    In social psychology the term used to encapsulate what you describe would be reciprocity. People feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them. The more our “stuff” helps someone else the more compelled they feel to return the favor. Zig Ziglar said it best, “You can get everything you want in life IF you would just help enough other people get what they want.” Excellent post.

    Brian

  3. Jim Maneri says:

    I’m a musician. I write music for corporate purposes, TV, am currently on the road conducting a broadway show, and am a really good jazz pianist (was on the road for a decade playing jazz). In my business, people expect to get my product (recorded music) for free, and all of us recording artists are struggling to monetize our product in the face of the culture of pirating/sharing. I’m currently recording hours of public domain holiday tunes jazz piano style, and by Thanksgiving, I’ll allow anyone to stream them from my (new) website for free for their holiday occasions. My hope is that this will attract people to pay for the other music that will be available on the website, follow links to the itunes store for other music, and perhaps a few people will donate “shareware” style for the holiday music, although I’m really giving that away.

    Also in my business with corporate clients, they expect the fully finished product from producers bidding on projects (commercial films, jingles, etc…), then they pick from submissions making it so everyone not picked just gave away days of production – similar to how architects bid for projects. Many of us chalk the time spent up as “practice”. In my business, like in many businesses in the arts, giving away the work is the norm, and only part of the product/work/intellectual property is monetized. With musicians, writers and graphic artists in the age of free-download-entitlement, giving it away is a large part of the work, and the challenge is finding situations where people will pay for it!

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      Jim, great thoughts. I think over time you’ll find more and more folks willing to pay for your stuff as your demand goes up. And those “proposal” pieces are maddening. I’ve written many a proposal only to have it rejected after hours of work. All I can say is that over time, those efforts definitely pay off.

  4. Mike — great post (as always). Interested to get your perspective on the belief — which I’ve seen written about recently, but blanking on where — that people don’t appreciate or value things they get for free. Thoughts?

    Liz

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      I think it’s a simple matter of positioning. Let the client/customer know “Our list rate for this product/service is $XX,XXXX. In an effort to let you get to know us and see how awesome our product is, we’re willing to give you a free sample which is a value of $XX,XXX.” First, they are happy they’re getting a great deal. Second, you’ve managed expectations such that they know, when they love the product/service, how much they’ll be paying for it going forward.

  5. Good stuff, Mike! I wrote a blog post last year that featured an influencing model that I created. Six months later, out of the blue, I was contacted by a major training company asking if they could license my model for use in one of their best-selling programs! If I had not put it out there and given it away for free, that model would have been sitting around gathering dust rather than earning me royalties. My philosophy has always been, as you are suggesting: Be generous…and what goes around, comes around (sometimes :)

    BTW, speaking of “The Little Pink Spoon Principle”…you just reminded me of Larry David & the Sample Abuser:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFgBLWRhEh8

  6. [...] “Grow Your Business by Not Charging for Your Services” by Mike Figliuolo of Thought Lead… [...]

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