This started off when I advised a friend to remove the words FREE from their website: because he is in the consultancy game and I felt that this devalued the whole offering if anything was FREE.
After I sent him that rather forward email I started questioning my own reasons for the advice and what had led me to feel that FREE was not right for him. In fact, why is FREE not something he should shout about? FREE sounds amazing. We all love something FREE. Surely anyone looking at the site would want to phone him immediately?
Is it because it has the potential to look more ‘desperate’ than one is meant to, is it because you mostly see FREE associated with products in spaces where the overall value is low originally e.g. supermarkets, or it is my own cynicism of the true value of FREE such as "buy one get one free" - a great device to sell you the product you didn't aim in to buy yet you came home with 2 of them, and still felt it was a good deal. We are all guilty of that one.
I think it is a combination of all of these but it is linked to another favourite of mine – how strategically important that first value you pay for something is in centring that value in your brain as a kind of barometer of cost. It is always easier to come down from a value, the minds needs to want to do this naturally but raising a value - much harder. Take buying petrol, because we can all remember roughly what it cost when we started driving we will always feel that it is expensive, and even a penny increase causes widespread grumbling. If my friend centred his business value at FREE for part of the service, what is the maximum value he could hope to charge when FREE was used up? By the opposite contrast I have a friend who has a fixed day rate of £4000. Would you imagine pay that? People do: to them his value is worth it, and he can always decide to lower it as required. It means he only needs to work on selected projects, or things that interest him. But never FREE.
This is of course not intended to drive the point home to my friend, nor to criticise businesses where FREE is a core part of a successful sales promotion, but really to challenge you to think of the value placed on FREE and especially how we use that initial value to gauge whether subsequent purchases are cheap or expensive, and how this centring affects our own positioning.
Do you agree, am I wrong? Make your voice heard below and with me on Twitter @markofrespect