It's time to embrace the new world of free

I couldn’t NOT download the e-book ’10 Ways to Make Money in a Free World’ (and yes, it sure was free). An increase in free content and products is a challenge that is disrupting almost every industry.

Did you, like me, once buy tapes, then CDs, and then songs or albums online? I bet you now, just like me, use Pandora, Spotify or another free music streaming app to listen to your favourite music for free. Why wouldn't you? Your favourite music is now in your hand whether you want it at the gym, in the car or projected through the home.

How about DVDs - did you once buy or borrow them? See you later Blockbuster - we now have Netflix, Stan, Presto…

Books? I borrow most of mine for free from my local library’s app. 

There’s no denying that the digital world is changing how we spend money and what exactly we spend it on. 

BUT it’s not a negative. In fact, there’s a lot to be embraced. 

This is where Nicholas Lovell's marketing ‘Curve’ comes into play.

The Curve is three-fold: use free to find an audience; use technology to stay in touch with that audience and figure out what they value; allow those who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they really value.

So what exactly can you give away?

It's not enough to just give a sample or a lesser version or your proper product. You need to invest in developing products that people really WANT. You may well have heard of content marketing - I like to explain this as quality material that helps or delights your audience. It's time to invest some of your marketing budget to develop it.

Do you run a florist? How about filming a video showing people how to arrange your most popular bunches? Or how about a fact sheet on how to help flowers last longer at home?

If you run a beauty salon, why not put together a guide to help people create their own make up look at home based on their face shape or skin tone? 

Or if you have an online sports apparel store? Film a video of an up-and-coming personal trainer showing their best winter workout techniques. 

By developing great content, you can reach more people and provide them with value, which in turn builds brand familiarity and loyalty. 

What’s next?

With a captive audience online, developed through your content marketing, you can use analytics to find out what your audience REALLY desires.

One of my clients in the health consulting industry sends a monthly email newsletter full of free tips. Based on the most clicked upon articles in this newsletter, we have a specific understanding of what information the audience are most hungry for. We're looking at putting together paid e-books based on these most popular topics. 

Using your growing online audience, can also test new ideas at low cost and quickly. Thinking of launching a new range, changing your business hours, offering a new service? ASK your audience and you’ll quickly know if they’re interested in this or not.

Before I run a workshop, I always test the demand for it by reaching out to my audience asking them to express interest BEFORE I book a space and have tickets ready to go, or by asking what workshop they'd love to attend next. 

And now to ‘superfans’

I think this is the most exciting part! You have your captive audience, you’re learning more and more about them using analytics and testing online, and now you give your biggest fans something to get them REALLY excited. 

As Nicholas Lovell puts it:

"We are moving into a post-consumer world. What matters is how what we buy affects our emotions, how it makes us appear to others and whether it offers us an experience."

The perfect example is a magazine that runs a ‘meet the editor’ event with a beautiful venue, food and drink, flowers and gift bags. This type of event offering is a very feel-good, tactile, 'delight the senses', ‘up close to the brand’ event that isn’t possible just from reading the magazine. 

From Mr Lovell again:

"It would be to give superfans a physical artefact to display, to touch and to admire, to use as a physical manifestation of their sense of self. It would be a token of their fandom."

I don’t deny that I’m a times a very keen superfan! For example, I went to a three-course lunch in the Yarra Valley 'in conversation with' The Collective Magazine’s founder and Editor-in-Chief, Lisa Messenger, and De Bortoli’s chief winemaker, Steve Webber. Local artisans came on board to gift attendees their products, and there were plenty of learnings about the new business world. It was fantastic! I love the magazine and I wanted more.

Events are a fantastic way to engage your superfans. If I go back to my examples, the local florist could run a floral styling workshop or offer flower crown classes; the beauty salon could offer a makeup masterclass or a ‘spoil your mum’ pamper session for Mother’s Day; the online sports apparel store could run a health retreat or put on yoga and brunch in collaboration with a local cafe, while bringing in a fitness influencer to run the workout or be interviewed.

So where to from here?

How can you give value to your audience, use technology to learn more about what they love, and then provide them with something remarkable? Don't fear the increase of free - use it to have fun and build a community that loves what you do.

By Emily Osmond - Founder of Good Media

Emily OsmondComment