Deb Owen asked the following question on my last post:
What’s your take on Seth Godin’s position that ”˜free’ will eventually morph into providers paying people to take something to try?
I decided to answer the question here rather than in the comments because I wanted to point out the post she’s referencing and give the context for the discussion. In the conclusion to Too Much Free, Seth says
As the market for free gets more crowded, we’ll see more and more people promoting their free products, stuff that people used to have pay for. A complete shift from ”˜you will pay’ to ‘it is free’ to ”˜I will pay for ads to alert you it’s free’ to ultimately, ‘I will pay you to try it’.
My first take on it is that we’re already partway there, since providers pay sneezers to try stuff, betting that those sneezers will get others to try it. The online survey industry that’s running rampant is also paying people to try something, but they’re doing so because they’re taking that information to figure out how to sell their products more effectively to people they haven’t paid to try them. I guess the next extension is that providers would pay us to try a teaser or freemium version of their product, betting that it’s so good that we’ll buy the full version of the product.
Of course, when compared to how much money businesses are throwing away already on advertising that’s just not working, it may be more effective to pay potential customers directly while offering the same product rather than sinking money into advertising. After all, if paying you $3 to try this product means that you’re 95% likely to buy another one of my products for $19.95, then that may be a better bet than spending thousands, a few pennies at a time, to get a .1% conversion rate. It’s a numbers game at that point, but I think the idea deserves some exploration.
What’s interesting about this that we’ll be reverting back to 20th Century “free” as opposed to 21st Century “free,” since there will be much higher financial costs to acquire customers like it was when our economy was more heavily based on material products. There’s at least one positive upshot of this: as soon as it costs marketers a lot to do their thing, they’ll be more likely to a) not yell at us all the time, since yelling will cost them resources in addition to whatever they’d normally pay on marketing and promotion and b) work to ensure that they have remarkable products that deliver because, otherwise, they’re paying doubly for wasted time and resources. Business that continue to over-market and under-deliver won’t make it very long, and the ones left will be delivering superior products that deliver.
If you had to pay someone to try your product, what would you do differently?