Q: “Dear Indie Business: I was thinking about doing a couple of blog posts, but as I wrote, they actually turned into a booklet. I was going to publish it for free at my blog, but then I figured I could sell it. I see it as a good product, filled with solid advice. Should I sell it? Or give it away?”
– Mary Humphrey, Annie’s Goat Hill, Cincinnatti, OH
dM’s Answer: “Mary, first of all, congratulations on setting up a blog that can be used to share valuable information, whether for free or for a price. That’s the first step in creating a solid platform from which to grow your business and maximize opportunities. The key to answering this question is to strike a balance between what you give away and what you offer for a price.
If you have too much or too little of one or the other, you risk alienating people on one hand, or short changing yourself on the other.
If you give away too much, people will expect everything for free. If you only offer your information in exchange for a price, you miss out on a great way to build up the trust people need in order to buy anything from you. The trick is knowing when to go from parting the curtain to fully raising it.
Striking this balance is a moving target, and that’s a good thing. How you give away should change as your business grows. As your brand, authority and credibility are established, and you become more experienced, you can generally charge for more because you have more to offer. Every business will be different, but here are my suggestions:
1. Systematize what you give away
Create a product — a booklet, for example — once a month or once quarter and give it away. This ensures that you are generously sharing a steady stream of information that is relevant to your audience. It also eliminates the need for you to have to think about what to do. If you decide to have one freebie booklet a month, then do that, and don’t lose time wondering what to do. You may choose a different system, but the goal is to have one so you can invest time producing and not wondering.
2. Sell the juiciest information
Decide on criteria that will allow you to quickly know whether or not something you create will be a freebie product, or a paid one. For example, a basic overview of the importance of doing something, and how to do it, can be in a free booklet. Think of it as setting the stage and parting the curtain.
But a booklet with step-by-step instructions, a FAQ and a “trouble shooting” appendix can be saved for a paid product. Think of that as raising the curtain fully.
3. Share information using different media.
Spice things up by sharing content using a combination of video, audio and the written word. Audio and video make it easy to share information that invites written follow up. A video can be short and to the point, while the full explanation can be written and worth paying for because it is portable and can be studied at length. A good combination of media makes not only a blog interesting, but it also makes *you* interesting. It allows people to get to know the person they are doing business with and creates new opportunities to combine paid and free content.
4. Test market
As small business owners, we can test different ideas with minimal risk. Try a few things out, paid and unpaid. As you do this, you will begin to see patterns in how your customers buy. You’ll know if you’re giving too much away because people won’t buy anything. You’ll know if you’re not giving enough away because people won’t pay much attention at all. I wouldn’t describe this as a “hit or miss” approach, but it does take time and practice to get a good flow. Again, the beauty of entrepreneurship is that, if Plan A isn’t working, you can shift to Plan B in about 30 seconds.
Paid Versions Should Reveal Everything
I have found that this is critical. Once you decide that something is going to be a paid product, it needs to be seriously good, holding back nothing.
For example, all of the ideas, experiences and tips offered here at this blog are free. They are basic and high level, but my readers and IBN members tell me they are very useful.
Once someone pays to join IBN or purchases a product, however, there’s even more. When I meet with members on a call or webinar to share information or how to do or approach an important small business issue, I hold nothing back. It’s all out there, no question is beyond being asked and answered. The same is true when I conduct one-on-one consulting, group coaching or MasterMind sessions — it’s there for the sharing.
Of course is less of an issue when consumer products are at issue, thought the logic is the same.
Give away sample sizes. Charge a fair price for the big kahuna.
Good luck, Mary, and let us know when those booklets are ready!
– Donna Maria”
Learn more about Mary Humphrey and Annie’s Goat Hill here.
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