When it comes to information, it seems like everything is free these days. Free ebooks, free white papers, free newsletters, free videos, free blogs, and free webinars. Since content is king, the average information guru has to churn out an astronomical amount of content. And not just any content. It has to be well-researched, well-written, top quality content if you want people to read it, share it, and come back for more. And after all that hard work you’re just expected to give it all away for free. Where does it end? And how can your information marketing business survive and thrive in the free economy?
Here are several ways businesses are making money from the free economy:
- Advertising – Most blogs and newsletters are free. But trust me, they take an enormous amount of time to maintain. That’s time that could be spent at another job making real, cold, hard cash. Even if you don’t count the years of sweat and blood equity someone has invested to gain the knowledge you read in a blog or newsletter, it takes a lot of time to research, write, and edit the blog or newsletter itself. I’ve read comments where people have complained about a blog having ads on it. Really? Bloggers and info producers deserve to make a living. For someone like myself, this IS my full-time job. I personally haven’t added a lot of advertising to any of my sites yet, but I will be doing it in the near future. If people find the information I post valuable, they shouldn’t be bothered by an ad that they can either click or ignore. TV has been running on this model since it’s inception. If you think about it, it’s a really sweet deal. You get to see tons of great shows for free. The only catch is that you have to put up with some commercials. Only now with the emergence of DVR you can even fast forward through that. Radio runs on the same model. Everyone should be used to it by now. If you sell information, don’t be shy about advertising. In fact, do it boldly.
- Sponsorship – I may be partial to sponsorship, but I think sponsorship as a way to generate income from your free information is the way of the future. Sponsorship has been around for centuries, but is still relatively new. Big corporations have been doing it, but it’s just starting to catch on with small businesses. If your ads are going unnoticed, maybe it’s time to start thinking about getting sponsorship. If you’re a public speaker who is out giving away your valuable information for free – STOP! You deserve to get paid for that hard-earned knowledge. If you are a podcaster who is doing awesome interviews that are of value to an audience, stop doing them for free. Get a sponsor who wants to align themselves with your image and your topics, and wants to get in front of your audience of listeners. Sponsorship is more of an ongoing marketing relationship than advertising. Getting a portfolio of sponsors is a great way to have your free information financed and allows you to better serve your audience without having to constantly sell.
- Upgrades and advanced features – A lot of membership sites have a free option with the ability to upgrade to a premium, paid option. The free option will have a limited amount of services you can access, but you can always upgrade it to a paid account. Linked In is a good example of a free social media site with a premium option. Evernote is a free app, but also has a premium option.
- Coaching and mind masters – Many information entrepreneurs will give away an awful lot of good, free content, including webinars, white papers, newsletters, and more just to sell you their coaching and mind masters on the backend. They hook you in by proving that you have good information and they establish themselves as thought leaders in their particular industry. Coaching is a good way to personalize the experience for your clients. Instead of just getting general information, they can hone in on their own projects and be held accountable on a regular basis. Private coaching is something you can’t provide for free because every client has different needs. Though some coaches will give you a free 15-30 minute coaching as a sample of what they can do. It also helps to determine whether or not your coaching is the right solution for that client.
It looks like the free economy is here to stay for a while, so like with any disruptive patterns in business you just need to learn how to work around it and learn how to make money from it.