Charging a premium when everything else is FREE

Everyone loves free. Free beer, free love, free samples; it gets our attention and it appeals to our desire to nab a bargain and be a winner. Then there�s the �I deserve this!� inner voice that says that while you may not need what�s being given away, you want it because it�s FREE!!!! If you�re in Asia, go to the food section of an up-market department store around lunchtime and feast on the endless array of free samples. I challenge you to walk out of there hungry.

But there�s always a price to pay. Someone, somewhere has you in their sights to convert to you to becoming a paying customer. It�s fair and equitable when you think about it: I give you something; you give me something else in return. As long as everyone is happy enough to accept that, all is fine and dandy.


Free everything has been the cornerstone of the internet�s appeal since its inception. Back in the good old days, or at least the old days, there were finite TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines. The owners of those mainly local mastheads were invariably rich and powerful and had built up their titles over several decades or even centuries.

Today, anyone with an idea and a half decent smartphone can create a massive global audience within six months by pumping out free content.

So what�s the price to be paid due to the relentless consumption of this readily available digital content? For a start traditional content creators like journalists, cameramen and radio announcers have been confronted with diminishing audiences � and jobs – for years.

The other rather subjective price to pay is the quality of the content that�s being produced. While there are almost 5 billion videos streamed on YouTube PER DAY, approximately 22.2 billion blog posts and 750.000 active podcasts, quantity does not necessarily equal quality. With so much �noise� it has never been harder to work out what�s good and what�s not.

This has created an enormous conundrum for those of us looking to promote and differentiate any type of premium/paid product or service: how can we create enough value that people will be willing to pay for it?The answer is simple. It all comes down to a marketing fundamental: identify a market need and fill it. If you fill that need uniquely and in a compelling way, you get rich. Fail to do that and the best you can hope to achieve is to excite people by what they don�t have to pay you for.

Here are some of the ways you can upgrade your FREE offer using these enticements:

Offer Exclusive Content and Features

How do you get people to pay for your content? Easy, you make something good, that no one else has. Quality exclusive content is the easiest way to make sure people come to you when they need something. Companies like Netflix, Stan and Amazon, are making exclusive content which is only offered and made available on their platforms. Meanwhile the dating app Tinder, while initially free, does then offer exclusive premium features via Tinder Gold – available only with a purchase upgrade.

Offer a Trial Version
Free or trial versions can be a good way to give people a taste of your product. They will be more likely to buy the full version if they are familiar with and like the products you are offering. Examples are Microsoft Office and Xbox games. Xbox games offers a demo to a game and then requires players to pay to unlock successive levels.

Provide a Commercial FREE experience

You Tube�s videos and Spotify’s music are free, but users have the option to upgrade and eliminate annoying advertising pop ups on the site and in the videos. Users can upgrade to YouTube Red and Spotify Premium to have a better user experience when upgrading on these platforms.

If you are looking to upgrade your customers then looking closely and creatively at ways to offer your FREE enticements will certainly help to make that new product launch a success. Importantly ensure that you have both quality content and a compelling content plan to drive those sales for success.

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Peter Applebaum

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