I was listening to a podcast yesterday and someone threw out the assertion that you need to have people pay money or they won’t pay attention to your seminar, book, online program, etc.

This got me thinking. You would be shocked at the number of people who download eBooks and never read them, sign up for webinars and never watch them, or even buy expensive online programs and never finish (or begin!) them.

Or, maybe you wouldn’t because you have done it yourself…

As I write this, I am thinking about the free report I signed up for that I never got around to looking at, but overall, I do tend to engage with the free content I sign up for.

However, you will definitely get my attention if I have to pay for something. And, 9 times out of 10, I will finish that content and maybe even go back and engage with it again. (I am going to get my money’s worth, darn it.)

Free ideas can spread

As I was leafing through Seth Godin’s recent book This Is Marketing, I landed on the section about giving things away for free. Godin says, “A free idea is more likely to spread, and spread quickly, than an idea that’s tethered to money.” (p.183)

Most service providers and thought leaders would love for their ideas to spread! Social proof makes it so much easier to sell your services.

Many an internet sensation has gained that position by publishing a free manifesto that spread like wildfire across the interwebs.

My eBook I published in 2014 is still downloaded daily, and has prospects jumping on my calendar pretty much every week. Free can have a huge ROI, as I wrote that eBook in a month and it keeps making me money.

Pricing affects perceived value

Godin says, “Pricing is a marketing tool, not simply a way to get money.” (p.179) How you price your product or service is really important because would-be buyers do infer quality and value from price.

Dropping your price doesn’t necessarily lead to more sales.

In fact, raising your price can actually lead to more sales because the value, if backed up by your marketing and delivery, goes up in a buyer’s mind.

If you offer something at a lower price so that people can try your service, make sure you are clear that this is just one aspect of what you do, and that the full service has much more included. Think taste, not full meal. If you don’t do this, the $25 for 25-minute sample session will make your $150 for an hour seem way too high.

Yes, it’s all about messaging and positioning.

Side note: There are also bands of pricing that buyers more or less think of as the same. I raised the price on one of my services almost 50% and still sell the same or more every year. The reason is I was on the low end of a band and moved to the high end of that same band, in this case $497 to $747. The “pain threshold” for the buyer was more or less the same – but my profit margin improved significantly.

Just right

This pricing stuff is tricky, and there is a bit of a chicken and egg component to it. You may have to play around with different packaging, storytelling, and pricing before you land on what is just right for your clients and your profitability.

As I think about whether people need to pay to pay attention, generally I do believe they will get more out of your work if they pay for it. An exception might be any pro bono work you do where clients feel very lucky to have access to your great work for free (or at a reduced rate).