Why “Free” is the New “Too Expensive”


Many business people believe that if they just offer a “free trial” of their product or service that their prospects will instantly say ‘Yes’ and sign up. This is built on the old idea that “no one turns down free stuff.” 

But the truth is that we turn down free stuff all the time.

How many times do you go to your local library to get a free DVD rental versus ordering a movie through your cable company or your Vudu account? How many times do you throw away that flyer that came in the mail offering a free roof inspection or steak knife? How many emails offering you a $10 Starbucks card in return for a “short survey” do you delete? And the list goes on and on…

Now is this to say that “free” never works? Not at all, it has its uses just like anything else.

The main problem, though, is that a free trial is not a fix-all for “we have no idea how to interest you in what we sell, so we hope you’ll figure it out for yourself.” 

In the real world just because something does not cost money does not mean it is free!
When people evaluate a free offer they not only look at price, they also ask themselves other questions, such as:

  • Is this applicable to me?
  • Will the time necessary to engage this offer take me away from things I want or need to do?
  • Once I engage this offer will it yield an outcome I want or desire?
  • Does this offer me something I don’t already have or can do myself?
  • What’ the catch?
  • Does this excite me?
  • Etc.

As you can see “free” isn’t free.

So, what can we do instead? Well, there are a number of other strategies you can employ.

One strategy you might consider is charging a small fee upfront.

For example: Let’s say that you sell software/SaaS. Instead of offering a free trial, charge 50% of the monthly fee as a one month trial. 

Now, for this to work, you have to build the value in your software. You have to position the software as being radically different than any competitor. You have to show people that it will create an outcome for them that is far less time/money/effort intensive than their current solution and yields greater results. And you have to approach them withcredibility and authority.

You also have to then make sure they USE the software during their one month trial. This is where charging a trial fee comes in. Simply put,people who put “skin in the game” have something to lose and therefore worked toward making their investment worthwhile.

Also, people who aren’t willing to pay a little upfront usually don’t spend in the back end. 

Now I know that there are some instances where this won’t work, but how many times could this be working for you right now? 

The key questions are:

  • Do you truly value what you sell?
  • Do you know that it is highly effective for your prospects? 
  • Do you want to separate the qualified leads from the unqualified ones faster?
  • Do you want to sell more stuff?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then maybe your “free” is just too expensive.