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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Selling is Dead - Free is the Newest Trend

Note from Jesse: I've always been impressed by the work of Mike Stelzner. As organizer of Facebook Success Summit, which I presented last year and will be presenting again this year, and organizer of Social Media Examiner, he has a passionate audience that really produces strong and engaging conversations for everyone that his websites and social media properties touch. That's why when he sent me a copy of his new book, Launch, I was very excited to feature it on this blog. I thought I'd take it a step further and see what my wife, Rebecca, thought. Here is her review:

Twelve years ago, my husband was installing Linux on our computer. I asked him how this could this possibly be free? He told me that the internet was going to make everything free in the future. He was right.

In a world where anything you want to know is just a Google search away, paying for information is a relic of the past. And with it, paid advertising has become increasingly less effective, even obsolete. Just ask any newspaper company.
Free is more effective than pricey ads

So if paid advertising is ineffective and too costly, how do you market your product? The answer is simple: offer help to as many people as you can for FREE. By sincerely helping as many people as you can and building relationships, you set yourself above the rest of the players. With a website, you will have the ability to reach and help enough people that eventually customers will come.
You Don’t Believe Me

You probably don’t believe me. If you offer them help for free, why would they ever pay for your help? Let me give you an example. You need a plumber. You Google search and post a request on Facebook for recommendations from your friends. You find one that has a great website that a friend recommended. The website had a few articles on how to diagnose and fix the problem yourself. They offered a free plumber to chat with you via instant messaging. You quickly trust this company because they look like experts and they are so helpful. You check the company on Yelp. They have good reviews from their customers. After all the free advice they give you, you decide the problem is bigger than you want to do yourself. Who do you hire? You guessed it. Their own website and their connection to social media websites, not paid advertising, is what made the sale.
Beating the Competition in an Internet Era

If you really want your business to attract customers, you need to create your own website that offers high quality content for free. Content that solves problesm, educates, inspires, and entertains. Michael Stelzner in his new book Launch outlines all the steps necessary.
Step 1: Create a website with great content like how-to articles, expert interviews, book or product reviews, case studies, news stories, and contrarian stories (my personal favorite)

Step 2: After attracting a wide audience through step 1, take your website to the next level by adding reports based on surveys, white papers or long how-to articles, top 10 lists, and micro events like live webinars or live interviews (videos are power)

Step 3: While doing step 1 and 2, collect information from your readers such as email addresses from a free login process, or a Facebook fan page, or Twitter following

Step 4: Make sure that your website is so helpful that your readers will recommend you to their friends and that experts will want to be featured

Step 5: Continue to offer new content so your readers continue to come back and your reader base grows

Step 6: When you have enough readers, then market your product or service but do so as little as possible.

Stelzner calls this the Elevation Principe: Great Content + Other People – Marketing Messages = Growth.

The Cost of Building Your Free Website

Though your website is free to your reader, it costs money to build it yourself, maintain it, and update it. That cost should be less than what you spend on paid advertisements, however. It also takes time to implement this system. Stelzner estimates 4 months based on his own experience. Some businesses may take longer. Some businesses will have a difficult time writing well enough for their own websites and may have to hire a freelance writer. Implementing this idea takes time, money, and patience.

Selling really is Dead

In a world where we are increasingly blocking, skipping, and tuning out ads, traditional marketing no longer works. We are just too savvy. What we like is being helped and then we tell our friends. We freely market for you. So, invest in your own site.

You can buy your own copy of Launch here.

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