Business is mostly about how you think
There are idols in the internet world and one of them is Jason Fried of 37Signals.com. He and his biz partner David Heinemeier Hansson have built a company that many in the startup world idolize and then seek to duplicate. I do use a few 37Signals products but the greatest gift I get from 37Signals is the attitude they carry. They are totally ok with the word “No”. They are happy to lose certain customers. They build and run a business that they love not because of the money it produces but because of the problems it solves.
2010 had a lot of debate about the idea of “free” as a way to build a business, gain a following and turn a profit. One service I was using actually stopped charging me to use it (InvoiceBubble.com) while others that were free placed limits on their use and started charging (Hootsuite). One of my favorite services added a paid option for some added customization (Tungle.com).
Lastly, a free service that tried to close its doors (Xmarks.com) heard the cry of their users who said they would gladly pay to keep it alive (it eventually got purchased by another company and added a paid option). I know that you can make a lot of money offering someone a “free” version and then getting them to upgrade because for the rest of their lives but at the core of “Freemium” isn’t price, it’s a great service. The key to offering things at no monetary cost to potential paying customers is in my opinion, intent. Is it bait wrapped around a hook (that makes the customer a fish and no fish wins in that scenario) or is it truly a gift?
A psychologist friend of mine once asked me if I do anything with 100% pure motives. I was at a three week training to go on staff with Young Life (a non-denominational youth ministry organization) and I was fresh out of college. Without hesitating I said that I did do some things with pure motivations. She pressed me on my answer and I got very frustrated because she seemed to be insinuating that I was in fact doing a lot of things for selfish reasons. It’s 12 years later and if she asked me about my motivations now I’d have to answer differently. Everything I do (including giving away services, tutorials and advice for free) is in some way selfish. Just because it’s selfish doesn’t mean it’s dishonest. What I give away is helpful. When 37signals.com offers free versions of their paid programs people benefit from that. Is there a trick? Not as long as the version you signed up for stays free (this is where I think Hootsuite pissed some people off). Is free great for marketing? I think so.
Every week someone asks me the same question. “What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their business and needs to find customers?” My answer, “Find people you can give your service or product to at absolutely no charge.” Don’t charge them “cost” or a 50% discount. Give your service, product…whatever it is, away. This will benefit you in the following ways:
1. You’ll get honest feedback if you ask for it.
2. They may know some potential customers and send them to you.
3. They may become a paying customer themselves.
4. You will help them.
5. It feels good.
So what’s the point of “free”? I’m selfish so I give things away for free because:
1. I get honest feedback.
2. I get potential customers from those who receive my free stuff.
3. I get paying customers from the same people.
4. It helps people.
5. It feels good.
Let’s get it out there. No one has 100% pure motives. I don’t have pure motives when I love my wife (I want her to feed me and take care of our children because she’s better at both things). I don’t have pure motives in my friendships (I want them to like me, to say nice things about me and to invite me to do stuff with them). I don’t have pure motives in business (I want to get money from people, for them to tell other people about me and I like feeling wanted/important). We’re selfish because we know that givers often benefit the most because giving feels awesome. That’s why I made my tutorials all free (http://www.AndyTraub.com/free).
None of us pure and neither is “free”. I still think it’s a great idea though.
Go give some stuff away and see what happens. Start with giving your family your time then move on to your business, I believe you’ll be rewarded for both.
For those who use 37signals’ Basecamp service to manage projects this tip might save you some time. If you have repetitive processes for clients/teams you can create templates of to do lists and import them to projects with just a few steps. Here’s how. Let me know if it works for you and specifically what lists you’re automating.
I found a sweet plug-in for WordPress that allows you to have visitors plug in their information and it automatically populates in your Highrise account. I hope it helps. If it does leave me the link to your site so I can check yours out. (WARNING: My plugin is creating multiple duplicates of people who enter their information so I”m disabling it for now until I get some answers on how to fix it! I’ll update this post when I have more news.)
I follow a few guys through social media channels that run a company called 37signals. You can find them on Twitter at dhh and jasonfried. These guys curse often, they’re kinda cocky, they’re really wealthy and I’ve never heard them apologize for anything. I love those guys. I love them because…
They have opinions that divide people so they know who is with them and against them.
They speak from a perspective of being successful.
They are consistent in their message.
They don’t hate people who disagree with them.
They don’t spend very much time worrying about competition.
They don’t get into politics, they just run a great company.
My hero is Jesus, there’s no doubt about that. But these guys are studs because they have opinions that challenge me. You should buy their book. You’ll learn something about having an opinion and it will help your business. A pretty good deal for 12 bucks.