If you want me to PLAY, please, ask me to PAY.

Why buy it, when I’m just going to give it to you?

I know this sounds really odd, doesn’t it?  Am I, as the consumer, really asking that you make me pay in order to get something?  Why yes, I am.  I’m also doing it as the producer.  I’m speaking to the topic of “give-aways, free downloads, free webinars, and chapter downloads” that so many of us, present company included, have signed up for lately and/or contemplate using for our own marketing efforts.  I’m going to make the case right here, right now, that we all stop it.


Yep, I said it.  Stop doing it.  Stop it right nowYou give away enough for free.  Let’s use your blog as an example.  Most of the blogs that I read are ripe with information that most people would pay to get.  They just haven’t found yours yet.  Will giving potential leads an e-book take them to your blog? Perhaps, but they’ll first have to land somewhere first (Facebook page, website, blog) and if they are there already, I’ll bet there’s some content already in place that will keep them coming back for more.

We take it for granted that we so readily consume this content that could easily represent an hour or so of private coaching or consulting, or when added together, a semester’s program via an online university.  That information and knowledge so freely shared?  Gold.  It’s also FREE.

Let’s Rethink This. Where I would encourage you to pause and take a moment to really evaluate your marketing efforts is when you take it a step further and start giving folks a free download of your e-book, or offering a free webinar.  How many e-books have you downloaded in the last 4 months alone?  Go ahead, take a minute and think about it, go find them if you saved them.

Have you read them? If you’re like me, the answer is an embarrassed “no”.  It’s not because I don’t want to.  It’s because I DIDN’T PAY FOR IT.  You know what I am reading?  The books that I downloaded into my Kindle, the ones that I PAID for.   They have value to me because I used my money to buy them; therefore, I will read them first.

I have the free ones I’ve downloaded saved somewhere on my laptop that I hope to find one day when I have a few free moments and nothing else on the agenda.  The sad part of that equation?  That “time” is not likely going to come around soon.  Even sadder?  I’m sure it’s all really good stuff.  In fact, I know it is.  I hold these authors in extremely high regard and I follow their blogs religiously.  So why don’t I read their books?  Aside from the time situation, I DIDN’T PAY FOR THEM.

I paid for, downloaded and read Gary Vaynerchuck’s Crush It , Les McKeown’s Predictable Success, and I’m currently finishing up Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley and CC Chapman.  All great reads and all read upon purchase.  I PAID FOR THEM.

Why Buy It? In looking back, I realize that I purchased these books because of another person, an influencer, who recommended them. That’s important.  That’s my kind of marketing.  Word of mouth, referrals made by influencers, pointing me towards something that yes, I must purchase, but that undoubtedly has tremendous value.

I  know.  That’s the ideal scenario, right?  Someone with major pull (or not) tells someone else to check out my ‘stuff’ and from there, they buy it.  Whether it’s an hour of my time, a monthly service agreement, or an e-book, they’ll then PAY FOR IT.  That’s precisely where this ‘give away train’ has to stop.


So MANY people are giving away and receiving free stuff.  We expect it.  But do we value it? John Jantsch just wrote a post on this topic, in part sparking my diatribe here.  I bought and heartily consumed his book, Duct Tape Marketing.  Just recently, on American Express Open Forum, Jatsch notes that by giving it away for free, we’re actually shooting ourselves in the foot.  We’re diminishing our own value.  We’re setting up expectations that all of our stuff is free, or should be, and in the long run, causing folks to overlook us when it’s time to shop for real value and services.

I know this to be true in my own case.  I have done and will continue to do pro bono work, but only with some really clear boundaries and expectations.  I did some pro bono marketing work for a local performing arts group and did such a good job giving away my services that when it was time to seek out bids for a marketing group, they overlooked me.  I apparently had a hobby.  When I corrected the assumption, the damage had already been done.  By that point, my price would be WAY out of line with the ‘value’ that I had already provided and the expectation that I had set up.  To go from free to $$$ is a hard leap for folks.

Final Plea

So, as both the consumer of your awesome content and the producer of services that I want to provide to you, PLEASE, make me pay before I play and in return, I’ll ask that you pay me before we play.  It really will work out well for us in the long run.  Don’t worry, I will ‘give away’ enough to make sure you know I know what I’m doing and what I can accomplish, but it won’t be in the form of an e-book or a free webinar.  It will be in the form of a conversation that you and I have, or a blog post that I write, or a video that I shoot.  It will also be evident in the results that I provide for my clients who will also happily tell you what I can do.  That’s where you’ll find my value.  That’s also where I’d like to find yours.

Image found on Flickr.


So, let me have it.  Has the ‘free’ way worked out for you?  Am I missing the boat?  Or, are you, like me, tired of this method of marketing?  Oh, and if you’d like to discuss one on one, email me or skype me at erica.allison.


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