Getting Paid for Free

I still remember my surprise and curiosity when The Wired magazine appeared in 2008 with the orange and blue stickers on the cover that proclaimed: “Free–why $0.00 is the future of business.” In his article and subsequent book, Chris Anderson argued that the average consumer had gotten so accustomed to not having to pay for content–be it encyclopedic information, music and movies,  the news–even most books–from Joyce’s Ulysses to the latest Harry Potter novel you can bootleg online for free without the danger of any significant repercussions. Anderson argued businesses who had come to terms with this arrangement would succeed. Chris Berman, the vice president and global lead partner for Strategy Consulting at IBM Global Business Services has recently written “Not for Free: Revenue Strategies for a New World,” a book in which he tackles Anderson’s ideas head-on, claiming that consumer’s will pay for content as long as their options for doing so are non-conventional.
Berman applauds companies such as Netflix and Apple for pushing the envelope, looking for new payment plans and product and service offerings that meet the consumer’s needs in an inimitabe manner. By thoroughly researching and studying individuals’ shopping behaviors and then meeting them with an array of innovative means–i.e. Netflix payment plans that range from merely streaming online to receiving upwards of 5 DVDs at a time. Nobody is buying one size fits all hats anymore. In the age of Facebook and personal customization is the key to survival, which Berman breaks down into these three points:
1) Think of new ways and creative pricing plans: Offer an array of products and services and accept multiple payment methods. The postmodern/information age is all about keeping your options open.
2) Think of new payers: Get other companies to cover some of the costs of providing goods and services to consumers. There are many ways to do this beyond just advertising.
3) Think of new ways to package your goods and services: Package your product or service in a way that appeals to the consumer in a new and fascinating way. When Mos Def’s latest album featuring an iconic image from the cult-film “Killing Sheep” on the cover, he made it possible to purchase a package deal including the t-shirt with the same image along with the album. If your a musician, sell ringtones.
While I recognize that Berman makes many valid assertions, I still maintain an old-fashioned attitude that if you do your work well–even if it’s only one product or service–but you do that one thing extremely well, you’ll attain a high level of success. Of course, the last statement then also pertains to those who have mastered reaching the consumer in an innovative manner, even if that’s your one achievement.

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