By Neil Patel
If you give it away—offer it free—they will come.
This should perhaps be the quote to encompass the business model of freeconomics.
It’s a model that involves giving away your best content.
Believe it or not, more and more companies are integrating and seeing amazing results with freeconomics today.
At first thought, it may seem ludicrous.
I mean, how can you expect to turn a profit if you’re getting no direct return on your content?
You’re spending loads of time and exerting a ton of energy to earn a big fat $0.00.
It just doesn’t make sense.
But when you look at the big picture, giving away your best content—offering it free—makes total sense.
It’s a catalyst for business growth, and I’ve even had clients who’ve grown their businesses by as much as 290% by going this route.
Allow me to explain.
How content impacts a buyer’s decision
Seldom do today’s consumers whip out their credit cards and blindly make a purchase.
No, most perform a considerable amount of research beforehand.
Besides researching the product itself, many consumers want to know more about the company behind the product.
They want to be sure that the company is legit, knows its stuff, and is trustworthy.
But how do they learn more about a company?
Besides simply reading the About page on the company’s website, consumers look at content.
In fact, Demand Gen Report found
47% of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.
The report also discovered that
51% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago.
This means that content has become an integral part of the buying process, and it’s now a trend that’s likely to continue growing.
By making your best content easily accessible to your audience, you can pull more leads into your sales funnel, which should eventually increase sales.
To gate, or not to gate?
This is a question posed by Vertical Response in an article discussing the benefits of giving away content.
By gate, they mean putting an obstacle in front of content (e.g., filling out a form to get it).
In this article, they point out two specific instances when not gating your content is a smart business decision.
Internationally acclaimed marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott says that according to his statistics,
a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20 times and up to 50 times more without a gate in front of it.
And why wouldn’t it?
By removing the gate and making content accessible to everyone free, you’ll naturally generate more downloads.
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and one of the most respected names in content marketing.
Here’s a quote from Joe regarding gated and non-gated content:
Let’s say you received 1,000 leads via your white paper download. From David’s numbers, let’s even take a more conservative 10x more downloads if we remove the gate.
This would give us 10,000 downloads with no lead data. Of all those people, let’s say that 1 percent would share this with their audiences (with a VERY conservative audience of 100 people, although most blogs get much more).
With those numbers, the total possible content reach for gated content would be 2,000 people. Non-gated content would be 20,000 people.
When you break it down, you see that gating the content would result in 2,000 people viewing the content, and not gating it would result in 20,000.
By simply giving it away, you’re theoretically getting ten times the leads.
Just think of the impact on your sales figures!
In it for the long haul
Here’s the thing with freeconomics and giving away your content.
There’s no immediate payoff.
It’s intrinsically a long-term strategy that involves making sales and growing your business over the long run.
It’s about building rapport and trust now so that you can make sales at a later date.
You could liken it to growing a crop:
When you plant a seed, you don’t expect to harvest the next day.
It takes time. But when you consider the bounty, it’s well worth it.
I realize this can be an issue for some people, considering the instant gratification culture we live in: we want results, and we want them now.
And I get it. It’s not easy spending an immense amount of time and energy working on something that will not give you visible results for six months or even a year.
But when you follow the right formula, the payoff is huge and makes way more sense than gating your content.
My own experience
Long ago, I realized the power that content marketing can yield.
That’s why I’ve made valuable content the cornerstone of my marketing.
More specifically, I’ve made it a point to give away the bulk of my content.
For instance, on Quick Sprout, I offer a sizable library of free content with Quick Sprout University:
This is where my audience can find in-depth information on everything from SEO and link building to reputation management and conversion optimization.
It also provides content for all knowledge levels (e.g., beginner, intermediate, and advanced).
On NeilPatel.com, I have a free podcast called Marketing School, where listeners can learn everything they need to know about online marketing:
Of course, I maintain blogs on these sites as well.
And you know what? It has completely paid off.
Although I didn’t get massive results right off the bat, giving away content has gotten me an insane number of sales.
Without it, I doubt I would be where I’m at today.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk.
He’s an incredibly successful entrepreneur, author, speaker, and a major influencer.
He also swears like a sailor and makes no apologies for it.
Gary basically built an empire from scratch largely by giving away loads of quality content (e.g., YouTube videos, blog posts, infographics, etc.).
He even wrote a post called, Why You Shouldn’t Charge for Your Best Work.
Here’s a screenshot of his opening intro that captures his reasoning behind giving away content:
In other words, this tactic allows you to create real trust and boost your brand equity so that prospects feel comfortable doing business with you.
Even though you’re not earning any money initially, you’re investing in the long-term success of your company.
The full spectrum of benefits
Just so you’re aware of the impact that this tactic can have, I’d like to point out a handful of specific benefits:
- It’s one of the best ways to nurture leads. According to Marketing Sherpa, “73% of all B2B leads are not sales ready.”
- You can position your brand as an authority. “45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it.”
- It enables you to tell your brand’s story and convey your philosophy and values.
- It reduces skepticism. “In 1997, consumers indicated that they had a high level of confidence in 52% of brands. By 2008 that percentage dropped to 22%.” This is a great way to slash through any doubts your prospects may have.
- It’s an excellent way to educate consumers on your product’s features and the way it differs from the products of competitors.
- You can address any objections that may arise.
Which types of content most influence buying decisions?
Let’s say you’re on board with the concept of freeconomics and you understand the logic behind giving your best content for free.
This brings us to one important question.
What type of content should you create? Do certain types of content influence buying decisions more than others?
To answer these questions, I’d like to point out some additional statistics from Demand Gen Report.
Take a look at the type of content used in the past 12 months to make B2B purchasing decisions:
- White papers – 82%
- Webinars – 78%
- Case studies – 73%
- E-books – 67%
- Blog posts – 66%
- Infographics – 66%
- Third-party/analyst reports – 62%
- Video/motion graphics – 47%
- Interactive presentations – 36%
This doesn’t necessarily mean this is the order in which your company should prioritize its content, but it should serve as a general guideline.
Although the concept of freeconomics and giving away your best content may go against conventional business wisdom, there’s no denying the impact this approach can have.
The results are convincing.
I can speak from personal experience and say this is absolutely one of the best ways to grow your business. It’s done wonders for me.
But in order to make this strategy work for you, it requires a long-term commitment.
You need to treat it as an endurance race—not a sprint.
If you stay the course with your content marketing, you can grow your business by as much as 290%.
What type of free content has resonated the most with your audience?