Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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The Myth of "Pay to Play"

Don't look now, but the sky is falling -- again. This time, the Chicken Littles are scurrying about, following the headline-grabbing pundits who claim that the days of free internet product and service are over. Everyone, it seems, is scrambling for a "pay to play" strategy.

Not me.

First, I've never been any good at panicking. Second, I'm even worse at blindly following anyone, let alone self-proclaimed, budget-bloated pundits who spend more time talking than doing. Third -- and probably most importantly -- because it doesn't make any sense.

This week, GoTo.com announced a really dopey ploy, in which every advertiser -- if I read their notice correctly -- MUST spend at least $20 per month or risk having GoTo.com charge them the difference. You read that right: if you were paying 1¢ click, the minimum bid has just been shifted to 5¢ per click, theoretically quintupling your advertising expense on that particular engine.

Dumb. Yet another propulsion toward an engine whose results are directly influenced by the size of your wallet.

Also this week, my good pal and associate, John Audette, floated the idea of pay to play for subscribers of his I-Sales list, in a bid to increase profitability. Wanna take a guess at the subscribers' responses?

Hey, wanna take a guess at MY response? Yeesh!

Look, we're all in this to make a buck. The days of holding hands and singing Cumbaya have long since passed. But suddenly turning up the lights and shouting that the party's over is hardly the way to ingratiate your clients, customers and users. If anything, in this precariously-baclanced-on-the-edge-of-recession economy, ANY threat of increased costs is going to send them stampeding toward the doors in one big thundering herd.

So what's the solution? The brand, of course.

As I mentioned to John, the secret to profitability is NOT suddenly changing the rules, unless your main intent is to seriously undermine your credibility and destroy all that trust you've sought to built. The secret is creating brand-related content and product that your users, customers and clients are willing to pay for voluntarily, because they believe in your brand and wish to invest in it further.

Want a great example? Here ya go: FrankelBiz is free. Those who are more interested in more brand-related content, my archives at http://www.robfrankel.com are also free. For those who are really serious, there's a book for $36. For those who are budget-challenged, but want to actively apply brand related tactics, there's a tape set for a few hundred bucks. After that, there's consulting and so forth and so on.

Free samples are just that. They're not revenue generators; they're opportunities for upsell. If you don't have anything to upsell, that's likely where your problem is.

The stronger your brand, the more readily your users, clients and customers will buy, mainly because -- if you've done it properly -- they're already evangelizing for you. They believe in you and want to further your brand. They already know that the more they invest, the more solutions they'll receive. it's a natural progression.

Of course, first you've gotta have that brand strategy nailed down. Then you gotta follow it. Do that. And when the smoke clears, you'll see: only the strongly branded survive.

Rob Frankel

 
 
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