On September 5th, 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, illegally made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper ever published - freely available online.
In an interview, she said:
Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal."
Before Elbakyan created her website, multi-million dollar publishing companies like Elsevier charged researchers to publish their work, but the researchers didn’t receive any money from what Elsevier collects.
So why would any self-respecting researcher willingly hand over the copyright to their hard work to a publisher that will profit from their work? The answer is ultimately all to do with trust.
They feel pressured to do this, because Elsevier is an owner of so-called "high-impact” journals. If a researcher wants to be recognised and make a career, he or she needs to have publications in such journals.
But now, times have changed. Trust has shifted from organisations to people. From governments to individuals. From companies like Elsevier to people like Elbakyan.
Why “Free’ Has Such a Bad Reputation
Other industry professionals tell me all of the time that I give too much away for free. They tell me that the types of people using this content will always expect free. They tell me that free has no value. They also try to scare me into believing that competitors will copy my work.
All because “free” attracts the wrong kinds of people, right?
Wrong. I know a little something about people. And I know that there is more than one type of person consuming my content. There are personal trainers who want my free stuff, and there are personal trainers who are waiting for my paid services.
The people who want my free stuff can have it. Why? Because they were never going to be my clients anyway, because they inflate my numbers, they like and share my content and they - whether they know they are doing it or not - position my content in front of the people who are willing to pay for my services.
It's a mutually beneficial relationship. As it should be.
Then there are the people who are waiting to buy from me. They can see I’ve poured my heart and soul in to creating immense value, they can see I’m competent, they trust in my expertise and they can see I’ve taken the time to give first.
How Does Giving Away Free Content Help You?
Free content positions you as the expert
There’s no better way to showcase your expertise than delivering crazy value to your audience. Your clients have loads of questions and if you can answer those questions you become top of mind. You get to position yourself in front of hundreds and thousands of people who might not buy from you right away but will when they are ready.
Free content is free marketing
Every piece of valuable content you create, whether it’s a blog or Youtube video, creates more opportunities to be found online by people who will one day need your services.
Content that can be found online helps you to get more traffic, start more conversations, answer more questions and convert leads in to clients.
Free content helps you gain followers
The best thing about free content is that it often resonates with the types of people who are your ideal clients.
Sure, you might not be the best writer, your grammar isn’t perfect, you’re a bit nervous on video, but how you interpret what you know will attract the types of people who need to hear it that way.
Imagine having thousands of people hanging on your every word because the WAY you say something makes complete sense to them. Imagine how many people you could help by just being you!
Free content gives people a taste
Everyone expects free. Sure, it’s not great when you’re trying to grow a business on a shoestring budget but that’s the reality of marketing today. You can either reject it and get left behind or embrace it and move forward with the rest of us.
If your company is being compared to a competitor and your company has a comprehensive blog, a free Facebook group, free resources and a free consultation, guess who the client is going to choose? It’s just that simple.
How to Leverage Your Free Content
Creating free content for the sake of it will not get you any more clients, nor will it serve your business. To leverage free content, the content must be created with a purpose and for people at specific stages of the buyer journey.
To do this, always make sure your free content leads people back to your primary marketing assets like your personal trainer website. Your primary marketing assets are places where people go to make decisions about whether they would work with you.
What Should You Charge For?
Ultimately, there is almost nothing people can’t find cheaper or for free elsewhere nowadays. The only thing people can’t get elsewhere are products or services that are specific to you.
Charge people for showing them how to get from A to B your way. Charge them for your systems. Charge them for your one on one time. Charge them for customisation and training.
For example, I give away ALL of my knowledge for free in our Learning Centre. Everything I know and teach my clients is freely available to you.
If you read it and action it, it will help you grow your fitness business. If you don’t, it won’t.
Some of you will be happy to read it and action the content on your own. You’re not my ideal client. And that's OK.
Some of you who were thinking about hiring a website designer will see that I’m among the most competent in the industry and place me top of mind for your web design project. You and I should talk.
The Internet has changed the way we do business and since its inception, how we do business online has gradually evolved in to what it is today.
Gone are the days when trade secrets, blueprints, roadmaps and systems are locked away behind a paywall. The Internet and in particular, social media, has paved the way for transparency in business and information. So it stands to reason that the best business growth model that truly works in the new sharing economy is one built on trust.
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