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I recently met Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) of Altimeter at the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference ’10. He had intriguing ideas about the social technology market for 2011, that I was almost surprised he was sharing. His presentation was comprised of months of work, data analysis and carefully drawn conclusions. So I asked him: “Why do you do what you do, and how do you do it?” This is his answer:

What really caught my ear was, “Not charge people for open research…” and “…share with everyone around me”. Essentially, giving his work away for free.

This is an interesting phenomenon of the “social age”. The social media generation almost expects free, which is a shame. Obviously hard work went into developing a report, or product/service. Why give it away? Why expect it for free? With more customer centric companies utilizing social techniques, we as consumers have become increasingly needy. But like many things Jeremiah does, this is a well thought out strategy.

As a Business, Leveraging FREE
So there is a “FREE Strategy” and I’m going to give it to you for free… Jeremiah and Altimeter are not the only ones giving stuff away. A lot of companies are utilizing the FREE Strategy; Facebook, Skype, Square even gives you the credit card reader for free. Your business could easily give something away for free – and I’m not talking about branded pens. The stuff you give away for free should do two things – 1. reinforce your brand and increase awareness of your business and offerings (“marketing” as defined by DripMedia). 2. show the absolute quality and care put into the product and service that you offer.

Consider what you give away for free a qualifier to earn the consumers’ business. Facebook implemented the FREE Strategy to get as many users as possible, then used “exclusivity” to spread the word. Skype, gets new consumers using it’s base product for free, then uses upselling strategies to get them into paid versions with features they “want” but would otherwise not be aware of if they didn’t get the free version. Square, which is very impressive, offers merchant services and gives their hardware away for free. The hardware is great marketing and creates buzz and interest and enables you to do what Square wants you to do; run cards. They’re forgoing the $10-20 of hardware to get you to run 10-20 cards and then they see the return.

You have to be careful. A true implementation of the FREE Strategy is giving away something in its entirety. It’s not a tease! It’s proof! Proof that you know what you’re doing and do it better than any of the competitors. Your competitors are also giving away stuff for free, and your free stuff needs to be more impressive and “whole” than their stuff.

Disclaimer: Does it sadden me that it has come to giving away our hard work? Yes, but it is also a necessary evil. With information as free flowing and accelerating at the pace that it is, if a consumer wants something, they’ll find it somewhere for cheaper with a few search terms. So the FREE Strategy is there to share the whole samples of our work, building trust and confidence with the consumer. It’s like a local open market with hundreds vendors gather and show off their crops and livestock. There are a lot of options for similar stuff, but the ones who put in the more care into their work are the ones who sell out first.