There is a huge amount of material available free on the Internet. Part of the reason for that is tied to the beginnings of the Net when it was merely a source of information that was freely exchanged among interested parties. As the commercial potential of the cyber world started to become recognized, merchants gave away information to entice the public into using the new medium and becoming familiar with moving around the web instantly and effortlessly. As the use of credit cards, merchant accounts, and secure payment processing programs such as PalPal, ClickBank, and StormPay (now defunct) increased, the public became ever more comfortable with online purchasing.
Despite the fears of identify theft and scams, annual expenditures on the Internet have reached billions of dollars and increase every year. But some residue of its origins remains and free samples of materials and information remain popular. The advent of unsolicited commercial e-mail (spam) quickly grew into a deluge that threatened the entire system. Spam controls and blockers forced the marketers to restrict their offers to those who had agreed to receive them by "opting in" to someone's mailing list. Free e-books, reports, newsletters, and mini-courses proliferated as a means of seducing surfers to opt in to those lists and thereby become a target for ongoing marketing efforts.
How useful is this stuff they give away? If it is information of interest to me, great. If it is something I want, thank you. Unfortunately, so much of what is available is either just not very good (rehashed information, secret tips that are universally known, step-by-step instructions on how to make a fortune that just don't work) or falls into the "bells and whistles" field: endless software programs that are neither as easily installed and operated as the sales letter suggests or that simply don't work very well. Anyone who has spent considerable time online has a computer packed with reports, zip files, software packages, and applications that are merely gathering cyber dust.
I start clicking on the documents and shortcuts on my computer and I'm amazed to find all sorts of stuff I don't remember ordering. I see something interesting, sign up, and receive a popup telling me I already have it. That must have been something truly memorable! Yes, I like getting things free or at a discount. But just because something is free, doesn't mean I want it. I know there are freebie-holics out there who measure their success in life by how much they can acquire without spending any money. You are welcome to have them on your interminable lists because they will never buy anything anyway.
I don't mind spending money for things I want and can use. I'll pull out my credit card any day (actually it's already out, sitting in a bowl next to my keyboard) for something that catches my eye. I just ask that what you give me, or sell me, is useful, valuable, and delivers what it promises.
If I purchase a service, I don't want to then learn that I have to "upgrade" to get what I thought I was already getting. I don't want to give you the e-mail addresses of three of my friends to obtain the balance of the information I ordered. I don't want to sign up for a free report and get hit on the head with a "one time" offer for some overpriced item and then be told that I am an idiot for passing it up. Give my choices the respect they deserve! For something to be really useful, it has to be easily and immediately understood.
I don't have time for a long learning curve before it becomes workable. There may be a short period of trial and error as with anything new, but make the directions clear, leave out the jargon, and make sure I know who to contact if the darn thing doesn't work. If not, I'll put it away and just see if I ever order anything from you again! If you are giving or selling me information, make sure it is clear, accurate, and complete. I don't want to read a 40 page e-book only to find out that I need to order a bunch of other reports to really understand what you're telling me. Cut out the fluff and the historical filler and give me what I ordered! Two pages of specific, focused tips are a lot more helpful than endless ramblings about your own success record. Give me tools, not trite homilies.
Dr. Bola, a psychologist, sometime marketer, and always enthusiastic consumer offers complimentary copies of her book "Seven Super Simple Tips: I Am Your Customer" from which this article is taken. Enjoy!