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What is the true cost of cheap or free?

Category: General Published on Mar 21

We run into a lot of people that keep saying how good of a deal they got, because something was free. Just because something was free or really cheap, does that mean you got a good deal? The answer to that is in the question itself, especially when it comes to your business and your brand.


There are products and services out there that companies use as loss leaders, which basically means, they use this product to get you in the door. Many of these are great products, but the reason they are priced the way they are, is to get you to buy more things. This does not mean that these products are a lower quality than what they would normally be. It simply means that the company is willing to lose money on it, because they believe you will buy enough of other things to make up the loss. These are often great deals, some examples would be Best Buy and their pricing of laptops. The grocery stores have been doing this for years, underselling on items you go to the store for, then making it up on the support products you buy.

Here is the danger side of free or cheap, in the service industry this is very common and this is the one you should be more conscious off as a business owner.  The majority of the time, free or cheap in the business to business, means that you are getting a far lower quality product or service. This means that you are now sacrificing your own brand, in order to try and save money. What is worse, is that often these free or cheap services, end up costing you more than you realize. Let´s take two simple examples, websites and business cards. There are several companies out there that offer both of these really cheap or often free. What you have got to ask yourself, is what exactly are you getting it, and why is it so cheap or even free? Is it because it is the equivalent to a loss leader product, or is it just because it is lacking in quality? Are they cutting corners in order to get this great deal to you?

What happens if you sacrifice the quality of your brand in order to save money? Best case scenario, you have thinned out your brand. Worst case scenario, your business cards and website are causing customers NOT to do business with you. Many people think we are exaggerating when we say this, but having worked with hundreds of small businesses, we have actually seen the numbers. That is, we have seen the before and after numbers. Many people come to us after having used these free or cheap services to help build their brand. Without exception, they are always amazed at the difference in how many people contact them through their website and how many people follow up with them after only having gotten their business card.  The quality of clients normally goes up, the lead generation becomes easier and their message becomes very clear. It is at this point they realize having used the free and cheap services that they have been making their business harder than it had to be. So before you get your free template business cards or the do-it-yourself website, ask yourself one question. Do you know as much about marketing and branding as you do about what you do? There is a reason you are an expert in your field and know more than people who are not in your industry, what makes you think those of us who work in the marketing industry are any different when it comes to what we do?

Just for good measure then think about this, a punch in the face is free. Does that mean you should take advantage of it or that is a good thing? Free is often an illusion you are getting a great deal, but is it really?