If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I ignored that adage while registering for a “free” webinar.
When the webinar ended, the spam emails and sales calls started and didn’t stop. I got emails and phone calls from multiple salespeople from the same company.
Irritation replaced my initial appreciation. I took a hard pass when the company invited me to join another webinar, even though the topic was relevant and line-up of speakers was impressive.
It’s too bad because I could’ve been a fan of the company and helped spread the word about their webinars. I may have even bought what they were selling. But now, I’m not a fan.
If you’re giving away content online, lift the gates. Make it truly and completely free. Let us watch your webinars and download your whitepapers, e-books and special reports without first having to turn ourselves into a sales lead.
“Free content with strings attached feels like coercion while great content given away freely attracts loyal fans,” say David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott, the father-daughter authors of Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans.
“The problem with gating content is many people won’t bother to register for privacy reasons. They don’t want an email or phone call from a salesperson. Another problem with gated content is there is very little sharing on social media because people don’t want to expose those in their social networks to possible spam.”
Companies that have axed email registrations report that 20 to 50 times more people now download their free content.
“If you want to spread your ideas, free content is the way to go,” say the authors. “We frequently hear from people who say that if you give away your ideas for free via web content, people won’t have a need to buy your products or services. However, many organizations have successfully used this approach.”
If you’re not ready to make this leap of faith, try a hybrid approach. Make a truly free initial offer that contains a secondary follow-up offer that requires registration. Your initial offer will reach more people and generate higher quality leads.
“The hybrid approach generates email addresses from people who have already consumed your initial free content and now want more information about your company and your products and services and are eager to learn more.”
Giving more than you have to is one way to convert customers into avid, loyal and loud fans.
Bringing customers together offline is another fan-building strategy that captures the zeitgeist of our times. The authors say we’re on the cusp of a major cultural shift away from an increasingly polarized, cold, unsocial and algorithm-driven digital world.
“The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications at a time when people are hungry for true human connection. Many people now feel that the promise of online social connection just isn’t for them anymore – the romance is over. We’ve gone too far into manufactured friendship through social media, and something different is coming next. The pendulum is swinging back to genuine, authentic human connection.”
What can your business or organization do to bring like-minded people together in unique places and spaces for special events and activities? If you love what your customers love, they’ll find room in the hearts and wallets to love you too. Book stores have book clubs. Libraries have speakers’ series. Shoe stores have running clubs. Garden centres have classes on how to mix cocktails using herbs. What’s your equivalent?
Hagerty Insurance is one of the company’s showcased in Fanocracy. “Insurance sucks,” admits the CEO. “Nobody wants to buy insurance. It’s not fun.” What is fun for Hagerty’s customers are classic cars. So the company created a free classic car auction tracker app and launched a Hagerty Drivers Club last year. Members get a subscription to the company’s magazine, exclusive discounts, road side service assistance and invites to members-only events. Hagerty is now the largest classic car insurer, with double-digit compound growth.
“A fanocracy is a culture where fans rule, and that’s what we see emerging in today’s world,” say the authors. “We are moving into an era that prizes people over products. The relationships we build with our customers are more important than the products and services we sell to them.”
I serve as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, live in Hamilton and I’ve reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999. I’m a fan of the Washington Capitals, the New England Patriots, Peter Gabriel and Phoebe Bridgers.