How NOT to design a “freemium” or “item of value”

Most businesses know that to attract potential customers online or through any digital means, one way you can do it is to provide an item of value or a “freemium” to your prospects.

Here’s a recent experience I had related to this process

Every day I read about marketing, in an effort to keep up with best practices and trends so that my clients don’t have to.  I’m constantly scanning blogs to learn.  One article I came across this morning offered an “item of value” in the form of a one-page strategic plan template that you could download.

I thought “great!”  I do have a business plan and a strategic plan, but having a one-page synopsis could be awesome to have hanging on my vision board.  Plus I love having those one-page overviews, and usually laminate them, had to even buy a laminator just so I could do that.  (Hi, my name is Vicky and I’m an office supply addict.)  

So I clicked, and I offered up my name and email address in exchange for grabbing that one-page goodie.  Like some offers, after submitting it took me to an “upsell” page, which I quickly scanned and realized it was a online workshop on how to develop a strategic plan, which I don’t need even though it was affordable, so I clicked away.

Went to check my inbox and saw the email that I knew would have the link to download my template.  So I clicked and went to the website, and in addition to a button to download the template, it had a button to download a guide to walk you through the process.  I thought ‘cool this is even better, I get the template plus tips to help me complete the template.’  So I clicked both buttons and downloaded both items.

I scrolled through the help guide first – since it was the second button I clicked, it was the second item to open and therefore the one right in front of me.

It wasn’t a guide on how to use the template, even though that’s what it was “sold” as.  It was a guide with a very brief overview of why you need a strategic plan, and the main things that go into a strategic plan.  Two PDF pages plus a cover and an “about us” type of page.  It wasn’t the guide I thought it was, and since I already have a strategic plan it’s not even something I remotely needed, but not a big deal – I still had the template to look at which is what I first wanted anyway.

So I closed the guide and opened the template.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a “template”.  I think of a template as something where you can fill in the blank.  Either it’s blank where you can print and write in your answers, or it’s fillable in PDF, or an Excel or Word document, etc.  Granted that’s my personal perception of what I expected.  And when you added the “how to” guide, it had appeared that the template would be blank and the guide would tell you how to fill it in.

The very definition of a template: an electronic file with a pre-designed, customized format and structure, ready to be filled in.

The first thing I saw was that the template was filled.  My initial thought was that’s not bad, I often offer a template but then also show a completed (or partially completed) sample version to help understand the “how to”.  So I looked for a page two containing the empty template, but there was only the one page.  I went back to the webpage with the download buttons to see if I had missed something, but no.

The “template” was the personal goals of the owner of the business who had advertised the template giveaway (or at least that’s what it appeared to be).  I’m glad that her goal is an extra $300,000 in sales and $120,000 profit for the year.  Whoohoo we all want that!  I’m thinking she wants me to be part of those sales (who wouldn’t?).  The there is a section that specifically outlines “we drive XXX million in annual revenue with a 75% net profit margin”.  That’s a healthy markup for any industry and kudos to the businesses who hits that mark … it’s a higher markup than most businesses get.  Likely not what you want to be promoting to potential clients.

It also said something about the owner being able to travel the world and the money rolls in (their words not mine), and taking four consecutive weeks off with no phone or email interruptions.  If I’m a potential client, I probably don’t want to know that the person helping me isn’t going to be available for a month at a time.

I’m sure the business owner thought it was a great example of how to complete this “template”.  It’s even likely that this wasn’t the owner’s actual form but a fictitious company – but it wasn’t written that way, and it didn’t say that anywhere.

Where this free item of value failed was by not focusing the giveaway on the customer.

Being in marketing, and always striving to offer value to my customers (or prospective future customers) … my first thought was that the company presenting this freemium didn’t put much thought or effort into what they were giving away.  It wasn’t a user-friendly template (customers love convenience!).  They would have been much better off to use the word “sample” instead of “template”.  Or include a blurb on the document saying that it’s data from a fictitious company.  Even better both do all three.  And then take it one step further and offer a link to a brief overview of how to take information your business currently has and drop it into this template for your own use.  Of course after all of that, offer a link to additional assistance to help prospects even more and take them further along the sales funnel.

You can meet the goals of the business – to make a sale – while also meeting the goals of the customer.  In fact, meeting the goals of your customer is the ONLY way you can meet your business goals!

A few key takeaways on developing your item of value:

  1. Make sure it’s information your prospects need, want, can use. If it’s not, it has no value to them.
  2. Make sure it’s customer-centric.  Read it with the eyes of a client.  Ask for feedback from a client (customers love to give you their opinion and appreciate the opportunity to do so).
  3. Make sure you’re giving the customer what they expect and what you’ve told them they’re getting.
  4. Make sure it’s convenient.  Sure I can take that “template” I downloaded and edit it in Adobe Illustrator to remove all of the text already there – but that’s an awful lot of effort for something that I thought would be fill-in-the-blank.
  5. Make sure it isn’t self-serving.  Most people expect such an item to be a bit self-serving for the business that offered it.  They usually understand that you’re giving it away hoping eventually the prospect will need assistance and remember your business first.  They understand your contact information will likely be on the item somewhere or that you will offer additional items or services they may need.  That needs to be a very tiny piece of the puzzle and the rest should focus on serving the customer.


Leave a Reply

In This Article:

Recent Posts

Marketing Podcast:
Marketing to a $Million