Why Free Content Sells In The Long Run

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

The other day Author and Marketing Expert Seth Godin appeared on The Tim Ferriss Podcast. The conversation was stellar. Throughout the two hour run-time I routinely pressed pause to jot down notes and copy quotes.

The episode ended with a short pitch for Seth’s new book: The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. I immediately ordered a copy.

After pawing through several chapters, I realized that most of the information was already revealed during the Podcast. At this point I could have thrown my book at the wall. Or called the store and demanded a refund. Did I do that?

No way! I was happy to pay for the information, even though I could have got most of it for free.

This seems counter-intuitive. How can someone sell me so easily while giving away their best content for free? The answer is twofold:

Free Information Establishes Credibility: By giving away many of the juiciest bits in his book, Seth showed the audience he was a credible source. He demonstrated that he was a good communicator, knew what he was talking about, and most importantly he proved he could provide value.

Free Information Shows Generosity: Generosity is a magnetic human trait. We want to be around those who have abundant knowledge and care enough to share it. This creates likability and triggers a need for reciprocity. By giving away great content Seth not only showed his credential, but presented himself as a generous person who someone could feel good about supporting.

The lesson here:

Giving away free, awesome content pays in the long run!

But you might be thinking to yourself. That’s easy for someone like Seth Godin to do. He’s a famous author, who has sold millions of books. He can afford to be generous. I’m just starting out so I need to hold onto every good idea I have.

This is where some of us get things wrong. We think that hoarding our best ideas will make us money in the future. We think every good idea we come up with is a gold mine that we must protect.

The truth is, even if you come up with the “perfect idea” no one is going to surrender their hard earned cash unless they think you’re credible and trustworthy. And the best way to appear credible and trustworthy is to prove that you are by generously creating and sharing content.

If you do this, people will gleefully open up their wallets when you have something to sell. They’ll be happy to buy from you, again and again, because you’ve taken the time to show you can provide value, that you understand their problems, and that you care about them.

Sure, there might be some mooches out there who take the “free-bees” and never pay for anything. But these people were never going to buy anything in the first place. Don’t dwell on the freeloaders; focus on the people who will be willing to pay once you’ve established your credentials.

This is something that someone like Seth Godin understands and why he is generous with his information. After all, he is an award winning business guru… I think he knows a thing or two about marketing.

Don’t be a miser with your content. Share your trade secrets. Do this and your audience will reward you when the time comes.

Educator and Copywriter Who Writes About Creativity, Marketing, Pop Culture, And Occasionally Mindfulness Meditation