As long as I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve come down decidedly against giving away the product for free. I learned this, oddly enough, from baseball. The owner of a popular professional team once told me:
“I’ll give away almost anything for free — food, T-shirts, bobbleheads, whatever. The only thing I won’t ever give away for free is the ticket to the game. If I do that, I’m automatically devaluing the product on the field.”
I’m not that hardcore. I believe free is OK for a very limited audience for a very limited time. Free is for beta, for pilot, for customer testing, for trial, and for generosity. In all cases except that last one, free is for learning and learning only.
Not for building audience.
But now it kind of is.
Now we’ve got a situation where an entire customer base, both consumers and businesses alike, have extremely limited funds and, even more relevant, drastically limited mobility.
This is an unprecedented age, and all of the rules have gone out the window. I’m changing my mind on free product strategy, for now. But where I won’t relent is on the requirement of countermeasures you need to benefit your business on the back end.
Here’s what those are, and how I’m watching them play out in this new normal.
Redefine your product
Zoom is the most obvious example here. In the space of a few weeks, Zoom evolved from a GoToMeeting killer to new way for people to congregate in a world of restricted (and in some cases, illegal) congregation.
One of my first feelings of normalcy during the pandemic crisis came late one night when four of my friends spontaneously decided to hop into a Zoom room. We talked for over two hours. We hadn’t done that in over a year, when we were all together in person.
Zoom is riding a wave, and that wave is crashing up against the need for us to all clog the roads and pollute the air and waste hours every day to travel to a desk when life returns to a better normal. Zoom changed videoconferencing, making it less about meetings and more about engagement.