I hate paying full price for stuff. I think the Web has really gotten it into my head that no matter what the item, if I do enough research on the internet, that I can:
While getting stuff for free is fun and sometimes harmless, this post over at MarketingProfs (The Culture Of Free) talks about the hidden cost of free stuff on the Web and why consumers are becoming addicted to( and feeling entitled to) getting products for free:
"The desire for free stuff is part of the nature of the Web, because the Web is self-service. And self-service is all about being free, cheap, fast and convenient...The Web brings out the cheap in us. We don't need to buy that newspaper now because it's on the Web for free. We don't need to pay for music anymore; we can just file-share it."
The Web does bring out the cheap in us. I think one of the biggest challenges internet marketers face is the built-in expectation of customers getting products and services super cheap or for free.
(Don't even get me started on the number of biz owners who have contacted me who need a VA really badly, but who admit (usually at the end of a long initial phone call) that they don't actually have any income yet and can't afford to pay, or that they do have income but are looking for a free VA (what's up with that?!), or that they were hoping to find an absolutely amazing, highly trained and professional VA with a bargain basement price tag--good luck!)
So, what is the true price of selling/buying free or cheap stuff on the Web?
- Your privacy: Free screensaver and games sites are notorious for bundling spyware and adware with downloads.
- Your time and patience: Free e-card sites often share users' e-mail addresses with third parties and can lead to a never ending influx of spam.
- The quality of service you give: If you're a service provider who focuses on being the low cost provider, then you'll have to sell a high volume of services in order to make a living. You can either provide quality or quantity, not both.
- The quality of service you receive: When you hire/work with service providers, and you're paying a bargain basement price, the quality of their service to you will be diluted by as many other customers they have to take on in order to make a living charging such a cheap price.
- Loyalty and committment to you: If you manage to find a highly skilled, amazing service provider, who is at such a low point in her business that she's had to resort to working for a highly discounted fee, then you're playing the role of a "client of last resort". When the service provider gets her act together and finds clients who are willing to compensate her appropriately, she'll high tail it on to greener pastures. By the same token, if your customers are attracted to you because you're the low cost provider, they'll leave you as soon as someone else comes along peddling services like yours for 1 penny cheaper.
- An unwillingness of customers to "trade up": I wrote a post last week called Starbucks' Secret Cheapskate Menu about how Starbucks hides (literally) parts of their menu that are bargain priced. The reason they do this is so that their regular price-blind custumers won't be tempted to trade down to the cheaper items. Let's learn from Starbucks--if you build your customer base around folks who expect free or cheap stuff, it's highly unlikely that they'll jump at the chance to "trade up" and buy some of your higher priced items. Heck--if they wanted to pay a higher price tag for something, they'd go to a more "boutique" service provider who focuses on quality, not quantity. I'll pay $4.50 for a latte made by a barista at Starbucks, but I won't pay $4.50 for the same latte made by the clerk at the corner gas station.
Seth Godin has a post on a related topic (Compromise: How to make breakfast) that talks about how biz owners who get cost-cutting tunnel vision forfeit the opportunity to become truly remarkable.
So, where's the balance between being a die-hard bargain hunter and a price-blind consumer?
I would say, if you're buying products that are the same everywhere they're sold (CDs, books, etc), then by all means, shop for the best bargain. That's what I do.
But if you're looking for a service provider whose quality of service has the chance to make your business more remarkable (think VAs, biz coaches, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers, web designers, etc), spend the extra dough on quality.
It's fun to get things for free sometimes, but it's not very flattering when being a cheapskate decreases the quality of your services and your business' perceived worth and robs you of the chance of being truly remarkable.