We don’t pay to eat out because we are hungry. We have food in the fridge. (college kids, or bachelors are the exception). We don’t buy books because we want to read. We can get them at the library for free. We don’t pay for cable because we want to watch T.V. We can get the local channels for free. We don’t pay for radio to listen to music. We can listen to music on the radio for free. Prostitutes don’t flourish, because we need sex. Most people have a spouse or significant other that provides that service for free. There are things in life that are free or almost free yet we continually choose to pay for them. Why?
It’s because we almost never buy things for one reason. We rarely spend our money for a singular purpose. Buying is a complex process. If we only bought cars to get from point A to point B, then we wouldn’t have so many different types of cars. If we only bought food to eat, then there wouldn’t be so many different restaurants. If we only spent our money for the utility of things, there wouldn’t be any reason for much of anything else.
Chris Anderson’s book Free just came out. Fred Wilson just wrote an intriguing post on the idea of freemium business models and SocialCast an enterprise 2.0 company just announced their service is totally free to an unlimited number of users. The discussions around the idea of freemium services is interesting with many detractors. I think they are looking at it the wrong way. They are looking at it from the eyes of what was, not what can be. And unfortunately, that is even wrong.
A good sales person understands the buying process is complex and people rarely buy things for one, obvious, clear reason. We buy for a number of unique, individual, and varying reasons. The cable companies figured this out and now none of us could even imagine NOT paying for T.V. Restaurants figured this out and most of us have looked at a our monthly budgets and made commitments to stop eating out only to do it just as much next month. Radio was as free as a bird just a few years ago, now most of us are paying for XM/Sirus or HD radio and didn’t blink an eyelash at it.
Good sales people learn to identify the true buying motives. They pry, evaluate, assess and discover what it is that will motivate buyers and then capitalize on it. I think the freemium model could learn something from sales people. It’s not what your product does that we pay for. It’s what it does for us that excites us to pay. Give your product away all day long and while your doing it ask yourself what WILL my customers pay for? Because they will pay, you just have to figure it out.