FREE Can Be Super Expensive…

Cover of "Predictably Irrational: The Hid...

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If you have never read “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely you must. It deals with the the hidden forces that shape our decisions. Many entrepreneurs starting a new small business are working under the misapprehension that buying decisions are based on logic.

They could not be further from the truth if they tried. Buying decisions are first and foremost made for emotional reasons which is why something that is apparently FREE can turn out to be very expensive indeed.

And yet the idea of getting something for nothing is a very powerful mental trigger that your customers will find hard to resist.

This is one tactic that you have to add to your product marketing strategy.

FREE Can Be Super Expensive…

In one scientific experiement, Dan Ariely tested the almost supernatural power of giving away things to people for nothing and discovered that getting something for free makes most people feel good.  Zero is not just a number below one. Psychologically, it’s much more powerful than that.

It was Halloween so Ariely decided to explore the effect of free chocolate on trick-or-treaters. He started with a supply of Hershey’s Kisses (which hold about one-tenth of an ounce of chocolate) and two kinds of Snickers bars – regular-sized bars, and one-ounce Halloween miniature-sized bars.

When the first children came to his door, Ariely handed each of them three little Kisses. He then offered to make a deal. If they wanted to, the kids could trade one Kiss for a mini-Snickers bar OR two Kisses for a full-sized bar. Almost all of them were able to do the math in their heads on the spot, and traded the two Kisses for a full-sized Snickers.

Half way through the evening, Ariely changed the deal. The kids could now trade one of their three Kisses for the larger bar, OR get a mini-Snickers without having to give up anything in return.

In terms of sheer volume of chocolate, the trade for the larger bar was still by far the better deal. But, faced with the prospect of getting one mini-Snickers for free, most trick-or-treaters lost all ability to do the simple math in their heads.

The majority refused the trade, even though they lost out by it. To make sure that this was not some freak result, he ran the same test on his MIT students. Now you would think that these highly intelligent young adults would not fall for such an obvious  gambit.

But they swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

“People are naturally risk averse” Ariely explains “there’s no immediately visible possibility of making a loss when we choose something for free.”

So we are hard wired to plumb for the deal in which we apparently cannot lose.

Include the power of FREE in your product marketing strategy and you’ll quickly realize that, psychologically, it’s a super powerful tactic that can help build your business into am unstoppable force in your niche.

The power of FREE after all is gives your opt-in magnet its strength.

But please note that…

  • Ariely baited the trap with something that he knew would resonate strongly with his target audience… Chocolate
  • And, no matter how smart you think your audience is, the power of Free has nothing to do with logic
It’s predicatbly irrational!
So take the utmost care… The next time you are tempted by a deal involving that big round number, catch yourself before you fall. You may just be saving yourself from a very expensive mistake.
You owe it to yourself to include this powerful tactic in your product marketing strategy too.

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Rory Ramsden