Nothing, nothing, nothing irks me more than when I overhear “Well you can just cut me a deal since we are friends, right?” or “Well you won’t charge Uncle Jim for that, will you? He is family, you know. He did clean the gutters for us that one time before you were even visible on an ultrasound. Help him out, would ya?”
Let me get this off my chest: JUST NO.
TO THE CONSUMER:
There are a plethora of ways to help your friends in business succeed, and I’d guess about half of them do not involve spending any money. Word of mouth, content marketing sharing, etc. are just a few simple ways. And of course, there are ways to help your friends in business go into debt quickly. The fast track is by asking them to do provide their products or services for free.
Think about it: Why should it be “free” for anyone, including you? Since when do you just get a product or service for free? When you walk into Walmart and you know the cashier, do you ask for a deal on the 86 dollars worth of crap you’re buying? My guess is no.
Small business isn’t free business, and I am not sure when we decided that small business owners whom we know personally should just do things for us, or give things to us, for free.
I learned all about people expecting free stuff when I was a server. Believe it or not, giving you twelve extra containers of ranch costs money. Pouring extra bleu cheese all over your salad to the point that you cannot taste lettuce anymore costs money. Nothing is free. “Free” in the business world almost always means that the business is eating the costs.
Here’s the thing: If you really want to help your small business friends, treat yourself like a supportive and loyal customer. It doesn’t mean that you have to spend money or buy something all the time, but you also don’t need to ask for something for free, right? Consider these:
- Referrals are powerful. Refer your friend’s business to others who appear to be interested in what s/he may have to offer.
- Sharing content you believe in is worth gold. Consumers are a modern business owner’s best marketing team. We are more likely to believe people we trust rather than Allison from Allison’s Makeup Montage. It’s just how it is. When you share content, your audience (hopefully) believes that it’s worth something. Do it.
- Honesty matters. Stop saying you’ll sign up/buy a product or service if you don’t plan on doing it. Your friends will be your friends even if you don’t join them (hopefully). Don’t be the shaky bridge your friend counts on to be strong.
- If you do plan to buy something, insist on paying full price and drop it.
TO THE BUSINESS OWNER
It is, without a doubt, time to grow a pair or you will cheapen you brand very quickly.
When you say “sure” to doing whatever it is your business offers for a discount or for free because you “feel weird,” you are cheapening your brand. Understand that you are inadvertently sending the message “Hey, I think my stuff is actually over-priced or not worth jack. You can just have it cheaper or free.” I don’t think that is the message you intended to send, right?
Worse, I know that a lot of small business owners feel obligated to offer family and friends a discount or a free item. Again, you are cheapening your brand. Most of us have a hard time dealing with opinions about our business endeavors. Our mom/dad/brother/sister/whoever-in-the-fam fights us on it somehow: “Are you sure you want to do this?” or “Have you even done your research on this?” or “Isn’t there already one of these out there?” are typical questions.
Why, then, do we offer these people stuff for free or far below the price point? By doing so, you are saying “You’re right. It’s kind of a dumb idea, and no one will pay full price, so I’ll give to to you for _______.”
I know it can be hard to face the fam and friends and tell them that you’re starting out and don’t have the budget to give things away for free, but it’s in your best interest. I’m not saying it’s a no that is written in stone, but most of the time, you should charge people for what you offer. That’s why it’s a business and not a hobby.
If people aren’t buying things from you full price, consider your marketing strategies and revisit it. But…don’t just assume you should give stuff away for free.
Peace, Love, & Big Cannoli –
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