“What works “Free”, What doesn’t and What works even better”

Its almost everywhere now, Health Drinks with free product attachments, Perfumes with test packs, Vehicles with Free Services, Web Services with Free Trials, Mosquito Repellents with Free Device, Blades with Free Razors..just about everywhere.

Free isn’t  Just Free, There is a direct or indirect price on shipping or serving free. so, unless you have the right business model or the right selling strategy, you; as a Business Owner end up paying a huge Premium for your Freemium and many times the damage is irreversible. The purpose of this post is to analyse what works as Free and what doesnt and what works even better:


1. “Free” – to sell a attached product.

A good example would be Gillette, Free Razors to you, but you buy the blades from me; if you have a product which can be attached to a particular service or ancillary which would have perpetual demand as long as the Principle product is used; This Works

2. “Free” – to get the customer committed

I’ve seen this in “Pothy’s” (A Large Textile Store in Chennai), where all who get into this store are treated with some steaming south indian coffee and vada’s. This immediately gets me committed to this shop and I dont remember once instance where I came out empty handed when my stomach was filled.

Chris Anderson discusses “Free”

3. “Free” – to view advertisements

This three way advertising model works well for people providing information and content. The idea is to provide content which the user would be interested in and get paid by the Advertisers for promoting their products. This I suppose is the most used business model, but again as My Advisor Sameer, who has some strong and sane opinions  pointed out, With a biggie like google managing to make only 200 crores on advertising in India, I feel others targeting this model have a very small piece to take home.


1. Free – to compete with competition

This is by and large the biggest mistake most startups do, In a drive to woo clients from in most cases a large established competitor, they tend to give their core offerings free. You can never create a business model later once you give your core offerings free

2. Free Now, Paid Later

I don’t remember one single product which I started using free and later paid to buy it. I might even stop using  Orkut or Facebook if I have to pay for it now. In today’s freeconomy, If you are considering a “Penetration Pricing” Policy which your B-School taught you, most chances are that you sink before you sail.

3. Free – to sell larger Quantities

A Free Sachet goes free mostly, Even a free sample pack needs to have a price. In my opinion, Free Sample Packs of Shampoo’s, Soap’s etc have created a new markets for itself and continue to be sold because people ask for samples in the same quantities and not because people want to try and then upgrade to the regular versions.


In my opinion, there is a vast difference between what comes at a most minimal “Re.1/- only” and a “Free” tag. Free” prompts the user to waste, rather a minimal price tag prompts the user to use it more responsibly. ( Afterall even the most basic necessities like water, gas, roads, energy etc comes with a small price tag ). I would prefer replacing the “Free” with “Paid samples” and  “Free as long as you decide” with “Trials”. I agree with this blogger who says ” If you believe that you are delivering Value to your Customers, Prove it by having them pay for it! Revenue is Good”

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