The Power of FREE

by Roger Pynn

It has been a long time since I’ve written about Seth Godin. He’s prolific and I could write about his musings all day long, but this one differentiating between a bonus and what’s free reminded me of the power of a single word.

Free is perhaps the most powerful word in our language. We found that out 25 years ago when helping a cataract surgeon build his practice. Physicians were just beginning to market themselves (it was a brave new world for doctors who had been educated to believe that self-promotion was unprofessional behavior) and no one quite knew what to do.

Cataracts are part of the aging process. People who have them find it hard to read your collateral, and yet some ad agency had convinced our client to produce a costly four-color brochure … with 10-point type. Cost of the brochures: $2.75 (remember, this was in 1985).

Our advice was to take the cart load of brochures in his storeroom straight to the dumpster.

In their stead, we placed large-type ads in the local newspaper’s Sunday magazine (average age of readers 50+) offering FREE INFORMATION FOR CATARACT SUFFERERS and listed a toll FREE phone number to call. It rang off the hook and in those low-tech days 80 percent of the callers left their names and phone numbers on an answering device after listening to a 60-second message telling them we would call back to invite them to a FREE SEMINAR ON CATARACT SURGERY with FREE REFRESHMENTS (and FREE TRANSPORTATION if they needed it).

Sixty percent of those who left their names attended the seminars … a simple gathering in the surgeon’s lobby after hours with cookies, punch and coffee. The conversion rate to surgery was almost 100 percent. Bingo!

Next up was the most powerful tool … one that the surgeon’s practice continues to use today, even though he has retired from active surgery and simply oversees what has become one of the largest cataract practices in the country.

We produced “The Book on Cataracts” … a large-type paperback book, ghostwritten in partnership by the surgeon and a 70-year-old retired journalist who had himself gone through cataract surgery. Then we offered “The Book on Cataracts” FREE in those Sunday newspaper ads, did away with the seminars and converted an even greater percentage of callers. Cost of the books: fifty cents.

In times like these, FREE doesn’t just speak to the early bird dinner crowd. What do you have that you can give away? “I’ve got this: Four Questions White Paper“. If you’d like help with the answers, drop me a line.

One Response to The Power of FREE

  1. […] Pynn wrote about the Power of Free … how the word “free” is a strong driver of consumer […]

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