No Longer the Go-To-Girl for Free Ideas
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
I’ve been taking my intention very seriously—not to give unpaid advice. It’s saving me some valuable time, especially in the area of screwed up accounts and business transactions where I’m the customer and normally give feedback. Places where you don’t normally think of feedback as an unpaid professional advice.
Here’s a perfect example. A month ago, I heard an impressive tele-conference that ended with a pitch for an online product with some similarities to something I’m launching. I was curious about how other people structure their online products and how mine would hold up against the industry standard, so I ordered the speaker’s product. Regularly $250 but on sale for $89 but if you’re on the special invitation list and listening to this conference call, then you can get it for only $59.99, tonight only! (Yeah, whatever.) But I needed a comparison point for my product, so I considered it educational and hoped I learned something useful.
It was a basic re-hash of her tele-conference with A LOT of blanks to fill in. I was already doing everything she recommended, and doing it successfully. There was only one item in it that was new and meaningful, but the biggest advantage was to see that my product was exponentially more informative. So buying it served the purpose I’d intended, and then some.
Yesterday, the day after I received the last of her updated material to me, she sent me an email saying her product hadn’t worked for me and I probably wanted to know why and that she had known it wouldn’t work for me. However, she had another product for $79 that would fix that!
Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly. The way her email read, she knew her product was defective and that I was wasting my money. She did specifically say she’d known it wouldn’t work.
I don’t think that’s what she meant to say. I could have responded in two ways.
I could have emailed back and told her that her email could be taken the wrong way and that it was a huge turnoff to customers who might be interested in buying her other products except that now we know she believes them to be defective or useless. I could even have made suggestions for which sentences to fix that had the ambiguous wording so she would be held up as an example of incredibly bad marketing copy. Yeah, I could have been “helpful.”
I could have emailed back as an irate customer and questioned her ethics of selling products she “knew” wouldn’t work. Bitchy, but still helpful in making her aware of the problem.
My fingers were already on the keyboard to do the former, since I do like some of her other work. Then it hit me.
“She’s not paying you for your advice.” Oh. Yeah.
“It’s not your job to give her the solution to her problem.”
The email I was about to send her was the same as might be written for someone paying $300 for me to look over a marketing campaign and make suggestions. She wasn’t paying me to do that. The kind of info I could have given her would have saved her from some upset customers and brought in additional income over and above any consulting fees.
But she doesn’t give away her products and services for free, and I was about to give her a big freebie instead of spending that time on my own products and services.
The same applies to any customer service problem where I’m the customer. I can give them lots of feedback, but are they paying me for it? Why would I want to take their survey to tell them how to improve their products when they’re not doing anything to fix their problem with the product I’ve already bought? And honestly, the same applies to the distinct-non-customer yesterday who emailed me a list of questions to answer in paragraph format, for free, for his son’s history paper and assumed I’d do all the research for him and send it to him.
Not that I won’t give feedback ever or help my friends, but this is a drastic pruning effect for me when I no longer provide solutions and ideas for free. I think this little experiment will continue to be very interesting.