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.

Attract Him Back

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.