Over the past few years, my wife and I have been trying to instill the value of money in our 14-year-old twin boys by having them save and pay for some of the things that they want: high-end headphones, PlayStation games, and even clothes (they are currently partial to the insanely expensive Vineyard Vines). It is truly amazing how differently they treat the products that they have paid for as opposed to things we have purchased for them. The headphones are carefully tucked away in their protective cases, the games are cherished, and the Vineyard Vines shirts are hung in their closets with care. Meanwhile many of the things we have purchased have been misplaced, treated carelessly or, in some cases, outright lost.
Why do they seem to treat the things we have purchased for them with relative indifference while they treat the things they have bought for themselves with such reverence?
The answer is value and emotion. The vast majority of people simply do not have an emotional attachment to products or services they receive at no charge. It’s just human nature. Think about it: when you get a product for free, do you take care of it the same way as if you paid for it?
In the promotional products industry, I see many companies eager to give costly products and important resources away in an effort to protect their current client relationships or establish new ones. When you freely give services away, clients will neither value nor have an emotional attachment to the relationship and they will continue to expect more from you while insisting on paying less. As Seth Godin might say, it’s a race to the bottom and that’s a race you don’t want to win.
If you are going to give away something for free, it is crucial that you show value. For example, if you are giving a client an ecommerce site for free – even though you will incur real costs in terms of dollars and resource allocation – have them sign a statement of work that details the following:
The work to be done
The cost (value) of that work
The charge ($0.00) to the client
The client still gets a website at no charge, but now you have an opportunity to build value into the conversation. Not only they will treat the website as if they paid for it themselves, they will be far less likely to ask for countless time-killing changes because you have shown them the value of the “free” service.
When you ensure the client sees real value in everything do you – especially “freebies” – they will begin to form that emotional attachment which will lead to long-term relationships.