Moving The Free Line

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In the Internet marketing world the concept of the sales funnel is well known. The process of moving customers from free resources, into paid front-end products down to high margin back-end items, has made millions for many Internet entrepreneurs. I covered the entire sales funnel process in some depth, which I suggest you read as prior study to this article if you have not done so already – part one begins here: The Sales Funnel Explained.

The sales process begins with free resources and nearly everyone online has experienced this part of the sales funnel, in fact you are experiencing it right now reading my blog. This blog is a “free resource” that I offer to the world that at least in some part, contributes to bringing people into my sales funnel.

One thing I learned very early on when studying Internet marketing, and again David DeAngelo from Double Your Dating was instrumental in teaching this to me (see the sales funnel article series for more about this fellow), is that you need to give away lots of free value to convince people you are worth buying from.

This made complete sense to me from the beginning and as I would later study, many business online use this formula as the foundation of their success. Blow people away with free content and then sell them on your paid stuff once they trust and value you.

The Free Line

In recent months a term has floated around the Internet marketing community that encapsulates the idea of providing free value upfront. It’s called the Free Line, and the best way to illustrate it is with a picture, taking my original sales funnel image and including the free line like thus -

The Free Line

The idea is that there is a line, a point on your sales funnel where you distribute free value and below the line comes all the paid-for products, moving from front to back-end.

The first person I heard mention this concept was Eben Pagan, who in case you didn’t know, is actually David DeAngelo (Eben used a pseudonym for his Double Your Dating business), which makes for a fitting connection since it was “David” who demonstrated the concept to me, and Eben who then labeled and taught others how to do it.

I’ve also heard Brad Fallon of StomperNet recently use the term Free Line and given Brad and Eben are friends, I suspect it’s a term that most Internet marketers now use and no credit for its creation is really necessary – what we need to know is how it can help our businesses.

Moving The Free Line

Presentations at conferences I’ve watched and podcasts I’ve listened to from Internet marketers, talk about the idea of the free line moving further and further down the sale funnel. What was previously a front end product you had to pay for, becomes a free resource now sitting above the free line.

Here’s the illustration of the free line moving further down the sales funnel, converting what previously were paid for products into free resources:

Moving The Free Line

The argument put forward by guys like Eben and Brad is that moving the free line ever further down is one of the techniques companies will use to beat and eventually eliminate their competition.

If one company has the resources and a well constructed sales funnel that they can distribute ever more value for free, then that company can out-value other companies and offer better commissions to affiliates, securing more traffic and customers. The battle will be fought and won by the company that can extract the highest profit from the back-end and provide the most value above the free line.

Give Away Your Best Stuff

I was listening to a great call between Eben and Andy Jenkins, Brad’s partner in crime at StomperNet, where Eben revealed some awesome insights about his Double Your Dating business, including details on how he constructed his very famous namesqueeze page, which in my opinion is the definitive example of such a page (check it out at doubleyourdating.com).

The whole purpose of the call was to demonstrate the concept of moving the free line, since the call was given away for free and it was full of great ideas, there’s no doubt it could have been included as part of a paid-for product.

The principle is quite simple – as online marketers, and certainly bloggers understand this concept very well since we do it every day (or at least you should!), you must give away some of your best content in order to capture attention. Content is the force that drives traffic online, and if you give so much quality for free, the fruits of your labor come in the form of more links to your site, more traffic, enhanced credibility, more exposure, and hopefully, more sales too!

The World Wide Web has a history of being free. Many of the dot com crashed companies had a foundation in providing free stuff, but failed because they had no way to effectively monetize what they offered. Today’s web is a little bit more cautious when it comes to profitability, but the mentality that you should get things for free online hasn’t changed.

Free email, free websites, free content, free telephone calls, free instant messaging, free videos, free music – the web is built on a foundation of free, and web users expect things to be free. This is why if you intend to do anything online and expect people to pay attention, you better be giving it away for free.

The Free eBook

Moving on from Eben, another trainer in the free line concept was Rich Schefren, although I never heard him use the term (and he didn’t need to – he led by example). By releasing the Internet Business Manifesto Rich stormed on to the Internet marketing scene out of nowhere. To me, he was a complete nobody before the Manifesto, now I class him right up there as one of the best Internet marketers because of how he launched himself online and what I’ve learnt from him since.

I replicated Rich’s model earlier this year for my own business, releasing the Blog Profits Blueprint to the blogging world. As I write this a few months later, it’s clear that this one book full of some of my best stuff, has firmly placed me on the map as a leading blogging figure in the professional blogging industry.

I could have attempted to sell the Blueprint just as Rich could have sold the Manifesto and his other reports, but the windfall and preeminence building exposure that came from releasing the content for free, firmly demonstrates that the free line is a concept that works – you can launch entire businesses on it.

Replication Will Not Suffice – Innovation Is Necessary

Just releasing a free eBook and replicating what others have done will become less and less effective. Free content of a very high standard can still drive huge amounts of attention – and the eBook format won’t go away – but it is harder and harder to make a splash using the same resources and formats that are currently distributed. This is exactly why the concept is about MOVING the free line – we need to find new and innovative ways to provide and distribute value.

Often one of the best ways to make a splash when offering free value is to use new innovative delivery methods. Rich did so by conducting a live web-stream of his event earlier in the year. The StomperNet guys did it by releasing a ton of great video content for free as part of their launch process and broke the mold by asking for your email address AFTER showing the video, rather than namesqueezing before the video. Ed Dale is doing the same right now for the re-launch of Dominiche, which is now part of StomperNet.

Don’t be surprised if what you currently pay for becomes free in the near future. Entire courses, membership sites, videos, audios – even physical product like home study courses, DVDs and audio CDs, may float above the free line, used as lead generation and market dominance tools by savvy companies.

As always, expect the first adopters of these techniques to come from the Internet marketing industry, since this niche is already saturated with free content, so constant innovation and reinvention is necessary in order to keep attracting attention. From there it will trickle down into other industries, which is why it pays to study the work of leading Internet marketing teachers, especially if you operate in non-Internet marketing niches. Imagine how you can dominate using a concept like the free line if none of your competitors understand it!

How Does Moving The Free Line Impact You?

If you currently run a business online then no doubt you already work on some level to provide free resources. If you don’t, I expect you are having a lot of trouble building traffic and converting customers. Consider what you currently provide for free and brainstorm how you can go one step further, innovate and wow your potential customers with your free content, use unique delivery methods and always plan to offer more for free in the future.

For some of you deciding what to give away and then what you can actually sell to make money may be a challenge. If you haven’t yet established enough free resources then your job now is to work on building up a store of value for others. As time progresses your previous efforts will continue to offer value, while your current activities can move towards producing content for front-end products and eventually back-end offers.

As a blogger your main free value is the content you publish to your blog. The next step might be building up a free email autoresponder course, with seven training emails set to go out in a sequence. Perhaps you can build up a catalogue of videos or audios, distribute them for free and then go to work writing your book or compiling your membership site as your first paid-for product.

The options are limitless. What’s important is that you understand in order to build traffic, establish credibility and then beat your competition to eventually lead your industry, you must constantly over deliver and expect the free line to move further down over time. If your competition can deliver the same thing as you, but do it for free while you charge money, you won’t be in business for long. It’s not easy to stay in business if you are not always moving forward, innovating, breaking in new ideas and asking for nothing in return but attention.

Yaro Starak
Moving The Free Line

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Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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33 Comments

  • Whenever you can find a way to give something away for free that all others charge for, it always works in your favor.
    I have used free software as a very effective way to build traffic. And then make money from products the software is related to.
    Great article.

  • Fabulous article Yaro! I had heard of the sales funnel but I wasn’t terribly familar with it so I have just read your series on that followed by this article.

    So far my only asset is a blog which is not yet monetized. I have some ideas for resources that I want to create and I had the intention of making them free. Now that I’ve read this article I am even more convinced that this is the right decision.

  • This is a great topic as I am torn! I have spent 7 years online and have gone back and forth from providing lots of FREE stuff and not increasing conversions, and not providing as much FREE stuff and STILL not increasing conversions :(.

    I have a new blog with video tips, advice and more and am hoping it converts my own products. So far people are taking the FREE stuff and running with it :(

    I am a believer in the sales funnel, but different markets seem to reacte differently.

  • Great article, and a perfect example of giving away your best product free. With bloggers (as you said) you give away great information in blog posts, and your blog is a shining example of that. Your “Blog Profits Blueprint” is another great example which I refer to frequently in my own blogging.

    I have heard at least one other top internet marketer say you should give away your best stuff.

    The only place I disagree is the idea that there has ever been any free material which isn’t already in your sales funnel. If you’re giving something away, you’re already moving potential customers into your sales funnel. You could even say it happens before that when you are first making an impression.

  • Eben Pagen described the process even more such as to (paraphrasing) give away to the level of ludicrous. Giving away to the point that it feels uncomfortable and then trying to give one more thing.

    He does it himself, and if you’ve ever read through one of his pitches or listened in on one of his calls, you don’t forget the offer. Period.

    I looked him up months ago and running across his name on Yaro’s blog is like I never stopped hearing him.

    Now that’s impact!

  • Wonderful article. Very informative. This is so relevant to my business that I will most likely refer to this post in a post I’ll be doing this week or next. Thank you!

  • Social Proof in the Blog World

    I recently came across the concept of social proof (sometimes called ‘social influence’) via Entrepeneur’s Journey’s Yaro Starak. The idea is simple – people are more likely to do something after seeing someone else do it. This article touches on…

  • I hadn’t heard of the sales funnel until now, however, it really does make sense. I give away information every time I post a how to design so and so with things related to my niche.People scour the net looking for that kind of thing the great thing is I provide a how to service for free.

    Great explanation Yaro.

  • [...] Moving The Free Line – by Yaro Starak goes into details of Internet Marketing sales funnel. If you think it doesn’t apply to you – think again! … but first I recommend you read the article. [...]

  • I’ve never heard of someone describing the “free line” this way, but totally makes sense to me and a new venture I am launching in a few months.

    It’s a membership site where the low lever will be free. I’ve had some people say to me, why not just give away the free special report, and make everyone pay for the site? My idea is that I want to create major buzz, a large community, and give away a bit of my best stuff — then the paid membership levels will sell themselves.

    We shall see if it works!

    Elizabeth

  • I think that there has been a significant push of the free line UPWARD, not downward. Isn’t that what the “$7 system” is all about? My observation is alot of the stuff now available for $7 would have been free last year.

    I’m not going to argue if all this previously paid for stuff becomes free, but I will believe it when I see it.

  • [...] Starak at Entrepreneur’s Journey recently did a post called Moving The Free Line that I found fascinating.   He states: The idea is that there is a line, a point on your sales [...]

  • I remember when I first learnt the value of free…

    I was in the 10th grade…

    …and a girl in my class became very very popular by giving something away for free ;)

  • Moving The Free Line

    An explanation of what the term the ‘Free Line’ means and how it relates to the sales funnel. This article is useful for anyone who owns any online content.

  • [...] to a proliferation of companies that offer mission-critical services for free or at very low-cost. I am not the only one who has recognized this [...]

  • Let’s not also forget that a key component in this equation is adding tremendous value, as it’s been said.

    Move the ‘free line’ all you want. But if you’re not delivery tremendous value along the way, forget anyone paying attention to you again.

    It ought to be called, the Value Multiplier, rather than the free-line, IMO.

  • [...] the full article: http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/820/moving-the-free-line/ addthis_url = ‘http%3A%2F%2Fwww.venturecommons.com%2Fmoving-the-free-line%2F’; addthis_title = [...]

  • Congratulations on this excellent text, Yaro! Work with internet requires, more than other jobs, lots of competence and innovation. This is a wonderful tip for who want to learn about web.

  • [...] Starak presents Moving The Free Line posted at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro [...]

  • This is nothing new.

    Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins laid in all out in 1923.

  • This is a really clear explanation of the sales funnel – which is rare but combining it with the “free line” is really illuminating.

    Thank You Yaro!

    Alex

  • [...] and scripts, all designed to provide significant value. This process is often called “moving the free line” and you do this because it helps to sell more product. When the free stuff you give away is [...]

  • [...] courtesy of Entreprenuer’s Journey, where Yaro Starak has a great article on this [...]

  • James

    Eben Pagan did not come up with this idea or the term “Move the Free Line”. Not sure why so many people are giving him credit for it. As mentioned above, Claude Hopkins originated this in the early 1900′s

    All you do by constantly giving people free stuff is condition them NOT to buy. They will expect everything for free. This has been proven beyond question in Direct Marketing.

  • As a consumer I love this article.

    The more you “gurus” give away the better it becomes for us consumers … thanks!

    Hope the whole industry follows suit and continues to “move the free line” .

    All the best for 2009

  • River

    Please allow me to retort:

    1. If you give away what you had previously been charging for, how do you make any money?

    2. If I have developed new, innovative products that cost me time and money to create that no one else is offering, why should I give it away?

    3. My business philosophy has always been, “if it’s worth marketing, it’s worth charging for”.

    4. Let’s face it, most of what’s available on the Internet for “free” is either (a) junk; (b) a come-on for something that costs money; or (c) both (a) & (b).

    5. One way or another, you always pay for what you get.

  • I thought I would resurrect this comment thread with the following… I don’t think the last few commentators get the point.

    The point is that you don’t have a choice.

    You must convince your customers that you are worth buying from. In order to do that you will need to provide them with some up front value free of charge.

    In the past you would have to mail them 57 catalogs over the course of 3 years or put television commercials on every major network in town to convince them that you were a trustworthy business… that model is dead.

    Now… instead of direct mail or other traditional advertising mediums — your time and money is better spent developing top-notch content that is helpful to your target market to establish the trust that used to be built through brand brainwashing.

    You have no choice — move the free line or your business will ultimately fail.

  • I love this debate!

    I think one of the reasons some people feel they have to give something away for free on the Internet to “convince your customers that you are worth buying from” is because the Internet has such a high percentage of crappy products and scam artists trying to rip people off.

    Two of my products have been on the Internet (through constant improvements) since 1998. They continue to sell consistently well today. I give nothing away free – not even any of those crappy “free bonuses” the schlockmeister IM “gurus” insist you “have” to give away.

    P.S. Beware of absolutes like “You have no choice – move the free line or your business will ultimately fail.” Every so-called rule has many exceptions…

  • Amazing article! I totally need this bad today as I’m pitching a company the idea of offering a free trial. This is great. Thanks ~ Mike

  • I came here as the blog article was linked to from a much more recent post than 2007. Amazing how relevant this post still is, especially in the internet world, where two years can be more than a lifetime. Foundational stuff is what it is, and core concepts will never truly change. This post just serves to reinforce that belief to me.

  • Hi, hm…. giving for free… good or bad?
    I think I might be able to clarify some business ideas that are important to really get right for your business.

    When Yaro gives away his professional work product “Blog Profit Blueprints, people really respond. Look at me, for example; I never got around to starting a blog, I know I have important insights to share with others about accelerating business results. And I have this sense that I can share my merchant for hire insights in a blog profitably even though I’ve never done that before; but since I haven’t done it before I’m feeling really uncertain and I don’t want to squelch my valuable time. In fact I’ve put it off for years cause business was good enough. But inside I know that if I put my new pspopects aside and evote time to this it would be worthwhile.

    And wow what an offer Yaro makes.

    Red Hot Sizzing: The benefit of instant access to the steps and insights of an experienced professional blogger but more importantly Yaro sells to my underlying need to feel certain before undertaking a venture of considerable work and for my need to have access to new power through information.

    I’m willing to bet that I ‘m not the only one responding this way to his offer.

    But why shouldn’t Yaro make a $1 off of us even if half of us go away never to return?

    Well what happens is that by giving it for free he exchanges those dollars for “invisible” benefits. Each transaction that he makes increases the confidence of the reader, (this only works because his product delivers, and then some and does so in a consistent professional and unique voice).

    And he now will have 2 new and distinct benefits with his upsell products based on 2 fundamental dynamics. Lets take a quick look:

    Number 1 dynamic is that his sample has created a good flavor and maybe even started an appetite to eat at his venue. Every reader can now feel more secure that products he sells must be top notch. This is called building credibility.

    The number 2 dynamic is called reciprocity. Because he gave people good value for free, people feel more easily inclined to share with him. They relate to him more, and are prone to doing him a good turn. All that remains is for him to ask. So he asks for the sale.

    Now the 2 benefits come into place, because of the reciprocity and the credibility that he fostered, people are not only more likely to purchase his product by an order of magnitude but are also much more willing to pay a higher price for it! (and to do so with less deliberation, hesitation, procrastination )

    The unspoken kicker is of course that Yaro may have even gotten lots of word-of mouth through talk of and sharing of his free product. He comes out a winner! None of these effects happened because he moved the free line, they happened because he built crediblity, reciprocity and positive expectation in his readers.

    You could say he actually built a bit of relationship even without ever meeting you! It wasn’t so long ago that this was impossible.

    But you may ask what’s going on with the free line? How does that fit in?

    Its really simple. In a competitive market it pays to have more perceived value by better credibility and to be able to command more sales conversions and higher prices because you built relationship.

    Is this going to go on forever?

    Not likely.

    Let’s take a look at a simplified example to understand more clearly what’s going on.

    Let’s say you and I both were the only ones who new the 4 mathematical operations and let’s say that addition was the simplest, then subtraction, then multiplication and finally division (I really never got that last one fully under my belt as I’d like). And thats the order people usually like to learn them in.

    So I sell one Ebook on each of the 4 for anyone who wants to reap the benefits. My pricing is 1$, 2$ , 3$ and 4$ respectively. I’m making good money and along comes your novel mind, and you decide to undercut my by giving away your addition book. Now everyone is flocking to you and you are selling your subtraction book at 3$ and with the added revenues you are buying more of the googleadwords and I am struggling to catch up.

    So I arm up in response. I give away “NUclear secrets of Subtraction” and your adwords are left in the dust. So this process continues. And just like a nuclear arms race its not tenable forever. Soon enough there is a diminishing returns that we reach.

    We might just stop after multiplication because division is all we have left to sell. On the other hand you might just forge ahead and invent fire, and since we know you can sell a book on fire, you can give away our division book too! Leaving me in the dust.

    The reality is though that in any given market there is a cost to innovating. If the cost of innovating is insurmountable or the costs of production are cumulative it lends itself to a status quo of the free line.

    So truly the freeline moves up to a point.

    And although generally speaking the rules of thumb of give , give and then figure out what else you can give are great for your spirit, your pocket book and your prospects… ultimately it heads towards a limit in each market. That’s why you’ll never see cars given away. In a highly competitive niche of infoproducts category just keep sharing. I hope that was helpful!

    Thanks, Yaro for your product and the interesting blog posts.

  • [...] many successful marketers would completely endorse the idea. This article talks about moving the free line effectively online, but I’ve heard of some great stories of “moving the free line” in physical [...]

  • [...] is a well-known Internet marketer by the name of Eben Pagan, who came up with a great concept of “moving the free line”. This simply means giving more stuff away to your potential customers, stuff your customers might [...]

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