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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Moving The Free Line
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