If FREE drives the purchase orders, then FREE is good! If FREE feels good, then FREE is good! If your client only wants FREE, then FREE is bad.
During a crisis like the pandemic, FREE is needed. FREE is HELP. If there was an ideal time to offer something of value for free, then this would be it. We doubled down on helping our channel community for FREE since the pandemic started.
Given a choice, every business would obviously prefer to be paid for their services instead of giving it for free. Many channel partners do a lot of free stuff for their clients. The challenge is knowing when to draw the line. After all, you are a business and to stay in business you need to make money.
Many vendors offer free trials and free assessments to help prospects measure the potential benefits and buy. This sort of “FREE” can be a smart marketing and sales tactic. Channel partners can definitely leverage this free stuff to close deals.
Some channel partners offer some services for free because they are already getting paid significant monthly fees by the client. This would be like giving the client some additional perks for being a good and loyal customer. This sort of free is good and can be a prudent business practice.
Sometimes they do stuff for free to help a client in need without a ROI play. That’s charity and it can be a very good thing. Arguably, this sort of free-giving can be much more rewarding than just making money.
In our case, we always give a lot of free insights, tips, news, assessment on best practices, introductions, recommendations on business tools and products as well as some events to our channel community. We do it because a stronger channel is good for everyone, including us. We did this article about FREE for FREE :o). We hope it may help channel partners to think about what and why they offer something for free and know when to draw the line.
In theory, when any company generates a tangible value for any client, then they should get paid. In practice, business owners need to balance the opportunity costs.
Every business needs to draw a line to balance free with paid services.
Channel partners should charge for their consultation services. If the deal closes, you can offer a partial or full credit depending on if and when the client buys. Doing some automated assessments could be offered for free especially if the vendors provide the tools to do the free assessments (there are many).
Leverage vendors to help you to help your client to evaluate the products and provide some consultation as their job is ALSO to evangelize their solution and brand. Channel partners should not be doing too much evangelizing or building of any vendor’s brand, especially when they do it for free! There are many other valuable free things you can offer to generate leads like an e-book or webinar on some topic.
Maybe a good exercise is to review your menu of free stuff and start assigning an actual cost to doing each item. Then determine what you will offer for free, to whom and under what circumstances.
If your free offering is not converting into a value for you, then maybe it’s time to rethink free.