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How To Compete With Free

In this episode, I’m going to tell you why people pay for content when free content is readily available on the web, and why abundance of free content in your market is a good thing.

Big Ideas

The Real Reason Why People Pay for Things

I often hear this question from people who are thinking about starting their own membership site: “How do I sell paid content in my membership when similar content is available for free all over the web?” 

I was recently reminded of this when my friend was sharing how there’s a lot of free content in her market, and how in a discussion she had with her friends, they were commenting that they would go to the library to grab free movies rather than buying them on the TV through Amazon Prime or something like that. 

I couldn’t help but think, why do people really pay for things? There will always be a pocket of people who will choose the free alternative. But we have to get clear on the real reason why people are going to pay for our content. Many times we think that they’re paying for the content itself, but it’s not true. What they’re paying for is the convenience of getting exactly what they need in the right order that they need it.

It’s All About Saving Time and Convenience

Our daughter Marla has become quite a little artist. She has sketchbooks and she’s really been working on her cartoons, art and calligraphy. This year, we got her an iPad for Christmas so that she could transfer all of her art on to the digital space. I posted out a question to our community asking what’s the best app for my daughter to be able to do her sketches and calligraphy. The overwhelming majority said Procreate, so I bought Procreate and started looking for a tutorial to figure out how to use it. There were a ton of tutorials online and I was overwhelmed. Where do I even begin? I ended up buying two different courses and joining a membership. Why? I didn’t want to spend the time sifting and sorting through thousands of tutorials, I just wanted something to bring me up to speed as quickly as possible. 

This is the key insight – people are paying for the convenience of you breaking down what it is that you’re sharing in bite-sized chunks, in an order that’s going to get them from where they are to where they want to be. They need a path. They want to be told what to do. They don’t want to have to think, they want to be able to save time. 

I responded to my friend and said, the reason why your friends are opting to go to the library instead of paying three dollars for an online movie is because the library is convenient, it’s right around the corner. But if the library was all the way across town, and they had to fight traffic to get there, my guess is they wouldn’t even think twice about paying the three dollars.

The More Free Content There Is, the Better

This is why when you’re in a market where there’s an abundance of free content, I want you to celebrate. This is a really good thing, because the more content that is readily available, the more likely people are going to be willing to pay you to be able to sift and sort through all of that. Do not underestimate people’s willingness to pay to be able to save time. They just want to be told what to do, they don’t want to think, and they would much rather have it given to them on a silver platter to save time. 

When you think about positioning what you’re offering, especially if you’re selling a course, a membership or a paid program of any kind, remember that it’s not just about the information you’re going to provide. Yes, that’s important and we want to contrast the impact and the transformation that is going to be possible. But there are other reasons why people are going to be investing in what you’re offering. And many times, it’s the convenience of being able to get on the pathway where you’re telling them where they are and what they need to focus on. When it comes to standing out in the sea of freeness, convenience and saving time is your advantage.

Memorable Quotes

Do not underestimate people’s willingness to pay to be able to save time.” – Stu McLaren


TRIBE Membership Site
Stu McLaren’s Instagram

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