Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation

UK Property Investment news and comments from Mark Harrison of YourPropertyExpert.com

Free to good home?

Posted by markharrison on April 23, 2007

There are several reasons why it would be nice to be French – good wine and great cheese spring to mind… but one of the big advantages of having French as a mother tongue is that there is a difference in the words “libre” and “gratuit”, both of which translate into English as the word “free”, but which mean completely different things.

  • “Gratuit” means “free” in the sense of at zero price – as in “buy one, get one free”
  • “Libre” means “free” in the sense of unrestricted, unconstrained – as in “Nelson Mandela is now free”

What on earth has this got to do with Web Marketing?

OK – let’s re-cap the complete basics of web marketing. To build a business you:

  1. Attract people to your site
  2. Offer them something “free” in exchange for getting their contact details and permission to email them
  3. Make the “free” thing of such good value that you build up (over time) a reputation as a trustworthy source
  4. Once you have that reputation, explain what you can offer that would cost them money
  5. Track the whole process so that you understand what percentage of visitors to the website hand over their details, and what percentage of people getting the “free thing” go on to become paying customers – then use this information to gradually refine all aspects of your business so that those percentages improve over time.

This is exactly the model I use on two of my sites:

The vast majority of people who get the free stuff are perfectly happy with it – I regularly get emails of thanks attributing specific figures that people have made using some of the tips in the mini course – and this is absolutely fine. However, a small number of people go on to buy either my ebook on Property Negotiation, or even attend my one-day training course. (95% of the material in the two is the same – it’s really a question of whether people learn better by coming on an instructor-led course, whether the emotional commitment of coming to a course spurs them to action, and whether they want the confidence boost of meeting a bunch of like-minded people who are accomplishing similar things.) And let me be honest, this isn’t a huge money-maker for me – I run training courses because I enjoy it, and like meeting interesting people, rather than because it’s the most financially efficient use of my time!

However, this is only “free” in the sense of “gratuit” – I don’t charge for the newsletter or mini-course.

What about “libre” – what “freedom” comes with these items?

Under UK (and International) copyright law – the contents of the course and newsletter are mine – and the only “rights” a subscriber has is the right to read that newsletter / course item. They don’t have the right to forward them to friends, nor the right to reproduce them in their own newsletters.

The traditional view of “intellectual property” says that it would be sensible for me to enforce these rights – to try to clamp down on anyone “ripping off my material” by passing it on.

However, there’s another view – if the point of my giving this stuff away “gratuit” is to spread my reputation as a credible authority (in my case, on property negotiation specifically, and property investment in general), then what’s in my best interest?

  • To lock down and restrict the material so that only people who have given over their contact details get it?
  • To make sure that it only ever appears in exactly the format I’d intended, without modification

OR

  • To open it up, and let as many people as possible get at it
  • To allow other people to use vast chunks of it, with their own angle, or improvement
  • (providing the new readers know where it came from originally)

The second model is exactly the one that that the “free software” community uses. The software licences like the so-called “GPL” are specifically written to give people a bunch of rights not just to use software, but to modify it, and redistribute it. Both of the elements are key – the “redistribution” right means that software like Ubuntu Linux now has millions of users world-wide. And the “modify” right means that the product is far, far, better than if only the small team (who work for a company called Canonical) who produced the original Ubuntu CDs could change things. Canonical make their money be providing support and installation services – though you are welcome to use their products whether you buy their add-on services or not. Indeed, their products are, in turn, modifications and improvements of other products issued under similar terms.

My view is that I’m far better off trying to get the newsletter stuff out to as wide an audience as possible, and not worry too much whether I have the email address of every reader on my database!

So, what does this mean to my material?

As of today, there’s a “new deal” available on the yourpropertyexpert.com newsletter:

  • If you run a website or newsletter yourself, you are welcome to take any article from the http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com website, and re-distribute it to your readers provided that you include the line “Copyright <year> http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com – reproduced with permission” on the article.
  • There is no obligation on you to let me know you’ve done this (though it would be nice)
  • Obviously, you’ll need to replace the text <year> with the year the article was actually written.
  • If you allow other people to use articles from your stuff, you need to make sure that they know they have to include that message as well!

Right, that covers the “redistribution” side, what about the “modification” side?

  • If you run a website or newsletter yourself, you are welcome to take any article from the http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com website, and use parts of it, added in with your own text, and re-distribute it to your readers provided that you include the line “Parts of this article are Copyright <year> http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com – reproduced with permission” on your version.
  • There is no obligation on you to let me know you’ve done this (though it would be nice)
  • Obviously, you’ll need to replace the text <year> with the year the article was actually written.
  • If you allow other people to use articles from your stuff, you need to make sure that they know they have to include that message as well!

At this point, the traditional “list-builder” marketeers will be reeling in shock! The traditional approach is that you have to capture every name, and that the key metric to success is the “size of your list”, because they are the people you can sell other stuff to more effectively.

My point is that making all this stuff available for free (libre and gratuit) is, I believe, a better way to grow that list quickly – since many people who’ve read my material elsewhere will ultimately choose to come to the source and subscribe directly… and that providing material to other people will only increase the brand awareness of the name “Mark Harrison” in property investment circles.

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