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Friday, July 27, 2007

The Free Lunch

It's a cliche that there no such thing as a free lunch, but I'm sure the meal to entertain and build business is a cornerstone of effective marketing. From the "Lunch and Learn" programs by technology and manufacturer's reps at architectural offices, to the simple visit and lunch out with a potential client, the meal is an often subtle but vital point in the marketing mix.

Recently, a residiential contractor suggested that the free lunch works well for his business, "Dine em and sell em" - resulting in a surprisingly intensive thread on the Contractortalk forum.

Why does the free lunch work?

Robert Greene, in his book The 48 Laws of Power, says the "free lunch" removes power from the recipient because it creates a sense of obligation -- something to be avoided at all costs if you really want to control things (but of course something worthy to offer if you want the control yourself -- obviously relevant in sales and marketing situations. Here is his law:
Despise the free lunch


What is offered for free is dangerous -- it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price -- there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

So, I would say Greene is right, but in the context here, I wouldn't "despise" the free lunch -- I admire and appreciate it. Use the free lunch effectively, and your business will thrive.

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