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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Free or fee (some more thoughts)

As a journalist/writer, the norms are generally that we don't pay for interviews, especially when the publicity serves the the interests of the person we interview as much as our own.  The challenge, rather, is to fend off offers of "free editorial content", which of course are initiatives by publicity seekers to obtain the effective credibility of free publicity rather than pay for advertising.

So, I felt some shock yesterday when an industry expert recommended by a client association for a profile on the industry said he would only conduct the interview if he is paid.  My initial reaction:  "No way, Jose" and in fact I can write the story without this person's expertise.  But I'll probably pay him because (a) he insisted, (b) he validated his value by insisting on the fee (and his credible references) and (c) because his fee is reasonably modest -- about what I would pay a freelancer for extensive note-gathering and reference research.

Can these observations provide you with some construction marketing insights?  Well, I hope you question the marketing challenges and realities of "free estimates" for anything more than simple ball-park figures to qualify your potential clients and the incredible frustration and mental energy waste in chasing bids, especially in a declining market.  Of course, equally, you also need to respect the conventions -- asking to be paid where the norms are "free" is risky, so you should be confident of your reasoning and secure in your understanding of the business value/proposition you are delivering if you put a price tag on something you give away.

My Construction Marketing Ideas book is a good example of where you can take this sort of thing both ways.  The book is free to existing client who wish it and I'll provide review copies to logical centres of influence (but generally these copies will only go out on my initiative, not the reviewer's request).  Everyone else pays and the revenue for a project, which originated as a client service initiative, is now meaningful for my business.

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