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The Real Cost of Free Marketing

by: Cary Christian

Free marketing is good. Free marketing improves your bottom line by saving you money on the expense side. Free marketing brings you visitors that others might have to pay for. Free marketing is easy to find on the web. Free marketing is everywhere, free marketing is wonderful! Free marketing is NOT free!

Say what?

Free marketing will almost always cost you more in terms of your time than will similar paid marketing options. For example, let's say you decide not to invest in an ezine ad or bid on keywords on a PPC engine. Instead you decide to join 30 to 40 free safelists that allow you to post every day. (Yes, you can find that many that will allow free members to post every day). So instead of spending a few minutes placing an ad
or bidding on some keywords, you spend 45 minutes every night posting to these lists.

Extend this example a little and assume that you build your entire marketing effort around free advertising. You use start page programs, surf for hits programs, viral ad sites, classified ads, FFA page postings, and anything else free you can find. It can be done, but you might find yourself spending six to eight hours per day just taking care of your marketing chores. Using paid advertising you could accomplish more in
less than one hour per day.

How much "free" marketing actually costs you depends on how you value your time and what you can do with the money you save. It also depends on how effective "free" is versus its "paid" counterparts.

Are there other revenue producing activities you could be taking care of with this additional five to seven hours? If you have employees working these free programs, could their time be more profitably spent? If you market online on a part time basis and you are a parent, how much is an additional five to seven hours with your children worth? Or time with your spouse, girlfriend, parents, friends, or whoever else? If you do other work on the side as a consultant, how much revenue are you potentially losing by using your time "working" free marketing

Your time is very valuable. An additional five to seven hours a day to take advantage of all these free opportunities could be costing you anywhere from $350 to $3,500 or more per week in opportunity cost.

What are you doing with the money you save? Are you reinvesting it in your business to make it grow? If you are, are the returns from this investment higher than the potential returns from paid advertising?

What kind of sales numbers are you getting from your free advertising efforts? If you've ever tried paid advertising, how do your results from free marketing compare?

A properly planned paid advertising program should bring you at least three times your investment in revenue (and often much, much higher). This makes paid marketing efforts actually LESS EXPENSIVE than free!

Am I saying you should ignore free options? Absolutely not!  Even if you can afford to pay to have everything done for you, you will still want to take advantage of EFFECTIVE free opportunities. But you have to be mindful of the real cost of "free" and you have to be able to track and discern what works and what does not.

Many people who give up trying to make money on the Internet do so because they become frustrated spending so much time to earn so little. Most people, understandably, start off relying very heavily on free marketing methods. Most free marketing methods do not produce results like paid alternatives do. So people give up thinking they can never make it online. Most people do not have the patience to build slowly, and reliance on free marketing means you WILL build slowly.

A word of caution is appropriate here for those of you who have not used paid advertising before and are ready to try it. All paid advertising is not equal. Some paid advertising is no better than free advertising. Do your homework and invest wisely.

If you absolutely cannot afford to incorporate any paid marketing into your business, then approach using free alternatives with the right frame of mind. Realize that building your business will take longer. Learn what to expect, how to track your results, and how to change your strategies as the situation dictates.

Here are some guidelines for using free marketing that we have developed based on our own test experiences:


Free marketing methods are very rarely going to result in a direct sale. Use them strictly to get people to your website, to get them signed up on your mailing list, to get them to accept a free product that will bring them back to your site, to get them to subscribe to your autoresponder offering a free course or free report, or something similar.


Use some form of ad tracking that will allow you to see exactly where your hits are coming from. If a form of free marketing is doing absolutely nothing for you, drop it and replace it with something else.


Free email marketing, such as posting to safelists, will go largely ignored. Work on creating a catchy, but honest, headline that stands a chance of creating enough interest to get read and then tease them into visiting your site in the body of the message with as few words as possible.


Use your free marketing efforts to build your downlines in your free marketing programs. For example, if you build downlines in surf for hits programs you will reach the point where you don't have to click your life away for traffic. You don't want to spend the rest of your life clicking for visitors when the response rates are so low. It is easier to get signups for free programs when using free marketing sources than it will ever be to generate a sale.


Always be on the lookout for tools or methodologies that will save you time when using your free marketing programs. Remember the value of your time. If it costs you a few bucks to purchase a product that will save you hours of time daily it is well worth it.


Wherever possible, invest your time in setting up free marketing that is viral in nature. For example, if you give away a free ebook or report, make sure it is customized with links to your site. Allow the people who accept it to give it away freely, thus spreading your links to many more potential customers. Over time, your website could be advertised to
thousands at no cost.

Free marketing definitely has a place in your marketing portfolio. Use it wisely and make it work for you but always be aware that nothing is totally free.

Copyright (c) 2002


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