There is no doubt about it – money will be tighter during 2011, especially for consumers. As cuts begin to be felt, and price hikes become inevitable, hard cash will be less available to the average shopper. This will in turn affect businesses, who will need to cover rising costs. Potentially, it could become a quite unpleasant vicious circle for some.

But it need not be for you, if you consider where you can add value to your content and products. Those who come out of 2011 with a healthy business will be those who have taken action to ensure that their customer acquisition continues throughout the year without breaking the budget. This will mean cutting bottom line expenses, whilst creating content and services that customers love/cannot live without. Luckily, we now have social marketing, social networking and mobile apps to enable precisely this.

One model to consider is the Freemium model However, it requires you to understand your audience / consumers, and to be willing to experiment a little. No-one can hope to get it right first time!

Freemium is a recognised business model, and should feature in your marketing strategy in some way during 2011. For instance, for search marketing agencies, it could be that you offer some of your services and access to your expertise for free in order to attract customers to your premium offers.

The traditional media have found themselves exploring Freemium in depth to counter the outbreak of news sites on the Internet plagiarising content and stealing readers/viewers. However, the majority of businesses are NOT the traditional media and adopting a freemium model can be adopted by almost any other business more simply, and often with very little imagination or ingenuity. For instance, the mobile telephone market have Freemium entrenched in all of their offerings with free handsets tied to increasingly lengthy contracts.

It is surprising how little work is required to develop a Freemium model for your business and set yourself apart from your competitors. It has to be more than just offering a free gift (this is known as ‘bribery’!) to distinguish your Premium offer from the free version, and there are underlying principles for a Freemium model (such as different plans for different users) you can adopt. However, beware using a forced opt-in to gather additional data from free users.

For those of you in business who are looking for suppliers, whether that is an Internet Marketing agency or a carrier for your parcels, check out what Freemium offers there are from your potential suppliers to reduce your expenses. And why not see whether your competitors have adopted a freemium model at all. If not, what are you waiting for?!

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology