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Exposure Companies will often provide a light version to gain attention for fee-based products or services. This often allows potential customers to see a product's or services potential. The hope is that providing something free will generate both brand loyalty and interest in fee-based options or services.
The Problem with Free If a business or individual is truly providing something for free, there is a cost involved. Whether time, resources or services are consumed to provide free item or service there is an expense involved. If cost is at any point greater than benefit or perceived benefit of offering free item or service, business or individual will likely review options to better balance cost-to-benefit ratio.
Discontinue support Companies or individuals that provide a free product may continue to provide item free of charge but discontinue support. If item is something like software, expense has already occurred. By providing item without technical support or customer service they can reduce their staffing costs. The only ongoing expense to provide item free of charge would be ongoing hosting costs, which are usually relatively small. If item is critical to a business or individual's operations, value of item will be lost if technical support or customer support is no longer available.
Abandon Businesses may simply discontinue offering free item or service without notice.
Compensation Individuals or companies may begin requesting donations, compensation, volunteers or a benefit listed above in order to continue to provide item or service free of charge.
Cut Corners Often free items are of reduced or inferior quality. Cost-conscious businesses or individuals often try to minimize expense associated with free items and will use less expensive materials for free items.
There is value to "free" just be sure that you know what it is. Next time something is offered for free, evaluate quid pro quo and determine what you are giving in return, because very little is ever really free.
About the Author: Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage http://www.notepage.net a wireless text messaging software company.