Thursday, August 27, 2009

What if I do Free?

So what if you want to do Free?

Free is not a magic bullet. Giving away what you do will not make you rich by itself. You have to think creatively about how to convert the reputation and attention you can get from Free into cash. Every person and every project will require a different answer to that challenge, and sometimes it won't work at all. This is just like everything else in life -- the only mystery is why people blame Free for their own poverty of imagination and intolerance for possible failure.


Is the most costly thing in your association a poverty of imagination and intolerance for possible failure?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Do I Compete with Free?

Chapter 16 in Chris Anderson's book Free talks about myths about Free. One myth is that you can't compete with Free.

The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to fine the adjacent scarcity. If software is free, sell support. If phone calls are free, sell distant labor and talent that can be reached by those free calls (the Indian outsourcing model in a nutshell). If your skills are being turned into a commodity that can be done by software (hello, travel agents, stock brokers, and realtors), then move upstream to more complicated problems that still require the human touch. Not only can you compete with Free in that instance, but the people who need these custom solutions are often the ones most willing to pay highly for them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Google Generation

In Free, Anderson refers to a group (mostly under 20 years old who have grown up always having a broadband connection) as the Google Generation. They expect information to be infinite and immediate. These are your future members. How are you going to adapt?

They insist on Free not just in price but also in the absence of restrictions: They resist registration barriers, copyright control schemes, and content they can't own. The question is not "What does it cost? but "Why should I pay?" This is not arrogance or entitlement -- it is experience. They have come of age in a world of Free.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Maslow and Free

I love Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I keep finding things that it explains or is applicable to. Anderson refers to it in Free. If you don't know what it is, click here.

The same sort of pyramid can be applied to information. Once our hunger for basic knowledge and entertainment is satisfied, we become more discriminating about exactly what knowledge and entertainment we want, and in the process learn more about ourselves and what drives us. This ultimately turns many of us from passive consumers to active producers, motivated by the psychic rewards of creating.


Have you found out what knowledge and entertainment will change your members from passive consumers to active producers?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back From Toronto #asae09

It is hard being back in the office after being in Toronto for ASAE and the Center's annual meeting in Toronto. Although it is even harder considering a some dope went the wrong way down Wilson Blvd at 60 mph and crashed into a telephone pole knocking out the power at our office and shutting down the street. Luckily, I hadn't gone in yet, so yesterday was spent working at home.

The main theme for me, as shown by ASAE in their opening video, was connect. I connected with so many people. Many I already knew, but some only through Twitter (I am @CardCat) and blogs. I met many more by following the #asae09 Twitter hashtag and following them. Then there were the usual friends of friends introductions at various events. That alone made the trip worth it. My best learning takeaways were probably gleaned from the Hub from sessions I didn't even attend. Now I just need a way to aggregate and disseminate all the info from the Hub.

Other random notes:
- The online engagement lounge rocked. Best part was getting intimate Q&A with Charlene Li and Clay Shirky. Thank you ASAE staff who made that happen.
- I would like to see an idea swap room. Every session there is an idea swap there with a table or multiple tables for each of the various disciplines. That would rock!
- We need more session times, with less choices for each session.
- The AV was better, but please give all speakers wireless microphones. Pony up the cash. It is worth it.
- I totally didn't bring home Kilkenny beer, thinking they may have it at duty free. They didn't. I failed.
- Folks in Toronto are very nice. Even when you go as a DC United fan to watch them play in Toronto.
- I am glad the CVB's had their own side of the floor. That way I didn't need to go over there. But that means I missed the best swag. Oh well, I just couldn't even pretend to have meetings in order to get a Build a Bear.
- I am really curious how much the Build a Bear thing cost St. Louis.
- Toronto is great about recycling. I wish the US was as proactive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Free Business Model to Copy

Chris Anderson shares a business model he uses that he took from someone else. Sound like something that could challenge your association?


1. Build a community around free information and advice on a particular topic.
2. With that community's help, design some products that people want, and return the favor by making the products free in raw form.
3. Let those with more money than time/skill/risk-tolerance buy the more polished version of those products. (That may turn out to be almost everyone.)
4. Do it again and again, building a 40 percent profit margin into the products to pay the bills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Starting Free vs Going Free

If you are thinking about making something free that you now charge for, should you?

Why do people think "free" means diminished quality in one instance, and not in another? In turns out that our feelings about "free" are relative, not absolute. If something used to cost money and not doesn't, we tend to correlate that with a decline in quality. But if something never cost money, we don't feel the same way. A free bagel is probably stale, but free ketchup in a restaurant is fine. Nobody thinks Google is an inferior search engine because it doesn't charge.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where is Your Value?

One topic early in the book Free, by Chris Anderson, is that of commodities. A lesson learned through history is that as commodities become cheaper and eventually free or almost free, value moves elsewhere.

Have you looked at the value you are offering your members? Could it now be considered a commodity with members using things like LinkedIn and Facebook to network and other places for information?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More on Free as a Business Model

I love this quote from the book. What if someone takes aim at your association as the incumbent and your membership dues as the product? What would you do?

Today, we know that the most disruptive way to enter a market is to vaporize the economics of existing business models. Charge nothing for a product that the incumbents depend on for their profits. The world will beat a path to your door and you can sell them something else.