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Don’t you use the “F” word with me!

 Author: Mark West 

It used to be that when you got something FREE, you found it a big deal. It was a reward. You were amazed at first and then proud of yourself for finding an elusive deal. But today, we as marketers have caught on to this.  Everywhere you go, you are getting something for “free”.  Sometimes it is really something good and truly “free”, but many times it is a “free” trial…this started with give us your credit card details, but you can cancel within the first 30 days, to now, just try it for “free” and we’ll simply lock you out if you don’t pay.  The result is that FREE has become the new four letter “F” word.  

Okay, not exactly of the nature where it is banned on television and advised about in movie ratings, but we as a culture have learned that “free” is no longer good.  It is just another marketing trick to try a product or get your information for their database.  So we are skeptical and less willing to fall for the trapping of the word than we may have once been.

And, before I get all the critics telling me I’m an idealist and there is nothing really “free”, let me quickly acknowledge there is no such thing as a “free” lunch.  FREE is a subjective word really, indicating what you might be willing to overlook to get something seemingly for nothing.  Is it the cost of a postage stamp?  Is it the time and fuel to travel to the local store?  Or could it be simply your willingness to endure commercials…I point to the “free” model of broadcast television and radio, or the Internet.  Yes, despite all those that want to block ads on the Internet, you cannot get something for absolutely nothing…you must pay in some way shape or form.

This is equally true in the world of procurement and business development.  Can you get more business for free? No, you normally have to spend money on advertising and other business development, not to mention cutting your margin to afford the best price to win a client. Does a business get better prices through their procurement?  No, not really any more…there is time and money spent to find better and better deals to cut procurement costs.

So then…when the innovative business market network INNOVO says…”we are completely free to use”…I know what everyone is asking…what’s the catch?  How do they make money?

Well, let me be the one to expose the truth!  INNOVO does make money.  Is it a cost to you…well, technically speaking, yes you could say it is a cost to you…but that depends on your definition of cost.  Whether as a noun or a verb, according to the dictionary a cost is: an amount that has to be paid or spent to buy or obtain something.  So what this is saying is you need to give up something you have now to get something you want.  But with INNOVO, you are not giving up something you already have.  INNOVO’s business philosophy is to find savings for the Supplier, savings that the Supplier doesn’t have today.  Not through any direct fault of the Supplier, but more because of the long standing business environment.  So where does INNOVO make their money.  Very simple…if you could save 100 on something you are doing right now thanks to a new method introduced by a 3rd party, would you be willing to share some of that 100 with that 3rd party in exchange for the benefit?  Of course you would!  Is it really a cost?  I would argue, no.  Is it FREE?  I would argue, yes.  You are only spending something that you don’t already have after you receive the benefit…so I would say it is NOT a cost.  So is it truly free?  Well, subjectively we could argue that for a long while, and if you buy me a pint, we could go on, but instead it may be worth trying it to see if you do get some savings, and then worry about whether it truly cost you anything or not.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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