Startups, learn the value of free, the power of easy, and the cost of trust

Startups, learn the value of free, the power of easy, and the cost of trust

Do you spend too much time trying to figure out how to get new customers through the door? If you’re anything like most business owners we work with on a daily basis, and statistically you are, then it is the number one thing that permeates your thoughts and your actions. It is a constant source of frustration and takes time away from delivering increased value to your existing clients. Which is way more fun.

The below model is not unique, it’s not revolutionary, but it does seem to be effective and I would argue will become ever more important in the future.

At one of my previous businesses, Fitness-Buffet, we called it: the value of free, the power of easy, and the cost of trust.

While this model has been developed mainly in conjunction with businesses in the fitness and wellness industry, it is a model that can be applied across industries.

Let’s start at the end and work backwards.

Cost of trust

Essentially no one is going to buy your product or service if they don’t trust you.

On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog. – New York Times Cartoon

Or more aptly, no one knows you’re a fully trustworthy organization. Simple enough. No trust, no sales.

And of course the converse is true. When people do trust you they go way beyond just being customers. There is no advocacy without trust.

Trust is fundamental to capitalism, so as a business owner taking time to understand how you can create and deepen trust is a wise investment.

One distinction to understanding this is the awareness that your network, customers, staff, investors, partner, dog, may trust you for some things but not others. There are people in my network that I would trust with the lives of my children, yet I don’t trust them to write compelling content that is worth reading when it lands in my inbox each month. And of course there are others who I trust to entertain me on Twitter but I wouldn’t want them near my children.

The takeaway is that if you can’t sell to someone who doesn’t trust you, how do you build that trust? There are several ways you can do it. Aligning yourself with people or organizations that they already trust is one way. Delivering value to them is another.

Understand that trust has a cost. What are you prepared to pay to gain the trust of your prospects so that you can take the relationship to the next level?

Power of easy

Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.

– Richard Branson

In Internet Marketing parlance, professionals refer to the ease of ‘onboarding’ your prospect. How easy is it for someone to start a relationship with you?

In most cases we are in such a hurry to ‘marry’ the customer that we forget to ‘flirt’ with them first.

Contrast two t-shirt design companies. The first shows you lots of options but you need to register with the site before you can start to do your design.

The second allows you to browse the t-shirts, start playing around with colors and designs, upload photos, etc. It is only when you have finished your design that they ask where you would like it to be sent. At which point you are already committed (and have invested time), are sold on the value proposition and understand the need to provide them your details.

Your product may need a complex registration or setup process, but perhaps you can create a pre-product first?

What is the absolutely easiest way that someone could start a relationship with your brand? How could you make it even easier? Where is the risk for them in starting the relationship? Could you take that risk away?

Value of free

I had a business partner many years ago that despised the concept of giving anything away for free. To him it diminished value in our company, tarnished the brand and was an ‘easy’ option compared with actually selling stuff.

All pretty compelling reasons for not giving stuff away for free, and yet my own thinking on the matter has come the full 180 degrees.

Partly it is because we have now spent 20 years being trained that we can expect a lot of free stuff. The number one brand in the world Google continues to give enormous value away for free (at least that’s the perception). But the other reason for my belief in free is that it is a shortcut to achieving Trust. And it it’s easier to turn trust into money then it is to turn money into trust (just ask any company that has had to pay to restore their reputation).

Free trials, whether of a fitness service, software or anything else, are one of the most effective ways to build trust in your prospect’s mind. Even if they don’t become customers, once they have used the service they can become advocates.

The future

There is of course a huge gap between knowing this and implementing it effectively. Just because you give something away for free doesn’t mean people will use it. And when they do, a failure to manage expectations can upset even the best laid plans.

Yet, I can’t imagine a future where your clients would ever choose the opposite of the three pillars this model.

To get a glimpse of the future it is worth looking at the mobile app market. 90 percent of Asian apps now make their money from in-app purchases. They’re free and simple to download and use, which facilitates building trust and generating revenue.

Getting there takes time and persistence, but constantly striving to give away more value, create more trust and make life simpler should result in many more customers through the door.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Henry Ford:

The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, it is bound to succeed.

This article originally appeared at: and published at

Want a free copy of both my best selling books? Sign up for my weekly newsletter here or @

Read more than 50 positive Amazon reviews by clicking review below.

Leave your own Amazon review, good, bad or ugly, and I will send a child in a developing country new text books every month through

About Callum Laing

I bring together small, profitable, owner operated businesses from around the world into a fast growing publicly limited company. This gives the business owners access to bigger contracts, liquid stock, unlimited partnership opportunities whilst still keeping full control and autonomy over their business.

Leave a Reply