May 29, 2013


100% extra freeFree is the magical price but there's a feeling that paid is better. That's not always true.

How would Gmail or Trello (my review) be better if you paid? Companies have different business models. Google seems to give things away to keep us online longer, which increases the chances we’ll see ads.

We'll look at two examples.

Blogs: Blogger vs WordPress

Google's Blogger ( is simple and free. Your tweaking is limited, which gives you more time for writing — the heart of blogging. gives much more flexibility but that costs you money and attention. You can tweak and optimize but maybe you’re procrastinating? If blogging is your business, your investment in may be worthwhile. Otherwise, Blogger gives you more than you really need. There is a free version of WordPress but is too limited to consider.

Newsletters: MailChimp vs Constant Contact

MailChimp has a Free Forever account which offers more than most of us need (free messages to 2,000 subscribers). You can upgrade to paid accounts with a monthly subscription or pay-per-use with stamps.

Constant Contact does more live marketing and their content is very good. For instance, they are sponsoring the free Social Marketing Summit from Enterprise Toronto on June 11th. Constant Contact seems to have good support but there is no free plan (just a 60 day trial with only 100 contacts).

Web services are most likely to connect with MailChimp. For example, I'm currently testing Contactually and Nimble after abandoning other CRM solutions. Neither works with Constant Contact (at least not now).

Why Free?

Free doesn't have to mean less. There are other ways to make money. Gmail has advertising.

Free brings more buzz. That's free advertising. Free attracts people who might never have tried the service. Would you have joined LinkedIn if you had to pay? Free can start the path to paid (the freemium model).

Free brings more users, which means more information about their usage. That can help in setting priorities and selling ads. There's more user testing too.

The Real Cost

Whether or not you pay money, your real cost is your time. Paying often gives you more options ... which devour more of your precious time to evaluate, select and master. If you believe in the 80/20 rule, do you really want more choice?

Apps on tablets and smartphones help you focus by removing distractions. All you can do is what you’re doing. That’s appealing.


I'm reluctant to recommend a paid solution when there are free options. Getting started is the toughest part and price is a hurdle.

For my new private Sanctum social network, I was planning to charge a monthly subscription. That has hurt the community size. I switched to free to remove the obstacle. There may be a charge for additional features someday but not soon. Lesson learned.

What can you offer for free?


PS Maybe some of the best things in life are free after all.

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