“‘Free’ With Strings Attached” — Reactions and response

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My posting on the the challenges of providing your expertise  and skills for free (“Free” . . . with strings attached) last week resulted in some interesting responses.

First, Devon Stone rightfully called me on the carpet for the rather extensive use of Michael Stone‘s material in the story.  I didn’t just use a portion of one of his  newsletter’s postings — I published the whole thing — and really should have requested permission in advance.  Although I provided source credit, spoke positively about Stone’s services and provided hyperlinks to his site, I agree that I overstepped the boundaries of “fair comment” and should have obtained clearance in advance.

Perhaps these copyright violation issues were compounded by the fact that Mike Jeffries‘ partner Patrick Walsh emailed me after the original posting appeared and gave me a heads up (in effect requesting permission) that he wanted to reference the blog entry in Jeffries’ Closing Success Tips weekly newsletter.

“Mike’s out of town with his family next week so what we’re going to do with our Quick Tips on Monday Aug 23rd, is reference and link to your recent post on “FREE”… if that’s okay with you.  It’s a nice piece.”

While of course I am flattered to have received this response — and the surge in traffic from Jeffries’ readers — I can see how Michael Stone might want to have some say in how his original material has been used in this context.

Fortunately, perhaps, my copyright violations here have a silver lining.   Yesterday, I received the following email from John Liptak of OakWood Builders, one of Ottawa’s most successful renovators and probably this community’s most assertive marketer.

Hi Mark,

Great newsletter. I have dealt with Stone for many years and we are on a contract for a year with Jeffries. Both are the best in their segment of the industry. Good to see you have the same ideas and concept about the industry. The only thing we offer for free is to visit their home once if they pre-qualify. Patricia (my daughter) and I have been instrumental in advancing the “charge for your work” philosophy in the Renovators Council and have had a few companies come by to instruct on Estimating and Contracts.

The whole FREE thing bewilders me as no other professional would spend so much money on a prospect without have an ROI. OakWood has grown between 26 and 30% each year for the last three years and we give nothing away for free and are typically the highest price to the client. We have no client complaints at the BBB – ever – and have never been sued by any client. I am not suggesting that we are perfect but we have a really solid management system and we are now tightening up our processes with Mike Jeffries, Michel Stone, Remodelers University and others.

Would you be interested in giving a seminar to advance the Renovators education on the Renovators Council and also it will allow you to promote your business? If yes then we can suggest to the council.

Keep up the good work.

Somewhat flattered by this response, in requesting permission from John to reprint his email, I offered to send him a free copy of my Construction Marketing Ideas book.  His answer:  “I will be happy to purchase two signed copies from you (one for my daughter and one for me), I don’t like anything for free and from what I have heard, your book is great. I am really happy to hear you are doing well with it. Let me know how to get the money to you.”

My internal tracking from the recent newsletter shows that several readers have clicked through to both Jeffries’ and Stone’s sites.

The Fall 2010 issue of Ottawa Renovates! is nearing publication.

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