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Give It Away Now

You might know him as David DeAngelo. Under that pseudonym, he’s made millions selling dating advice to men under the brand Double Your Dating. Even guys who couldn’t score a dance in high school can learn from DeAngelo how to score with a supermodel.

And now, they can also learn how to score more sales.

A few weeks ago, DeAngelo, whose real name is Eben Pagan, announced that he would reveal the secrets of his success through a program called Altitude. And while the last thing the world needs is another self-proclaimed internet marketing guru, this isn’t a make-millions-in-
your-sleep-through-affiliate-sales-and-AdWords kind of deal.

Rather, it’s the real deal, at least when it comes to fresh thinking with proven results. Because within about five years, Pagan has taken a business he started at home to $20 million in sales and more than 80 employees (but no office), all the while building email lists with more than a million subscribers.

Of course, learning the secrets of this success will cost you. But true to his teachings, Pagan has made some secrets widely available through YouTube and an email list. And at least one of those secrets will be particularly compelling to interactive marketers considering the use of newsletters and similar promotional tactics to build a brand’s value.

Move the free line

Pagan grew up poor. As a kid, he and his friends used to scheme about ways to make a million dollars. Most of these approaches, says Pagan, involved variations on the theme of getting a million people to pay one dollar each for some chuchka or another.

In marketing, we usually don’t stray far from this business model. We encourage people to buy things for more money than they cost to make, so we or our clients can make a profit and buy lots of candy.

When Pagan started his business, he took a different approach. Rather than strive to create something worth one dollar and sell it for two, Pagan worked to create something worth $100 and sell it for $10. In short, he worked hard to get the short end of the stick. So much so that he gives away products on good faith, only asking people to pay if they find the products useful.

And some products come completely free. Like those aforementioned emails, which include lots of dating advice given in Double Your Dating books and DVDs. Furthermore, when competition increases at the cheaper end of a product line, such as eBooks, Pagan considers giving them away free as well.

Pagan calls this approach “moving the free line,” and encourages people to think hard about what they can give away. The benefits, he notes, are massive. They are partly explained by the reciprocity reflex which, as Robert Cialdini notes in Influence, compels people to purchase things from those who offer gifts. But Pagan has also found that moving the free line allows him to expand his repertoire of higher end products, selling increasingly more expensive products to his best customers, who want to differentiate themselves from those receiving free products and gain an edge.

Think outside the cash box

Of course, few of us are selling dating advice. (Even fewer are probably qualified.) And not all the products we market are information-based—it’s easy to give away a dating eBook, far harder to give away a car.

But what about a car-related online product? Like an eBook of road trip itineries? Or a desktop gadget that allows you to track your fluid changes? The possibilities to give away valuable informational products related to brands you market are endless. And because they’re information-based, the cost of producing and distributing them is minimal.

Some of you might think this sounds like the traditional practice of sucking people into an email newsletter subscription and bombarding them with branded, low-value content . I would argue, and Pagan would likely agree, that the difference is in your frame, perspective and execution. The goal with moving the free line is to genuinely provide an increasing amount of value to people for free, while simultaneously offering increasingly expensive products and services higher up the value chain. The more solid your base of free products, the higher your peak of expensive products can reach.

And if you don’t believe it, just watch those guys who formerly couldn’t get dance partners date the Raptors dance squad after finding a Pagan product through one of his free dating newsletters.

Photo credit: cow at the fence by withrow.