How much does free cost?

by | Mar 20, 2017

Free’s free, right?

Or is it?

Mr Plug the Gap works in IT. He’s the epitome of a grumpy IT man and could happily share a space with Roy, Moss and Jen in The Basement, telling people to turn it off and turn it on again, occasionally throwing in a “Is it plugged in?” in for good measure. One of the ‘things’ he battles regularly is the idea of free. Let’s see some examples.

Social Media. Not free.

iTunes. Nope, not free either.

Items/experiences/discounts from loyalty cards. No diddly no doh. Not free.

Pre-loaded software. No sir-ee, that’s not free.

File sharing apps, sites and utilities. Free-eeeeeee. No, most definitely not.

Free wifi. Don’t make me laugh (unless there’s an alternative meaning of the word free that I don’t know about).

You see, all of the things we believe we get for free have a cost, but in much the same way as we used to barter goods and services, these things aren’t paid for with cash, they are paid for by handing over something or relinquishing our normal right to say no.

With Social Media we are allowing the social media platforms the right to show us an unending roll call of ads, advertorial and other content in return for us living vicariously through other people’s misfortunes. The content we are presented with is determined according to the information we willingly – yes, willingly – supply to them. Such is our need to absorb other people’s calamities, pictures of their kids and an array of animals being cute, stupid or weird, we cannot wait to supply all sorts of information. Most of the questions, if they were ever asked outright, would elicit a resolute refusal to answer, because the question was deemed too personal or would raise suspicions about the motive for asking.

How many of you check-in on Facebook?

How many of you sensibly avoid putting too much information on the luggage tags of your suitcases when you go on holiday, but continually post pictures of the ‘amazing’ place you’re staying or a selfie with the mid-morning pre-flight beer in the departure lounge that’s allowed because you’re going on holiday.

I’m straying off track here a little. There are significant security risks in what people are unwittingly giving up, but my issue (and Mr PtG’s) is that most people don’t realise they are giving something away. Therefore, the product you thought of as free did in fact have a cost. You just didn’t ask the price or make any decision about the ‘cost’ being reasonable. You probably didn’t even look to see if there was a paid for version, and if you did, you probably dismissed it because why pay when you can get it for free? Did you even look to see if it was the same product? I doubt it.

It’s the same within business. If a decent CRM package costs anywhere north of £100 per month (as an example) why do you think you can get the same product with the same functionality and the same level of support for free? What are the hidden ‘costs’ of this free product? And if you could get all of this for nothing, wouldn’t we all try to get it?

More questions need to be asked by businesses about the free options they are choosing. How free is it really? What are the risks? What are the functionality compromises we will have to make? Is the free thing fit for purpose? Will it be fit for purpose in 3 years’ time? If not, then are we going to find that the naivety of the free system is going to hinder moving to a newer system? Will that hindrance bear any additional financial burden?

Free is never free and for businesses the costs can weigh heavy. With money and resources dwindling ever further within the charity sector, it’s imperative that smaller organisations closely question the wisdom of opting for solutions that seem a little too good to be true; because if you’re not careful it’ll be less of a goose that laid the golden egg and more of a Faustian pact.

To find out more about the cost of free and the more business-like alternative, call Julie or Charlie on 01462 713444 to chat through your ideas and discuss how PtG Business can help you find the best solutions to support your business.

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