LinkedIn and When “Free” is not “Free”

I drank a fucking boatload of Jack Daniel’s. To the point where they sent me a deed for one square foot of land in Tennessee so that I could officially be a Tennessee squire. I offered to do an ad for them after that, and I got a very nice letter back saying, “Bill, we love you, but this shit sells itself.  – Bill Maher

A couple days ago I got an email from LinkedIn offering a ‘Free Month of LinkedIn Premium’.  Hmm, I thought, LinkedIn is really the shit when is come to getting found by employers.  I can honestly say that absolutely every opportunity brought to me in the last couple years has come through LinkedIn.  More interestingly, in every occasion, it was the actual employer, not a headhunter that contacted me.

<SIDENOTE: This is bad news if you’re a headhunter or monster.com)

All of this exposure came through a regular LinkedIn profile and without any active outreach on my part.  I’m actually quite content where I’m at.  So before I get on my rant about LinkedIn, first let me say this: If you don’t have a complete profile set-up on LinkedIn, stop reading this now and go do it.

Now!

I’m Serious.

I’ll stop typing until you get back…

See wasn’t that easy?

Ok, here’s the rant I promised and if you listen close there’s a lesson here for all Marketers.

So I got this email from LinkedIn…

 

Notice the call to action…

Free is sometimes not free

Wow! Personalized and everything! It’s like they said “Dean we know you like us and we like you too. And since we like each other so much we’re gonna do you a favor.”  So with the bait set, I started thinking that as good a LinkedIn has been, maybe I could get even more from it with LinkedIn Premium.  I knew there were other paid versions of LinkedIn, but hadn’t thought too much about it until this email arrived.  Bravo LinkedIn Email team.  I’ll bite and give you a click-through.  Nothing to lose right?

So what do I see next?

LinkedIn Premium Options

Ok, this is good; it’s clearly spelling out the differences between the various levels of LinkedIn accounts.  I can clearly see what I have, and what I’m missing out on.  I’m still in your web LinkedIn!  Great job so far.  Let’s get that “Free” trial….

There's no such thing as a free lunch

Wait…what the f#&K is this??? It’s like, a checkout page, with like, credit card info and shit.  I thought this was free?  I mean it said “free” all over the place?  When does “free” mean “give us your credit card info?”  The answer of course is “free” means give us your credit card when it’s not an offer to try a solution more so than an offer to test your memory.

It’s at that point I notice the subtle reminder…

Linkedin Fine Print

Well LinkedIn, this is where I jump off.  Geez and you were so close.

I wish us Marketing folks would quit it with these shady tricks (that’s all they are – tricks).  You see,

“Free” is “Free”.

“Free” is not surcharges, hidden fees, shipping & handling, fine print.

“Free” is “Free”.

“Free” is not “Free*”

* Discount applies to the promotional period only. Your card will start being charged when the promotional period has ended.

“Free” is “Free”

“Free” is not “Hey we’ll let you try it but not before you give us your credit card info so we can unscrupulously charge you in 30 days because by then you’ve forgotten about even signing up for the trial and our research department said that while 38% of you will be pissed off and call us to bitch and complain causing some bad PR that we’ll smooth over with a slick social media camnpaign, 62% of you won’t even notice the charge and it will be a revenue windfall for us which is important cuz we’re a public company and need to grow revenue so our shareholders will be happy.”

 ###

As a Marketer I want to offer a good product at a fair price with great service and support.  As a consumer I want the same things.  As a Marketer if I have to employ “tricks” to sell my product, it means that my product can’t stand on its own.  As a Marketer, it also means that I’m lazy and resorting the same bag of tricks that I detest as a consumer.

Let’s be better than that.  Let’s promote our products and services the way we would want them promoted to us.  Let’s forget that 3 pt. font exists and stop it with the fine print.  Let’s stop thinking about fooling the customer and think about how to provide value to the customer.

In the end, LinkedIn, a service I love, missed an opportunity to give me a taste of LinkedIn Premium with no-strings attached.  They could have given me the upgrade “truly free” for 30 days, shown me value, and then pitched me.   Instead, they gambled, asked for credit card info and hoped I’d forget the ticking clock of the trial and somehow not notice the recurring charges.  And that hurts my heart.

Message:

To LinkedIn: Your product is better than that, you don’t need to resort to “Trick Marketing”

To Marketers: If you need to resort to “Trick Marketing” to sell your product, try instead to make your product so good it doesn’t need tricks.  Or as wise old Jack Daniels might say: “Make the shit sell itself”.

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About DeanShaw

Cutting Through the Bullshit So You Don't Have To

Posted on September 15, 2012, in Communications, LinkedIn, Promotions & Contests and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Yeah, I got the offer too.
    Maybe if our Klout scores were higher we’d get complimentary premium accounts.

    • Not sure our Klout scores will ever be high enough to get us anything 😛 In this case though I probably would have tried a Premium account of it was truly ‘free’ but I not gonna mess with the inevitability of me forgetting to cancel and having to try and get a refund. I don’t need that kind of hassle in my life.

  2. I always take free trials, enter my credit card info and make a note on my calendar to cancel 3-4 days BEFORE my 30 days runs out. I’ve done this with Netflix, HuluPro, JUJU among others. Its just about being diligent. Yeah, it stinks that they’re trying to rip people off but if YOU’RE diligent, you can get free stuff for a month – its worth it to me. 🙂 Just a thought.

  3. Well written. My thoughts exactly! In this age of transparency and honesty, why the heck should I even need a premium account!!!? Doesn’t this unfairly put the folks with a bigger wallet ahead of the more talented folks with less? I disagree with you on their product however. I personally am not a fan, I see a lot of room for improvement and their updates are far fewer and spaced out for a tech company their size. If their product was good enough, it would sell itself. But clearly its not and they have to resort to other tricks. End of rant 🙂

    • I love it when you rant. There’s always room for improvement for any product or service and its current free solution more than fill my need and is absolutely essential for anyone who’s career-minded. I might try the premium version some day….

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