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Help the Curve: your ideas needed. Please.

By on April 25, 2013
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I’m in the final stretch of writing The Curve, my book on how to make money when everything is going free.

The heart of the argument is that free is not something to be frightened of, or fought. There is no point in spending a lot of money on litigation and technology solutions because the biggest threat to your business is not consumers deciding they want stuff for free: it is your competitors figuring out how to give stuff away for free and still make lots of money. At that point, all the litigation and DRM in the world isn’t going to help you.

The Curve is the answer. It involves embracing the power of the Internet to reach as wide an audience as possible. Then harness the other power of the Internet, the ability to build one-to-one relationships with your customers to figure out what they want and let them spend lots of money on things they really value. In between, technology solutions like CRM, analytics and so on help you move people from the free end of the Curve to the True Fan end.

I believe that this applies to all businesses that have a consumer-facing component, from tractor making to TV and everything inbetween.It’s why content marketing is such a big thing at the moment, although most content marketers have no idea how what they are doing fits into the Curve, and so are just wasting money.

The problem is that my background is so heavily games. In the current draft of the Curve, I have 40-50 examples of businesses or artists who are doing a curve model well. Half of them are from the games industry.  I’ve got the AppStore and Bigpoint, Supercell and Nimblebit, Stronghold Kingdoms and New Star Soccer. Farmville. Echobazaar, Runescape and Natural Motion. Double Fine and FTL.

It’s too many.

I have a bunch of examples from other industries, but the games examples are overbalancing. So that is where I need your help. I need examples of businesses or creators who give great stuff away to start a relationship and then move people along the curve to being megafans. I need makers of kitchenware who have a marvellous collection of how-to guides on their website. I need a wine mercha t who helps you appreciate wine and builds a relationship with you on the way. I need examples from jewellery, from fashion, from making cars or tractors or garden sheds. I need more examples.

My deadline is in 3 weeks.

So this is my plea to you. Who is doing free-to-play right in the physical world? Who is using the power of free to find customers and start a conversation with them? Who is moving them along the demand curve until they start spending tens, hundreds, thousands of dollars on things they truly value?

Can you give me some ideas that you have experienced or seen? Send them to me at [email protected], or just write them in the comments.

I will be very grateful.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • Roland Collins

    This may not be the best example, but I spent the last 25 years integrating people with disabilities ( mostly with down syndrome) into the workplace. We always asked perspective employers to give candidates with disabilities a try, and at no cost to them. In all cases, the employers had little expectations of hiring beyond the initial trial period. Surprisingly about 65% of placements ended up with permanent positions at competitive wages. We were marketing emotional attachment not top performing employees. We were quite successful using this approach with the Federal Public Service in Canada. After a number of successful years we were awarded the public service’s highest distinction for “valuing and supporting employees”.

  • Hi Nicholas, I went to a winery in the Barossa Valley, near Adelaide, South Australia. They had a full bar with a stunning view over the vine fields. Customers could look at the menu and sample any of their wines in a proper glass, for free. It felt like more than your usual sample, you could pretty much stay there for an hour, sample every wine, and leave without buying a thing. Although of course, most people did leave with a bottle, or twelve 😉

  • Sik

    Does Bandcamp count? You can listen to music for free from the site, or you can pay to download and store the music in your system. The artist gets to decide how much to charge (if at all, or even “pay what you want” if he/she so wishes). In other words, you pay for convenience.

    That said, I’ll be blunt: don’t be surprised that games overbalance it, they have done it much better than anything else so far. Moreover, games have always been the main reason for the advances in commodity hardware, which in turn directly influence business models. On top of that they directly interact with the players, so they’re certainly more prone to be a good testbed for this kind of business.

  • The one that immediately springs to mind is dropbox (although I expect you already have that one?). Nevertheless I think it does ‘freemium’ very well in terms of rewarding you with extra GB’s for getting friends to join etc.

    I guess Timeshare people might be worth briefly mentioning in passing given they seem to rely largely on ‘free to play’ in the sense they give you free stuff/meals/holidays and off the back of that try sell you stuff in the same way f2p games do.

    Finally, a bit of a niche example but Sweet Water Brewing company in Atlanta (http://sweetwaterbrew.com/brewery/tours/) do free tours of their brewery, let you try small samples free and you can buy six ‘5.5oz’ (that always end up just being rounded up to half a pint) ‘samples’ and a ‘sweetwater’ pint glass for $10 while there which is well below the normal bar price (I expect simply their cost price) and was enough to get me (on the very rare occasions I actually drink beer) to order Sweet Water beers while in Atlanta.