A friend of mine was telling me how she wants to start a paid meditation course.
I whipped out my marketing brain and asked my favourite question:
How are you going to sell that stuff?
Her reply:”We’ll make the core service available for free and make money with upsells”.
Books, CDs, incense, meditation mats and comfy linen clothing, that sort of thing.
On the surface it looks like a good idea but actually it isn’t.
I told her: “So you want to be Ryanair”.
She went kind of pale.
Ever heard of Ryanair?
It’s an Irish low-budget airline serving a number of European cities.
They are one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest. They give away their core service – international flights – almost for free.
This is of course good news for travelers.
But selling international flights at $60 a seat is of course no way to make a profit.
So, Ryanair turns a profit by way of in-flight upsells: Food, drink, jewellery, gadgets – whatever purchase they can bully you into.
Because make no mistake: Ryanair is a total dick.
A flight with them exposes you to one sales pitch after another, almost without stop.
Every time you open a book, or close your eyes, or tell your kid to stop putting chewing gum on the seat – BAM, another ad comes over the PA system. REALLY VERY LOUDLY, TOO.
I’ve flown with them a few times but the sheer aggression of their marketing put me off so badly, I’m never boarding with them again.
It’s one thing to be marketed to in return for discounts, freebies or low rates.
But it’s perfectly aggravating to be put through insanely loud, shouty, aggressive and pushy ads for the entire duration of the flight.
But given that in-flight purchases come with such high prices, they basically have no choice.
If they want to make a profit on that stuff, they have to use aggressive marketing.
But there’s another reason: If you attract people (lure them in, more like) with free or very cheap stuff, you’ll attract people who don’t want to spend money.
And those are exceptionally hard to sell anything to.
Which is why Ryanair has no choice but to totally disrespect their customers, slam them into buying overpriced stuff, and generally annoy the living hell out of anyone who takes a seat.
Just because their business model starts with ‘nearly free’.
I don’t know what my friend is planning now, but I sure hope she won’t take the Ryanair approach.
She’ll have a tough time making a profit, and she’ll probably end up pissing off anyone who comes in for a free meditation.
Free isn’t bad – free can work really well as part of a paid service. Buy something, get something for free.
But if your business model is based on free stuff, with your profit coming from upsells, you’ll have a hard time making that profit.
Even if you get the best salespage possible.