That’s exactly what I said to my fellow entrepreneurs at a networking event in London - my audience fell silent.

“No, no, no! I didn’t mean THAT!”, I reassured them eventually.

Let me explain.

You’ve got to ask yourself whether using the F*** word makes your business look cheap. No, you didn’t misread that last sentence but don’t worry, the F*** word we’re talking about here is, FREE.

By using the F*** word in your marketing you could be detracting from the perceived value of what your business can offer. There are F*** offers everywhere: free consultation, free trial session, free event, free whitepaper, free eBook, free delivery, and that old favourite: Buy One Get One Free, which is disparagingly referred to by many in marketing as B.O.G.O.F.

The F*** word is now considered by some to be so overused it has lost all impact, and can make products and services appear cheap.  Is that the case, and if so what marketing actions should you be taking?

What Message Does the F*** Word Convey?

A free event or webinar could be perceived as having no value because it has no price. Will people want it, and will they give their email address, if they don’t see a value?

What about other free offers. A free trial of services could call into question the value of those services as they can be given free. Or, will prospects believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and ignore the offer.

An offer of free delivery will probably entice some people, but many others will assume the cost is hidden elsewhere in the deal because delivering an item has a cost to the business.

My key point is that the F*** word sounds cheap. It can devalue what your services, and project an unsophisticated image of your business, which could be contrary to your business values and marketing aspirations.

What About B.O.G.O.F

Buy one get one free offers are slightly different. The product being offered free derives its perceived value from the cost of the one being paid for. The customer views both the items as having the same value. In the right sector, and when targeting certain demographics, the B.O.G.O.F offer can still be effective in generating sales.

So apart from specific sectors and certain demographics, should you still be using the F*** word?

Use the C*** word instead (complimentary, of course!)

The best solution is to actually charge for your free services – that’s what I always recommend to my members and do in my business as well. It is surprising that charging even a small amount can have quiet an impact on your event, for example. It makes people commit because they perceive you are giving them value.

Realistically, there are times when you will still need to offer something for free. In this case, replacing the F*** word with something that has a bit more class and sophistication.

I’m referring to the C*** word – complimentary.

I recommend “complimentary”; not only does it sound better it offers a hidden compliment as well. A great word for business owners that use embedded or subliminal messages.

The offer of a complimentary eBook, or a complimentary assessment of your business, gives the impression of a service or product with a value. Unlike the F*** word, complimentary implies that there is usually a charge for this free inducement. By adding a few customer benefits of the free, sorry complimentary, gift, the offer can be made even more enticing.

And by the way, mind your grammar. I recently spotted an invitation to a “complementary” event! Oh, dear. Basic mistakes like that won’t do your business any good.

Should You stop using the F*** Word?

Should you replace the F*** word in all your business marketing? While a complimentary business assessment sounds like an offer worth considering, buy one get one complimentary doesn’t have the same punch as buy one get one free.

The answer to whether you should still use the F*** word is, know your customers.

Learn which words and offers get the desired reactions, test your theories, and refine your marketing messages. When you know your customers, your marketing will generate results. In my experience, in professional services the F*** is not a good choice and I always recommend replacing it.

Don’t take my word for it. Test the above theory on replacing the F*** word with complimentary, and tell me about your results by leaving a comment below.

Peter Lynagh runs peer group learning groups in both London and Kingston for business leaders and entrepreneurs who are willing and ABLE to invest in themselves and grow their business. Membership is by invitation only and if you are interested in our … wait for it, complimentary session with Peter please get in touch on 01375 893412 or email him at [email protected].

Photo credit: geralt (Pixabay)

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