Free Content Does Not Mean Low Value

I am well aware that readers come to my blog because I freely share what I feel is basic and common sourcing and recruiting knowledge and information. Quite honestly, that’s one of the major reasons why I write in the first place – to provide value and to help others.

The ROI of Cheap Training

I am not sure if you had the opportunity to read this recent post on ERE titled The ROI of Cheap Training, but I recommend that you do so if you haven’t, as I will be addressing some of the points raised in the article – most specifically point #5.

Joshua Letourneau responded to the ERE post with well articulated points (see the comments section), and I commend him for speaking up and “keeping it real” – it’s refreshing and unfortunately not common enough in the staffing and recruiting industry.  I am sure that Joshua is not alone in his perception of how point #5 in the article came across – in fact, I am stunned that there have not been more responses like his. Perhaps no one else has had the courage to speak up.

Negative Campaigns

When I read the ERE post, I was surprised to see statements such as, “Look at the source of the free webinars and inexpensive workshops from these self-proclaimed experts,” “Where did they come out of the woodwork?,” and “These “overnight gurus” are looking for quick cash in the meantime to cover their bills.” Those comments immediately struck me as unnecessarily negative, disparaging, and anti-competitive.

Imagine if you saw a commercial for Coca Cola in which they warn consumers to “Look at the source of these less expensive soft drinks and those offering self-proclaimed delicious beverages,” or “Where did these new beverages come from?”

How would that be perceived?

Remember not too long ago when Google’s CEO called Twitter a “poor man’s email system?” That wasn’t taken so well – read the comments section of the post. Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this.

Cheap?

With regard to the term “cheap,” I think that many people perceive it to carry a negative connotation (see definition 3a). “Low cost” or “less expensive” would be preferable, as they don’t carry with them any hint of a negative value judgment.

When it comes to training, one thing to keep in mind is that there are some very knowledgeable and experienced people providing free training who, for various reasons, actually can’t charge anyone for sharing their knowledge.

Others are offering affordable/low cost training because they are relatively new to the “training circuit.” I don’t believe any of the top trainers today in ANY industry started their career off by charging top-dollar as relative unknowns.

Bear in mind that in many industries it is not uncommon for new stores/businesses/products to offer free samples or low cost promotions to allow consumers to judge the quality and the value of the service/product for themselves before buying the product or singing up for a service commitment.

There’s Room at the Top

Some people offering free or low-cost training today could actually end up being the “top billers” on the training circuit a few years from now. Who is to say? Who has the right to judge people offering training services at various price points? Let their content speak for itself, and let the people who attend the free or low cost webinars decide the value of the content.

Free = Low Quality?

There is nothing intrinsically low-value about “free” or lower-cost products. If you entered a contest and won a brand new Lexus valued at $50,000 – is it cheap or low quality just because you did not have to pay for it? And at $50,000, is a Lexus any less well made or engineered than a car that costs 3-4X as much? Emotions and perceptions aside, no.

There is of course absolutely nothing wrong with charging good money for good training – you can’t expect to get free golf lessons from Tiger Woods. But if Tiger was feeling charitable and did offer golf instruction for free, would it be “cheap” and low ROI?

Perceived vs. Actual Value

In many cases, people pay a premium for a name or a brand, even though the product isn’t actually better than competing products. Try comparing the performance stats of a Nissan GTR @ $80,000 vs. any ultra-premium brand costing 2-3X as much (Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.). Don’t even get me started on fashion (like $1200 purses!). Sometimes you DON’T get what you pay for unless you’re just happy paying for the brand.

Embrace Change and New Voices

I recently came across this post by Victor Keegan, and while he is referencing the music and film industries, the concepts apply uncannily to the emergence of new ideas and talent in the recruiting and staffing industry:

“We are now living in a digital age of instant and cheap availability, meshing and remixing and of mass creativity, with increasing numbers of creators prepared to give their services free (as in much of the open source movement).

Talent is now starting to come spontaneously from below and being judged by its peers around the world rather than having to go through the rusting filtration plant of the quasi-monopolistic moguls of the music or publishing industries.

The creative economy is vitally important, but the way to nurture it is to follow the winds of the information revolution and not the desire of existing corporations to preserve a business model that has been turned upside down by the revolution taking place in virtually every creative industry.”

Conclusion

The ERE article on the ROI of Cheap Training raises some strong and valid points. But for me, the entire post was unfortunately overshadowed by the unnecessarily negative angle of point #5.

I agree whole heartedly with Joshua Letourneau’s opinion that our industry should be embracing new sourcing, recruiting, and HR voices, not stunting them. As a community, let’s encourage people to come out of the woodwork and share their knowledge and experience with the rest of us, for free or for fee.

Oh, and by the way, the last time I checked – the ROI on free can technically be almost infinite.

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About Glen Cathey

Glen Cathey is a sourcing and recruiting thought leader with over 16 years of experience working in large staffing agency and global RPO environments (>1,000 recruiters and nearly 100,000 hires annually). Starting out his career as a top producing recruiter, he quickly advanced into senior management roles and now currently serves as the SVP of Strategic Talent Acquisition and Innovation for Kforce, working out of their renowned National Recruiting Center with over 300 recruiters. Often requested to speak on sourcing and recruiting best practices, trends and strategies, Glen has traveled internationally to present at many talent acquisition conferences (5X LinkedIn Talent Connect - U.S. '10, '11, '12, Toronto '12, London '12, 2X Australasian Talent Conference - Sydney & Melbourne '11, '12, 6X SourceCon, 2X TruLondon, 2X HCI) and is regularly requested to present to companies (e.g., PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen Hamilton, Citigroup, etc.). This blog is his personal passion and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone other than himself.

  • http://www.techtrak.com Maureen Sharib

    “Oh, and by the way, the last time I checked – the ROI on free can technically be almost infinite.”

    Good point!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/jennydevaughn Jenny DeVaughn

    Great examples and I’m glad that you are willing to share your complimentary content that I highly value.
    On a separate note, I would love to get free golf lessons from Tiger Woods.

  • Boolean Black Belt

    Thanks Maureen and Jenny! I’m proud to have you as readers!

  • http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/joshua-letourneau/fc-talent-manifesto-sex-lies-and-recruiting-0 Joshua Letourneau

    Glenn, I was doing a search and just came across this. Thanks for the kind words – I need to add you to my reader.

    I do admit I was blown away by what I read, but more importantly, that the PR department of the company in question came out (that employs/contracts the authors) and tried to smooth things over before failing hard on the attempt. I certainly got a laugh out of the botched housecleaning attempt. I’m not a PR guy, but I know a 3-pitch strikeout when I see one.

    I don’t know if many do the same, but I am fortunate to get my recruiting/sourcing-related reading suggestions from the Recruitosphere twitter stream. With all the RTs (which largely become a popularity contest), I typically read an article when I see it show up a few times. This is probably not the best strategy for me because we all wind up reading the same stuff with much the same flavor :)

    Outside of that, my reader is mainly other blogs that don’t get quite the number of RTs (i.e. Freakonomics, Mark Cuban’s blog, Malcom Gladwell’s blog, etc.)

    Keep up the great work.

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