Would You Like Free Internet with that Coffee?

Living in Silicon Valley I had assumed free Internet access was standard operating procedure for every coffee shop in America.

Apparently not.

On a recent trip to the East Coast I stopped by a Starbucks only to find out they charge for Internet access. I was shocked. I walked out. Is this normal for Starbucks? It is very unlikely I will visit another Starbucks. That's how important free wireless is to me. It's principle.

And I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. So if you multiply my lost business to Starbucks on that particular day (probably around $7 - $10) times the thousands of consumers who feel the same way I do about free wireless that equates to big business - lost.

In the 24/7, work-from-anywhere, got-to-be-connected world we live in I am amazed at how many businesses simply don't get the importance of free wireless. Offering (free) wireless is a business draw - not an operating cost and not another product line. Smart marketer's use free wireless to improve the brand, attract new customers and build loyalty.

But this post isn't just about coffee and free wireless.

As a marketer you need to be very careful about what you decide to charge "extra" for versus what you "include". One is a new product line/revenue stream while the other is an investment in the value of the brand. These can be very difficult decisions. Some questions to ponder:
  1. Who is the likely target market for this new product and how is it different than the target market for our other products?
  2. How much revenue / profit can be made on the new offering if we charge extra for it? This year, next year, five years.
  3. How much of this revenue / profit will come from existing customers?
  4. Will this revenue take away business from other product line(s) or tarnish our brand?
  5. How many "new" customers will this new offering bring us?
  6. Will these new customers purchase other products/services from us?
  7. Does the new product require a separate and/or increased marketing budget or can we promote it via existing campaigns?
  8. Will charging extra cannibalize revenue from our other product line(s)?
  9. If we include the new product/feature at no cost (to add value to our core brand) will it: (a) result in more revenue from existing customers?(b) attract new customers?(c) Improve the loyalty of our customers?(d) give us a competitive / strategic advantage?
  10. What is the competition doing and how will our competition respond? Can/will they match our decision, use it against us, etc.?
I can think of quite a few additional questions and I'm sure you can to. The point is to give serious thought to what you charge extra for and not let short-term greed cloud your judgment.

BTW, this same line of questioning applies to decisions about whether or not to require registration for your site's content. I can't tell you how many white papers, articles, etc. I have avoided downloading because they require complex registrations. Sure the content is "free" but a prospect's time equates to money so there is a perceived cost to the prospect.

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