Quick Takes | Is Free Ever Worth It?

Summary
Business managers and their teams are usually skeptical of “free trials”, and reputed free goods or services. In the past free offers frequently disguised a hard-sell pitch. Fortunately, the Internet, entrepreneurial spirit and technical brilliance have coalesced to create a vast array of quality, free information products and services that can keep business teams informed, sharing, collaborating, and organized at no cost to the organization, and little impact on IT*.

Is it Worth It?

If you get what you pay for, what do you get when you don’t pay? “Nothing” or not much is the response that may have popped into your mind, it did mine. Direct marketing core tenets have held that people perceive items that are “free” of low or no value, so don’t devalue your product by giving it away. But the Internet has broken this rule, along with so many other aspects of doing business. Free trials have become the ubiquitous norm. A thirty day free trial is nice, but are there any quality products or services out there that are truly “free”? To my surprise there are, and I’d like to share some that I use. Whether you’re a Sales or Marketing director for a F500, a middle-market CFO, or a small business owner, these are options worth investigating to improve productivity, encourage internal and external knowledge sharing and collaboration, and to keep yourself and your team better informed. These services don’t cost anything, and may require little or no IT involvement to use*. For example, corporate sales people, spread out across the country may be reluctant to schedule conference calls using the company ”call-in”service, or online collaboration using an expensive corporate tool, to request information or help. Most smaller businesses can’t afford these enterprise tools. Knowledge sharing, and simple demos can support remote teams, or external vendors and partners to shorten project and sales cycles. Access to and use of the tools below may be a quick way to encourage frequent interaction and information sharing at all levels of an organization.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In the spirit of April’s Earth Day, and the “reduce, reuse, recycle” adage, here is a short list of free services which can enhance business and personal productivity, with no impact on project or department budgets. I can personally testify to using all the services listed regularly without complications, or endangering the performance of my laptop or my office network. Managers well versed in all things digital may have already discovered these resources If you are among the digital cognoscenti please comment, and suggest your own personal favorites.

Foxboro’s Free Stuff Links

Productivity
Free Desktop and Screen Sharing – no need for WebEx or Go2Meeting
http://www.crossloop.com/mktg/learnmore_free?affid=xl&src=hp
Free Conference Calls
http://www.freeconference.com/
Free File Sharing – great for really large files, multiple project team members
http://www.dropbox.com
For demos, training and howtos -Instant screenshots, screencasts with audio
http://www.techsmith.com/jing
Free Meeting Request Service with Conference Call-in – no Exchange server required
http://www.timebridge.com
Free ToDolists, Project Organization, Productivity
http://www.toodledo.com/
http://www.basecamp.com (30-day free trial)
Free Email campaigns and newsletters – for 12,000 addresses or less
http://www.mailchimp.com/pricing/
Information
Free Research, How-tos, White Papers, Case Studies, Webinars
http://www.toptenreviews.com/
http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-studies/
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/freestuff.html
http://people-press.org/
http://www.shoutlet.com/library/
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/
http://www.gallup.com/
http://www.mediapost.com/publications
Website Analysis Tools
http://woorank.com
http://websitegrader.com
http://www.seoquake.com/
Let me know if you have any free products or services that can be added to the list, and be sure to share this list with your friends in start-ups!
*Note: Company firewalls, mail server and web restrictions are unique to the company, may prevent access to the sites listed from within the company’s network, or require special permissions. Ask your IT help desk for information if you are accessing the internet from inside your company network.

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