Business Failure Here! FREE!!

    September 10, 2000

I want to yell at someone or give ’em a good poke in the nose for this! How could they do this to me? What gives them the right to blow off my best customers, to rob me of potential business and make my clients angry at me? How dare they do this!! I’m just fuming and ready to explode! Don’t get too close to me right now!

Why I oughtta . . . what? Complain because a free service isn’t available? Threaten to sue them for having troubles of their own? Why don’t they have backup servers? Well, I guess it’s possible that *I* could at least provide a secondary free service to cover my assets. Those clients that planned to spend an hour of their valuable time to chat with me in the first place. Maybe I should have prepared for the worst so I don’t have to go apologize to everyone when the free chat services suddenly became unavailable.

OK, so maybe I ought to upgrade that chat room to the premium version, the one that costs a few bucks a month, the one without the advertising banners, the one with the customer service and support. The one that WORKS when I’ve invited over 3,000 people to come to a Grassroots Internet Marketing Forum and chat!

Maybe this will teach me that you can’t rely on free services. What does it cost me to fail to deliver on my promises?

The web has got us all relying on free services to run businesses and expecting those freebies to be trouble free and convenient at all times. I upgraded from the free internet access when I tired of their glaring ads across my web pages. I upgraded from the free autoresponders when they stopped working during a major promotion launched via press releases and direct mail campaigns. *That* cost the good-will of my clients that didn’t get responses from me as promised.

I will now upgrade to the paid version of the chat room with all the additional benefits of a paying customer, including the right to complain and lay blame and threaten the provider because they cost me potential new business and lost me those existing clients.

Take a look at the free services you use online and analyze them to see how a failure to perform would affect your bottom line.

How important are those free services you rely on? Are they risks to your business future? Note that ‘Terms of Service’ on the vast majority of free services online tell you outright that providers have no obligation to serve your needs if there are problems and that you have no recourse should your business fail because the FREE service has it’s costs after all.

We all have a budget to work within to operate a site profitably but would it cost you more if that free web host went down than it would cost to pay for your web hosting? If your email doesn’t get delivered because your free email account suffers from a system failure, would it hurt your sales or customer relations? If that online fax service stopped working when you were waiting for a big contract from a new client, would you be better off upgrading to the paid version of the service with more benefits?

My list host recently had some system trouble and locked me out for several days. I use the paid version of this listhost and when it didn’t work, I complained, loudly. I felt no hesitation to send emails to the support team, the company president or even the owner of the service. I yelled, ranted and ultimately got satisfaction from them because I’m not using the ad supported version for free, I’m paying good money and I demand support and answers to my complaints when the company fails to deliver. If they had lost my archive, I’d have some sort of recourse, legally.

Don’t gamble your business future on free services. Pay up front for those things that could catch up with you and bite you in the budget. The invaluable customer that will drop you if you fail to deliver is your biggest asset. Protect them and your reputation by using professional versions of those free services you count on to operate your online business.

We’ll reschedule that chat, now that we’ve paid for it — DOUBLE! Whatcha want fer free? GRRRRRRRR!!!

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at and blogs about SEO at
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.