Free Line Concepts: Pagan vs. Belcher/Deiss

I already wrote about the meaning (and importance) of the so-called Free Line – the line that separates the stuff you give away for free from the stuff you charge for. In recent research, I’ve come across two different concepts, that both work effectively, but treat the free line very differently.

This post is about those two methods and how you can implement them in your own marketing.

Eben Pagan Image Eben Pagan’s Massive Free Content

The expression “free line” was coined by Eben Pagan. He is an advocate of “pushing back the free line”. In other words: Give away tons of value for free, then charge a premium for your higher-end content.

Pagan definitely lives this philosophy. The most recent example of this can (still) be seen on the pre-launch blog for his latest product, Guru Blueprint. Not only did he give away massive value in about half a dozen videos before the product launch, he even continued updating the blog after the launch with some extras like an interview.

I recommend you go take a look at that blog. It shows the kind of free line content that most people are scared to give away, because it seems like “too much”. His product is about creating and selling information products and on the pre-launch blog, you can easily find enough information to start a successful info products business, if you apply the methods in the videos and use some initiative. This begs the question: Why would anyone buy the product if they’re already getting so much stuff for free? Since Guru Blueprint sold out in a few days, I’d say that for whatever reasons, Eben’s approach to the free line works.

Further Examples

Search for “Eben Pagan” or “David DeAngelo” (that’s his pen-name) on YouTube and you’ll find no shortage of further free-line content that Eben has produced. For example, here’s a channel where he’s giving away lots of great productivity advice in 14 videos.

Pros and Cons

This kind of free line content is one of the best ways to build a reputation, get lots of exposure (through sites like YouTube) and grow a mailing-list (if you put some of the free content “behind” an opt-in form). For long-term, large business projects, I reckon nothing beats Eben-style free content.

The problem with this method is that you need to have wide and deep knowledge of your subject matter, otherwise it’s impossible to apply. After all, the kind of content you’re giving away is equal to or more than many people put into their premium products. If you only know a little about a subject, that might be enough to put together a $7 ebook, but it won’t be nearly enough to create this kind of free line content.

In other words: You need to be an expert to make this happen.

Ryan Deiss/Perry Belcher’s Really Hot Tip

Perry Belcher, Ryan Deiss Image
Ryan Deiss and Perry Belcher are both extremely successful and well-known marketers who have partnered on many projects. I mention them both here, because I really don’t know where the “hot tip” comes from, but I’m pretty sure it’s one (or both) of those two guys.

The “hot tip” concept works like this: People have a very short attention span and are looking for instant gratification. So, don’t offer an entire ebook or complex training program for free. Offer one simple, really hot tip instead.

A good example of this is the million dollar napkin by Ryan Deiss. As you can see, the free tip you get for signing up fits on a napkin. You get a simple squeeze page that tells you what you’re about to get (and it’s clear that what you’re about to get is short and sweet) and you need to opt in to get to the next page and see the goodies.

Strangely enough, there are now multiple bonuses and downloads once you opt-in for the million dollar napkin, so it might not be the perfect example anymore. But the concept is clear: You don’t offer something huge and complex; you offer something short and cool.

Further Example

Ironically, the best example of the “hot tip” was created by none other than Eben Pagan and was called the “Kiss Test”. Unfortunately, it seems that it no longer exists in it’s original form.

Here’s how it worked: You arrive at the squeeze page and see that you can learn one simple technique that will help you tell with 100% certainty whether your date is ready to be kissed. Enter your name and e-mail to learn this simple technique.

That’s it.

If you opt-in, you arrive on the next page, where you read about the Kiss Test (which is only a few paragraphs).

Very simple and very powerful. Think about it: If you’re a guy in the dating market, you’ll instantly give your e-mail address to learn something like the Kiss Test!

Pros and Cons

The big advantage of this approach is that your freebie is relatively easy to create. Sure, you need to do some good research to find one tip that really has enough pulling power as a “hot tip”. The hot tip you’re giving away is like the first impression you make on your prospect, so if it’s a half-assed piece of advice or something that’s practically common knowledge, you’re losing your credibility and basically ruining any further efforts you make to market to your list.

Bottom Line

Essential for both free line approaches is that you build a backend that you can make money off of. The most basic form of a backend is simply your mailing list. You can use your free content to get people on your list and then market to them down the line. As an affiliate, using the “Hot Tip” method and then promoting affiliate offers is probably one of the easiest ways to start building a solid income-basis (did I just give away a big “secret”?).

If you do Pagan-style free content, then it’s almost a given that you need to have your own products to sell. However, in both cases, it’s ideal if you also build a simple funnel after the opt-in, i.e. you add “bonuses” or upsells to the thank-you page, maybe a downsell via exit-script etc. You get the idea.

How do you utilise free content? What do you need to know to get started with either of the above methods? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better marketer and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Michel says:

    Moving the freeline is such a great concept. In our current membership site launch the subscribers are thrilled that they get so much free content and we get daily emails, that they want the “whole thing” (and according to the surveys, they are willing to pay quite something…). And it rewards both sides, the user who gets more than he expects and me who can make people happy -a great base for an ongoing business relationship.

    • Shane says:

      Cool! Glad to hear the free-line concept is working out so well, for you. :)

  • Johnn says:

    This is a good distinction to make. I wrestle with this all the time. I have internalized all the advice out there about over-delivering. One page freebies become 10 page reports become 30 page ebooks because I am worried my freebie does not deliver enough.

    One tool I use to curb this tendency of mine is the project or product outline. I sketch out everything I want the project/product/business to be. Then I highlight in yellow what will be public (free), green for bonus content (at sign-up) and no highlight for the core premium content.

    Shane, any thoughts on what type of freebie works better at different product price points? For example, are Pagan-style freebies required for $500 products, or would a Hot Tip one-pager work well or better for a $500 product?

    • Shane says:

      Hi Johnn,

      Thanks for your comment!
      While I can’t give you any advice based on test-data (mainly because I don’t have any high-priced products in my current portfolio), I can say this: Quality always trumps quantity. Generally, the higher the price of a product, the more convincing most people will need, before they decide to purchase. Therefore, it would make sense that “more” freebie is better in that case.
      However, if you deliver a few very short but very impressive pieces of “proof”, that might be more effective than a huge ebook or an hour long video. And by proof, I mean proof of competence, not earnings screenshots. You want to deliver content that makes people go “wow, this guy knows what he’s talking about”. I believe this is more important than “wow, this guy is making tons of cash”/”wow, this guy is really good at faking clickbank screenshots”.

      • Johnn says:

        Thanks for the reply, Shane.

        Do you have a system or method where you research what people’s biggest concerns are in any given niche? Matching those against Hot Tips or Pagan-freebies seems like a winning system to me.

        Keyword research only takes you so far (unless I am doing it wrong). I want to learn what people’s worries and fears and chief issues are.

        Forums research is great, but being left-brained, I prefer a system. Like, five universal questions I can ask myself and then look for answers to in a niche’s blogs and forums to uncover worries and fears every time.

        Sometimes my eyes glaze from all the skimming, but a task-oriented discovery system would work best for how I think and do stuff.

      • Shane says:

        My “system” consists of just asking people directly. Polls in forums are one way to do that. Another way is to offer people short 1 on 1 coaching sessions where you can ask about their biggest issues. Finally, my favourite one: You build a small list (you can use a small freebie that might not be that well researched in terms of the market’s needs for this), then start communicating with them and surveying them.
        I don’t have anything like a 5-step approach to do this. You do have to know how to ask questions and what kind of questions you can ask and get useful answers to (some questions people just can’t answer accurately about themselves), but apart from that, it’s just asking as directly as possible.

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