A Win-Win Marketing Deal? I Think Not!

Posted on 10 January 2010

I’m mystified. A potential client (let’s call her Mary) recently contacted me, asking me to edit her monthly e-newsletter. She proposed that because she has no budget for marketing, she’d pay me for my services by referring others to me. Basically, she wanted me to edit her e-newsletter for free every month, and in exchange she’d recommend me to her readers. She was confident it would be “a win-win situation” for both of us.

Out of curiosity, I tweeted about that to seek comments from other self-employed service providers, and someone replied: “That’s not a client. That’s a sponger.”

I agree, because as I explained to Mary, that kind of deal just doesn’t work for me. I say pay me AND offer referrals. If I do a good job for you, I deserve fair payment from you for my work. Then, if you’re happy with me and my services, of course I’d welcome referrals (I’ll even ask you for them). And if I then do a good job for THOSE people, I expect them to pay me fairly. But by itself, referring others does not constitute payment.

Mary insisted that it would be a good deal for me because she’d mention me in her e-newsletter to her mailing list of 2,000 people. Sounds impressive, but are they the RIGHT 2,000 people for me? Are they even in the market for my services? Are they the decision-makers in their companies, and are they likely to be willing and able to pay me a fair price for my services? Mary couldn’t answer those questions.

She also commented that it would only take me “five minutes” to edit each issue of her e-newsletter. No, it will take me my 30+ years of experience!

What do YOU think? What do you say when potential clients propose deals like that to you?

2 responses to A Win-Win Marketing Deal? I Think Not!

  • Deborah says:

    Yep, I agree that they’re spongers. First of all, how many newsletters, no matter how short, take only 5 minutes to edit? Second, if it really DOES take only 5 minutes, surely she could pay for that (or whatever your minimum charge would be)! And of course you’re very savvy to ask whether or not her readers are the right people for your business. You should also ask about the stats on how many of her readers consistently open and read her newsletter.

  • Paul says:

    I’ve been pondering this situation recently as well. I know of quite a few small business owners who need some basic marketing help but don’t have the cash to pay for it. With the help they may ‘kick on’ and without it they will most likely fold. I’ve been trying to workout what is an equitable arrangement with no cash changing hands. Getting paid in shares seems like a good idea although I’ve yet to come up with a workable formula. Bartering for products is another pretty ancient solution. But if the company is doing OK and is just being super mean (not uncommon here) then I’d avoid the people altogether.

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