Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) is currently attracting large amounts of interest due to its new-found wealth. As part of a new market strategy to make the club a global brand they have completely overhauled their website, the cost of which has amounted reportedly to a £2,000,000 investment.
The biggest change to their site is the availability of free video content, such as interviews, match highlights and features for which they previously charged. Although it is possible to spend a lot of time discussing the clean design and minimal advertising that the website offers, what has impressed users most is this free video content.
With the nature of the current recession, subscription-based services are on the decline as the demise of Irish TV sports broadcast Setanta indicates. Perhaps a large percentage people who previously subscribed to the MCFC video service would have cancelled their subscription due to the current economic downturn as well.
This clearly provided MCFC with two options - either stop producing and maintaining their video site as it no long provided a viable revenue stream or provide content free of charge as a branding and customer relationship exercise.
Giving something away for free is hardly a new marketing trick, but MCFC’s web strategy does raise the question of whether other sites should follow suit?
Give something away for free, turn a profit in return
During a recession opportunity does still exist and often the businesses that emerge strongest on the other side are those who continued to invest in marketing. Many small business enterprises (SME’s) charge for content; of those companies many have done so in a bid to generate revenue streams other than on-site advertising.
Is making content free of charge viable for SMEs?
If your business is in the position where your paid content is no longer providing a viable revenue stream, can you afford to make it free?
You must also consider if the availability of free content will support your main product offering or service and help build brand awareness, customer relationships or direct revenue generation.
If, like MCFC, you are trying to reach a global or national audience and drive more traffic to your site, then free content could offer you a strong chance to capitalize on a whole host of benefits it provides, but only if you go about it the right way and your business is tailored to support it.
Many SME’s with a web presence do operate nationwide, or in some cases globally, but few have the free national and international advertising that has helped MCFC to drive visitors to their new site.
If you are lucky enough to receive high volumes of traffic, you may find that free content will encourage repeat visitors. Even if this is not the case, the current economic climate may provide you with the right opportunity to strengthen your market position though your on-site content and help you develop a new unique selling point (USP).
If you do not currently receive high volumes of site traffic you must decide if your business can support the investment which is needed to promote your new USP either via online marketing channels or traditional media.
Whether the recession reaches a low point or we begin to see a return economic growth, there will be many opportunities to capitalize on the reduced marketing of your competitors. How many companies will choose to strengthen their positions by offering services free of charge in bid gain a bigger piece of the pie post-recession?