Pulling a Radiohead

October 10th is the one-year anniversary of the release of Radiohead's In Rainbows. Why should we care?

This landmark release prompted marketing-types to begin using the band in conjunction with the description of an interesting revenue model: "Pay what you want."

In Rainbows was first released as a free digital download. The band asked fans to pay what they thought the record was worth. The model was followed by others, such as magazines Paste and Good, and more recently by textbook author Noel Capon, who is letting students pay for a textbook after they take the class, and then only paying what they feel it was worth.

A gimmick, maybe, but gutsy.

Let's take a look at what we can take from this and implement in the way we market professional services:

1. Consider what your client would do if you asked them to pay an hourly rate after you provided your services.

You should be so sure of the service that you provide that you'd be willing to forgo payment upfront. Plan a results-oriented strategy that can set you apart from your peers. That means not only 'showing' your clients your value, your expertise, and your successes in your online marketing; it means accountability and the possibility of having them pay based on results.

2. Remember the adage "Sell the blades, give the razors away for free."

There are things that you can provide at no cost that can help your online presence. You could fill your site with useful links. You could give away a downloadable copy of an estate planning guide. You can email a list of Top Ten things to think about when choosing a divorce lawyer. If you're in insurance or taxes, perhaps a list of compliance points. You get the idea. The point is not to bait a trap - the point is to attract interest and earn trust before you try to close the deal.

3. PR is invaluable.

The buzz generated from these marketing efforts, be they gimmicks or sincere attempts to connect with a target audience, is real. In Rainbows sold well, topping the Billboard 200 upon its retail release. Good had a subscription spike in addition to being featured in The New York Times , and Capon's book - while the term isn't over and so the jury is still out - at least made it into a Wired featured story, which was then blurbed on Fark. And of course, they all landed here. ;)