Are you Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?

Santa Claus has a reputation for being the most generous of folk.

But is he really?

After all, to get anything from Santa, so the story goes, you better be on his Nice List. If you’re on the Naughty List? Nothing for you.

Contrast this with the Easter Bunny who also visits once a year loaded with giveaways.

But the Bunny doesn’t keep a list of who is ‘entitled’ to receive. He has handouts for everyone.

Are you the Easter Bunny, offering value to anyone who is interested?

Or are you Santa, only giving to those who meet certain criteria?


It can be risky and feel somewhat galling to give away our hard-earned knowledge to people who may never buy from us.

‘I’m not giving any more away for free. I’ve worked hard to get this far and it’s time I was able to earn something from it.’

For ‘Magda’, it was too much to ask. I don’t want to betray client confidences so I’ve changed her name and some of the details for this article. But her story is not uncommon. 

Magda came to me for a consult after starting a solo venture based on her passion for art. Before having children, she had been successful in the corporate world and was paid well for what she knew and could do.

Now she’d invested time and money to educate herself about a new field, and armed with a novel approach to selling artworks, she was ready for success.

But she was finding that getting the word out about her venture was more than hard – it felt like shouting to an empty room. She wanted to know if I could help.

I could see that she had personality in spades, a solid business idea and potentially something that buyers could love.

So as well as my usual suggestions about things like consistent blogging and being helpful in online forums in her field, I also recommended she started running workshops.

Workshops where she could share her passion and expertise with an interested audience.

Workshops where people could get to know and like her and see that she has so much to offer.

Workshops that people would talk about with others, spreading the word and doing her marketing for her.

Free workshops.

That one word stopped the whole conversation – free.

And then Magda told me she was tired of giving away her knowledge; that people should be prepared to pay for what she knows.

We DO deserve to make a living from what we know, and if we are patient and generous it will happen, just not always on the timeframe we’re working to.

It takes time for audiences to find us, like us and trust us. Respecting their attention with something genuine and valuable, something unique – us – is what will bring people back time and again.

‘When someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious… Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.’ 

That’s Seth Godin, who is passionate about the rights of the audience and the value for businesses in respecting those rights. You can read the full article on Seth’s Blog. 

He’s not the only one of course advocating for greater generosity in marketing – for being worthwhile for our audiences. The message is clear:

In today’s attention-scarce marketplace, what you know is most valuable to YOU when you give it away.

I lost touch with Magda soon after that consultation although I do know she’s still in business. I just don’t know how much of the success she wanted has actually come her way by doing it her way. 

By judging people as either naughty (only after the freebies) or nice (willing to pay), Magda limited her opportunity to reach more of the people who could love what she does.

By choosing to be Santa, instead of the Easter Bunny, she’s left herself with only one list.

And no chocolate. How sad is that?


  1. I love this analogy. I’m definitely the Easter Bunny, but it’s always nice when someone gives you a gingerbread in return for an egg.

    Shannon says:
  2. This is a really interesting post, Sherene, and I feel quite conflicted between the two positions you suggest. While I like to be generous with my time and knowledge, for example by writing blog posts, However, I would feel manipulative if I provided free workshops in order to get people to buy something from me. As a writer, I hold the strong opinion that books and articles are the product of a writers labour. In other words, writers work and should be paid for their work.

    As I said, very conflicted!

    • I agree with all you have said, Maureen Helen. Writers deserve to be paid for their work AND it would be manipulative to hold a workshop with the intention that people should buy from you. It would also be an unrealistic expectation and would most likely influence the way you interacted with those people. BUT – if your intention was simply to give people an experience of you, to increase your profile and your ‘brand awareness’, then it would be an ethical thing to do. The tension comes when individuals or businesses feel they have little time to spend on free offerings because they need to earn money. But they also need to market. My suggestion is that instead of spending money on traditional advertising, why not spend time on giving people an experience of you and then let others advertise you through word of mouth?

  3. A lovely analogy, Sherene. I share some of Maureen’s point if view and also like your reasoned response.
    The standout factor for me is confidence. If one is assured that free workshops will yield the desired outcome then I’d say that might well flow into achieving desired outcomes.

    Susan Dunn says:
    • Thanks Susan. It’s one of my biggest fears – what if I hold an event and nobody shows up?! If we were talking workshops, I’d probably suggest making it as easy for yourself as possible and that way it’s low-risk. But I guess my case study was meant simply as an illustration – my main point was, generosity allows people to get to know us and our expertise, and enables connections to be formed that could well translate into business.

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