When I think of "FREE," I get flashes of angry Black Friday mobs and that inevitable "Sorry, we're all out," message. The internet is full of freebies. Some offers seem more like scams, while others are legitimately great deals. With so many of these giveaways online and in-store, how can a small business compete?
We've got a few tips for getting your freebies and deep discounts noticed without sacrificing value, profit, or sanity.
Giving away free items can benefit your business in several ways. "Free" is as low-risk as customers can get, so getting people to sample your product or service is relatively easy. Freebies can also be offered with a stipulation that customers receive updates, whether it be blog posts, a newsletter, or specials. When giving away whitepapers, e-books, and other informative resources, your business is immediately identified as being an expert on the subject at hand. With so many benefits, you can't go wrong - can you?
Not so fast.
• If you're giving away a product or sample, you can't get away with a lower-quality product than you would normally produce. If customers think your freebies are of poor quality, they'll assume the rest of your work is just that.
• Giving away information (consultations, whitepapers, classes, etc.)? Be mindful of how much of the "solution" you're sharing. If a customer can do it all on their own, why come to you? This is not always the case, but a good thing to keep in mind. A company that gives out the full, informative solution or tutorial can also be regarded as an expert that's willing to help others at their own expense. It's all about what your business can afford at the time.
• Don't expect everyone and their neighbor to come running for your free sample, service, or product; and once some prospects have sampled, you can't expect them all to sign on for bulk orders or large projects. Give it time. Your great quality, customer service, and smile will help them grow into long-term, loyal customers.
• Set strict guidelines when it comes to the quantity of freebies and the duration of the campaign. Offering unlimited free samples or services for an infinite amount of time can be detrimental, unless your business has a permanent spot in the monthly budget for such activities (a "charitable" or "donation" category would be an example). Expiration dates give the customers a sense of urgency, both to collect the voucher and to redeem it. Also, promising "unlimited" amounts for an unknown amount of time can put you in a bind when a customer shows up 3 years down the road looking for that free service you guaranteed.
Overall, complimentary products and services are a necessary and encouraged part of every business' marketing campaign. There are just a few rules for owners to follow.
Before I leave you, I also want to encourage each and every small business out there to consider giving back to their community by way of services or product offerings. It feels great, I promise.
I live and breathe small business marketing. Ask me about social media or digital reputation management over lunch, and we'll be there until dinner. Aside from consulting and educating business owners, my passions are martial arts, cooking, office supply collecting, and volunteering. Outside of my own community, I serve as Marketing Director for the 03XX Foundation - an organization serving Marine Corps Infantrymen and Corpsmen.
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