Over the past ten years or so the Internet has busted the doors of "free stuff" wide open. More and more we are able to get cool things for absolutely no charge. Blogging platforms such as wordpress are free. Wordpress addons are free. Many iPhone apps are free. Blogs and newspapers provide free content online. You can download TV shows and songs for free (legally or not.) And you can connect with your friends for free via IM, MySpace, facebook, twitter, and a host of other free social networking platforms. I could go on.

The era of "there's no such thing as a free ride" is coming to an end. So many things are free now days I often wonder how anybody makes money anymore, especially competitors trying to sell what someone else gives away.

But free works. This has been true long before the web was invented.

Every now and then I take a walk through Costco on a weekend. Inevitably they have all the sampling booths set up for you to sample their food. It's not a free meal, but it is a free taste. And its enough to make some people want to buy the full package.

Itunes lets you get a free preview of a song before you purchase. That's a handy way to make sure you're buying the song you want. Any fast food restaurant offers free refills on soda. Now we look with scorn on anyplace that charges for the second round (unless its alcohol.)

These are just a few examples of how free works in the real world. But not all of us deal with things that are easily refillable or sampled. Can we still make "free" work for us?

I recently read a story about someone that got free advertorial space in magazines because they offered the readers something for free. The company then used up-sell techniques to break even on the free offers while at the same time building a loyal, repeat customer base.

Many online stores offer "free shipping" for first time buyers, or better yet, on all orders. You often see offers of "get a free X when you purchase Y."

We live in a society that loves to get things for free. But the good business person knows that if you gave everything away for free then there are little opportunities to make money--or live for that matter.

But leveraging the desire to get something for free doesn't mean you have to give away the store. The free must be balanced, and its the good business person who can figure out how to do that.

Giving stuff away for free doesn't have to be gimmicky. It can be a genuine offer. Sometimes you can get more long-term business by giving a few things away. Banks offer free checking because they know that in the long-term they'll make more money from their customers keeping their money with the bank. Authors often give away free copies of their books because they know if you like this one then you'll buy the next one off the shelf.

Consider the long-term customer and compare that with the cost of the free offer you're giving. If you know that long-term value is greater then don't hesitate to offer the free. Use smaller cost of the free to gain a new customer that will pay back in greater dividends

How to use the free offer to your advantage takes a bit of creativity but it can be done. Every industry is different in what they can do for free and how that can be leveraged to create a profit.

At the most basic level, offering free information is a way to get your foot in the door. But don't stop there. Use your free access to your readers to provide free offers that bring in more customers. And once they see how good the freebie is, you'll likely get many others coming back for the real thing.

That's your free tip for the day.


May 6, 2009





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





Comments(26)

I completely agree! Offering something of value for free is an excellent way to grow your business. It doesn't have to be something that costs you money either; it could be as simple as a sharing your knowledge, like you did so well in this post! Thanks!

People have come to expect free as the norm ... if you look at a lot of websites you will find e-books and similar products given away free as the free product will lead to to sales at a later date.

In fact to be competitive it is now important to make sure your free items have some great value to generate interest and a response.

Good reminder.
As much as people hate to hear the word "free", they sure secretly adore most things that are that way. (Because they can choose not to try them and it makes them feel special and because they can also give it try and it makes them feel smart and/or ahead of the crowd.)

Giving away free things is really good for list building, and as it's always been said the money is in the list.

As long as you treat that list good you will profit for a very very long time.

Backlink Builder

I agree with your post. The word "FREE" is something you should incorporate in your blogs and websites in order to attract more people which eventually will lead for continuous growth of your business.

Another great post and I agree with you. Free stuff is always good to attract more people to websites which will eventually lead to an increase in business and traffic. Keep up the good work as I always find your posts full of great information.

I have to agree that 'FREE" always works. Be it in a department store, a grocery store or a bakery, when there are free samples, people clamor to get it, and when they haven't got enough of what they want, they buy it.

Although I haven;t noticed it in the internet, perhaps I should open up my eyes a little more and look closer at the prospect of 'FREE' especially when I am trying to market or promote something via WWW.

building a list, is where the money is. giving free stuff away always is good for building a quality list, the word FREE is very big on the internet today, you can find hundreds of free gifts.

Hi,

The internet has changed the way we gather and reach information. Knowledge is accessible from everywhere with no hassle. Such convenience creates a competitiveness among all e-players. In order to attract visitors to the sites, blogs; giving freebies, free information and free e-books are the most commonly used tools. But it seems the way we perceive "Free" is not free any more. Free is the new advertising and loyalty channel. So how could it be free?

All the best,

Velit

Idea is excellent to build a stream of readers on your blog and ofcourse if you keep on using this technique, it can ensure long term relations with readers.

Giving stuff away initially can be really good, however it can present a problem as (in the case of subscribers of a newsletter) people sort of get conditioned to getting everything

at no cost, so when you try to sell something even if infrequently, some of them will want to unsubscribe or avoid your business.

Giving away free things is a excellent way to build your buisness. One big problem to this is eventually you have to sell them something to make a profit. But you have trained them that they can get products for free. So this tactic can back fire dramaticly.

Lighting

Yes, I believe giving frree things is the best way with back end sales of course =)

If only I had stuff to give away for free. :D It's definitely a good way to attract attention to your business or website.

I strongly agree that freebies should always be included in order to attract more and more consumers. This is one strategy that shouldn't be missed in a campaign.

Ameda Trusted Breast Pumps

I still do believe that nothing is free in this world. If you are giving free anything that means your pocket is not filling with the money but yes you are getting followers ... people will come to know about you and after few months you will carry the advertisements on your body and people will buy such products as they know you.

Remember those free soaps and in between those soaps big advertisements.

Marketing experts just have created one more way.

Yes, we are fortunate enough that we live in a time that freebies and freeware are available to consumers.
It gives us more platform to create and make use of ourselves.

I can tell you that for us personally, the concept of buy this...get this for free, has increased sales and it is a sales method that I would recommend. We were giving away an organic tote with the purchase of our bamboo sheets ...this resulted in more sales or...I should say more specifically, a higher conversion rate on that particular product. We are currently experimenting with other sales or specials of the like.

I completely agree! In some situations better to give away something small and you will gain something big.

Giving away things free is definitely a good list builder and customer builder .But, what should we give away as gifts ? With so many marketers giving away so many things, how can you make an impact ?

I definitely agree with you.
Giving away for free a report, software or ebook that brandable with our links will really work if we can pack it not appears like we are promoting. But as like as we are sharing useful information so people will be glad to spread it again.
yunus

Free is the order of the day in internet marketing now. If you are not giving it away for free you will lose out to the hundreds who are.My email is full every day with "free" offers.The big money is in the follow up to the list of respondents you build up.I skip over the long sales letters to look for the price tag at the bottom if it is not
"free" or at any rate if it costs more than a small fistful of dollars I delete it right now and move on.Things they are a changing and if you want to succeed you had better keep up. Even some courses that used to be $1997 or even more are now "free" if you subscribe to something .

I agree with you, giving FREE content sure does establish trust if what you give a way is good, it kind of give the feeling of.. Well if he is giving this for free imagine what info or service he charges for. Plus, if your product or service isn’t of the best quality it’s easier to forgive since they already appreciated the free part. Grate post.

Free stuff ist definitely great linkbait and lets your traffic spread. Even when most business players do hate that word 'free' - it could raise their income.

Great tips. Giving some valuable for free to gain long term customer. I will try to apply with my service. Thanks for the tips.

You are absolutely right. I think it's best to have high quality give-away's. I actually came across this concept from Eben Pagan's teachings. He has coined the term "moving the free line" - it's one of the most solid ways to create more value for your prospects.

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