Jim's Marketing Blog

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How to protect your business from Freebie Seekers

If you use free offers as a way to generate genuine interest from prospective, paying clients, it’s essential that you take freebie seekers into account.


Freebie seekers are those people who grab every free offer in sight, with zero intention of ever becoming a paying client or customer. Their actions can discourage you and cause you to make incorrect assumptions when you check your marketing feedback. Here are a few thoughts on freebie seekers, to help you protect your business from the damage they can cause.

Freebie seekers and free offers

When used correctly, a free offer can be a useful marketing tool. However, it’s extremely important to understand that the second you attach the word free to an offer, you will immediately attract the attention of people, with no interest in ever buying anything from you. Whilst free offers are of some interest to prospective paying customers, they are totally irresistible to freebie seekers. They are mesmerised by the idea of getting anything for nothing.

I was prompted to write this post, after hearing a story that happened in a London supermarket recently. A member of the public had to receive medical attention, after eating half a plate of ‘free cheese samples’. This free cheese was in perfect condition and contained a sign explaining that it contained nuts. The customer had a nut allergy! The store manager waited with the customer until the paramedics arrived and could not believe what he told them. He explained that he felt compelled to risk eating the cheese, knowing it contained nuts, because it was there and it was free. It turned out that the customer wasn’t homeless or broke, he said he saw the FREE sign and couldn’t resist a free lunch, before returning to work!

Whilst an extreme case, it’s a mindset that I see all the time as a marketing professional. As a small business owner, you need to be aware of it so that you can factor freebie seekers into your marketing numbers, get a more realistic picture of your feedback and avoid them wasting your time.

Common freebie seeking behaviours

Freebie seekers are usually the first people to respond to a free offer. Sadly, your highly motivated prospective clients will also often reply quickly, which means the freebie seekers can make conversion rates look far lower than they really are. If you make a free offer in an untargeted way, for example, via messages on a social network – expect a high percentage of freebie seekers. You can reduce the percentage of freebie seekers, by making the free offer in a more targeted way, such as through your blog or newsletter.

On the subject of newsletters, freebie seekers are almost always the first to unsubscribe, when you specifically market your paid services. Just as they are quick to respond to a free offer, they are equally quick to run away, the moment they are asked to pay for anything.

Some small business owners make the mistake of not marketing their products or services often enough in their newsletters or blog posts, because they see people unsubscribe. People seriously interested in what you have to say and what you have to offer, will not unsubscribe just because you mention your products or services. Freebie seekers will. Factor this in, when looking at unsubscribe rates.

Stopping freebie seekers from wasting your time and money

The best way to defend yourself against the problems caused by freebie seekers, is to accept that they exist. The only way to avoid them, is to look at alternatives to ‘free’ offers. There are many ways to attract the attention of genuine prospective clients and customers, other than offering freebies. Any good marketing professional can show you what to do and help you avoid a costly mistake.

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  1. Jim

    Excellent article here. Freebie seekers are everywhere and most of the time the fault lies with marketers who use this tactic.

    Evaluating free offers that work to bring repeat paid $$ business is the best approach


    Brent Pohlman

    • Hey Brent. Yes, it’s extremely common to see a business owner resorting to free offers, without considering what she is actually hoping to achieve.

      Thanks for the feedback, sir!

  2. business world is full of freebie seekers…very nice article…its really helful

  3. I needed to read this today. Been going bonkers trying to understand some stats and this was like someone turning the lights on.


  4. This is why I place an offer in every email I send out to my list and don’t worry about the unusbscribes.

    That story is crazy but an amazing example of how people behave. Thanks, Jim!

  5. I used to offer a free sample fridge magnet with a cartoon on it to prospective purchasers until one day it was discovered by a site in Canada which specialised in highlighting freebies. I think I had about 130 requests, mostly from Canada and the USA, in the space of one day before I took the offer down.

    • That’s a very common story, Jim.

      Freebie seekers also use search engines and twitter search, to find freebies – which they share with their free-loading buddies.

      Thanks for sharing, sir.

  6. Hi Jim,

    I see a lot of similarity between Freebie Seekers and GroupOn Seekers .

    A study done by Rice University in Houston – Texas revealed that less than half of the companies that made this type of “GroupOn promotion” last year plan to do it again. On the buyer’s side, only 1 in 5 has returned to making purchases with the full price.

    Just over half (55.5%) of companies report that they have promoted profit 26.6% lost money and 17.9% broke even with the promotions. Furthermore, 35.9% spent more than the value of the deal to sell your product or service. This all just to attract the “promo seekers” buyers who only seek promotion. Who pays the bill at the end of it all, are the most loyal customers in a total inversion of values​​.

    • Hi Andre. Those numbers are interesting and consistent with what I have seen. Do you have a link to the study?

      Thanks for the feedback, sir.

  7. I am not in the field where I can say I ever messed with freebie seekers. But I understand how they can be a real threat for a business.
    Its right you can’t soo them away, because their is the chance of missing potential customers.

    “Jim, I don’t know when you changed your blog template. Its looking more beautiful.”

    • Hi Deepak. Thanks. I added the new design earlier this month.

      I did some split testing last year and found a better way to display the content.

      All done for 2013 😉

  8. I offer a 1 hr free consultation. And yes, there are people who use it with no intention to ever higher me. But its OK. I guess they need help and they can not afford it so I do my best to help them. But it is what it is. You offer free, so give it for free all the way. Otherwise your offer is not an honest one.

Comments are closed.