A lot of people ask me about the marketing effectiveness of free offers or freebies. So today, I have a few ideas and a story to share, to help you make better use of them.
There’s a famous saying, which assures us that when it comes to business, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. We’ve been trained to believe that a freebie is seldom really free.
Why should this matter to you?
Allow me to explain.
Is it a free offer or a mutual exchange?
I remember visiting a new coffee shop in my local town. They had signs everywhere offering free WiFi. The guy next to me called one of the staff over. He explained that he wasn’t able to access their free WiFi. He was told that in order to access it, he would need to set up a free account, giving his name, his email address and his postal address. The customer replied, “No way! I thought you said it was free? I already get more than enough spam”.
An awkward conversation followed, with the owner trying to defend their position and the customer saying the free WiFi offer was deliberately misleading. And of course, all this happened in front of the other customers. That negative exchange will have totally changed the customer’s experience.
The impact of a fake free offer will vary from person to person and from situation to situation. But it will be there. And you need to be aware of it, if you refer to mutual exchanges as free offers.
Full disclosure is a must
There is a way to largely mitigate the negative impact of the kind of free offer used by the coffee shop. It’s all about providing full disclosure. If you want people to take some kind of action in return for the offer, make it clear. If you ask for contact details, let people know why, right there, in the same space where you make the free offer.
People respond a lot better, when you’re being open and honest with them. For example, if you ask for their details, tell them what you intend to do with that information. If you don’t plan to sell their information, or send them ads from 3rd parties, tell them. Tell them that you respect their privacy.
Note: This also applies to online lead generation (or lead gen), where people are asked for their personal details in return for some kind of freebie. Also, be aware that there are regulations governing the way you request, capture and store data, etc. These vary from country to country.
A genuinely free offer
If you make a genuinely free offer, (like the one below) with no strings attached, nothing concealed, it creates a much better impression than the previous examples. It also sets you apart from the masses. People will look for the usual disclaimer, but it won’t be there, because there isn’t anythig for you to disclaim. They’ll quickly see that you’re being totally honest with them.
It will instantly improve how they feel about you, your business and the services you provide. It will help you earn their trust. And it will directly, dramatically improve the story they tell their friends.
A great free offer template: The deli counter
If you want a template for the best kind of commercial free offer, look no further than the free samples on a deli counter. It’s simple. And as long as the food is delicious, it’s highly effective. The prospective customer tastes the food ahead of buying it. If they like it enough, they’ll buy it.
In short, you need to be strategic in your use of free offers. Do the research first, based on what your goals are for the offer. And remember that disclosure is extremely important on many levels.