The Definitive Guide to Making Sales by Giving Things Away
Marketing a small business can take innumerable forms, and doing it successfully requires a fair amount of skill in many different disciplines. The successful marketer needs to be both analytical and creative, eager to duplicate success and willing to experiment. And, above all, the successful small business marketer needs to focus on ROI in all its many forms.
Since the Internet has changed the way everyone does business, figuring out what works to market your business and maintaining some level of marketing consistency has become even more challenging than it once was. But there are some widespread trends that have survived – and even grown stronger – in the new web-based economy.
One example of such a trend is the value of giving something away in order to increase the chances of a sale.
The traditional marketing giveaway
Marketers have been using giveaways for lead generation and customer acquisition for centuries. Just consider the free sample a street vendor may offer passersby in hopes that the taste of the food makes them decide to buy some. Or the free demonstration a door-to-door salesman performed to prove the quality of the vacuum cleaner he was selling.
Offering a product or service free to entice otherwise unaware or disinterested parties to consider a purchase is an age-old strategy that’s still in practice today because it works.
The value of the custom branded giveaway item
Beyond free samples and the like, which have been used forever, a more modern take on this concept involves branded giveaway items handed out for free in order to build brand awareness and/or improve a relationship between the brand and the recipient.
For example, a company that offers products and services targeted toward office workers would attend an appropriate trade show or industry conference with a large supply of custom made coffee mugs, pens, or notebooks featuring the company’s logo and contact information prominently printed on the item. Attendees – many of whom were current or potential customers – would leave the event with a useful item in hand that would immediately remind them of that brand each time they used it going forward.
For marketers needing to stand out in a crowd of fierce competition, or hoping to stay top-of-mind as an industry undergoes change, these promotional giveaways have always proved to be a cost-effective and simple way to accomplish marketing goals that would be harder to reach in other ways.
The modern content and Freemium revolutions
The most recent manifestations of giveaway marketing have become standard practice for companies primarily doing business online and/or whose marketing has necessarily skewed digital in recent years. They involve content marketing and the Freemium model for software-as-a-service (SaaS) and similar products.
In the discipline of content marketing, a brand creates useful content (generally online, in exclusively digital format,) designed to educate and entertain their target audience, facilitating the modern buyer’s journey which almost always begins via an online search. The overwhelming majority of the content these brands create is given away for free online, often with no catch at all, but sometimes “gated” behind lead capture forms that require the visitor to provide their email address and/or other contact information in exchange for the content.
This method works incredibly well because it neatly matches the modern consumer’s desire for information to improve their buying experience and their distaste for more traditional forms of disruptive marketing like commercials and display advertisements that interrupt what the consumer is trying to do.
In the case of companies that provide knowledge services, consultation, and other intellectual property as their source of revenue, content marketing actually serves as the “free sample” of the digital age: a free, no-obligation opportunity to test the provider’s wares before committing to a paid agreement to take the relationship further.
In other cases, when the brand offers a physical product or custom service, the content serves in the place of a human salesperson who needs to warm up a cold prospect in an effort to eventually close the deal.
For digital services, subscription plans, and other forms of SaaS or SaaP (software-as-a-platform) products, the Freemium and free trial models have become the norm in recent years.
These models create different tiers of a given product with the entry level either being completely free (with limitations in functionality) or free for a limited time (with full functionality available during the trial period.) This model again provides the Internet economy’s take on the free sample or free demonstration designed to entice interested consumers to consider a future purchase.
In most cases where the brand uses a Freemium model, they’re targeting users who can currently benefit from the free version of the product, but who will likely soon find that the free version’s limitations are hindering their work, and so they decide to upgrade to a paid tier. In the free trial model, the brand is banking on the customer being so impressed with the product as they use it during the trial period, that they convince themselves it’s worth the price and make the purchase so they can continue using it going forward.
In all these cases, giving something away proves to be an integral part of the marketing and sales process, just as it has been for hundreds of years.
What’s old is new again
While the most modern manifestations of the marketing giveaway differ in form and scope from the earliest traditional examples we could discuss, the function remains the same. And there are even some excellent examples of modern, web-savvy companies that are still finding tremendous success utilizing more traditional giveaway methods.
For example, Harry’s – a relatively new player in the subscription-based “shave club” industry – offer a valuable free trial of their best product combination to anyone who signs up on their website. If you like what you get, you can maintain your subscription automatically.
RacerX print magazine is offering a free printed T-shirt featuring Motocross superstar, Alex Martin with each paid subscription.
Modern corporate giants like Google, Verizon, and FedEx are still routinely turning to custom branded giveaway items like logo-emblazoned mugs, notebooks, pens, and flash drives to expand brand recognition and enhance customer relationships.
But these marketing tactics aren’t reserved just for the mega-corporations. The average small or mid-sized business can easily include cost-effective giveaways and loss leaders into their marketing strategy to take advantage of the consumer’s continual search for value. Is that something you can and should try for your business?
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