Nitin Aggarwal

Nitin Aggarwal

Free is everywhere!

  • We get free food samples at our supermarkets.
  • We get free ebooks when we opt in to someone’s list on the Internet.
  • On iTunes, most if not all podcasts are free, and there is always a selection of shows, music, and audio books that are free.
  • We get free trials of software we are thinking about purchasing.
  • We work while on the move via free WiFi internet access.

In his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson (author of the Long Tail and editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine) offers all kinds of examples of how “free” works to sell.  A key message in the book is that “free” has a very strong impact on the psychology of the consumer. Give it away and it can easily go viral; charge even just a little bit for it, and it won’t move much farther than your bank deposit slip.

Google is a prime example of the use of “free” as a business strategy. Gmail went so viral that it has become a “must have” for many businesses, in spite of the use of other free services for company email addresses being frowned upon.

For small business marketing, “free” as a strategy has two schools of thought:

1)     Don’t give too much away.

2)     Give lots and lots of stuff away.

In the first instance, the free is a gimmick, like bait on a fish hook.  It is intended to tantalize the prospect to the point where they part with their money to get the “real” product. In the second instance, the prospect gets so much value from the free stuff that they are more than willing to follow through with paid offerings.

In terms of client lifetime value, the second strategy is the hands down choice. Being openhanded, giving away “too much” in the eyes of your competitors, is part of establishing a relationship with your market that is based on trust and credibility.

Here are some suggestions to put into play when you use free as a way to build your business:

  • Make your free thing whole and complete in itself. This doesn’t mean it can’t point to something that costs money. In fact, it should pitch a “for money” offering. Just be sure that your freebie is of value on its own.
  • Consider giving some of your stuff away for nothing in return. Nothing. Meaning that the person can get it from you without giving you any of their contact information. This kind of action takes advantage of the principle of reciprocity; the receiver feels a sense of obligation when given something completely for free.
  • Give participants the not-free thing they helped create for free. If you create software, reward your beta users. If you conduct a free teleclass and turn that material into a book or audio CD that you then sell, give the teleclass participants the book or CD for free. We give away free trial for our virtual assistant services. This not only helps our customers actually experience it but once also helps us get convert those prospects who have been shying away from the idea of having a virtual assistant.
  • Finally, Don’t skimp or give “b” quality because the thing is being given away. Put the same quality into your freebie that you put into your priced offerings. And just like your priced offerings, make sure it provides real value to the recipient.

Do keep in mind that while you are giving away loads and loads of stuff, the end game really is to have prospects buy from you. Free won’t be effective unless you link the free stuff to opportunities to buy from you. So before you spring your free offers on your market, be clear about how and when you will present the “for money” opportunities to them.

About the author:

Nitin Aggarwal is a full time internet marketer and founder of Offshore Ally – A one stop virtual assistant company. In accordance with his philosophy for free – Offshore Ally offers a full one week trial for their virtual assistant services. You can connect with him on his website or Linkedin. You can also follow him on twitter.

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