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Using the "f" word (free) & freebie offers in marketing

Everyone loves a free offer - or do they?

The word "free" has probably been most abused in web marketing. Type the word into Google and you will get over 1 billion results!

I'm sure you've been to a site offering free something, only to find it wasn't what you expected. So is there a place for freebies in web marketing? For sure, but you just need to be careful how you implement it.

Well, what do they expect for free?

If you're going to offer freebies as part of your marketing strategy, make them worthwhile to the user. Junk is junk, whatever it costs, even if it's nothing. Junk freebies only annoy people - they'll visit your site once and perhaps never again. By providing a freebie that has no real use or doesn't operate as advertised, you're not setting up a good environment to convince that person to buy at a later stage. While there hasn't been an exchange of cash when somebody downloads a freebie, they have paid with their time.

Press release tips

Press releases aren't just for big companies - small online businesses can benefit too! Free tips on how to write a press release, learn where to submit them and grab a free press release template.

No such thing as a free lunch

Often quoted and very true. If you're going to offer an item for free, ensure that you also get something in return. The key is not to make it so difficult for the user that they back away from your site empty handed - nobody wins then.

Probably the simplest way to get something back is to request an email address from the person before they gain access - with the emphasis being they will gain immediate access to the product or service; there should be no lengthy wait.

You should also make it very clear that by providing their email address, you will not distribute it to any other party. Of course, that excludes you :). The whole idea for gaining the email address is to follow up with the person, with the aim of converting them to purchasing your premium products and services. 

Don't just follow up once, make it at least a couple of times. If you have solid autoresponder or list management software, use that to keep following up with them on a regular basis until they tell you to go away :). In that event, they were unlikely to ever purchase anything from you anyway.

Another way to "cloak" the motivation of requesting an  email address is to simply state something along these lines:

"Before downloading, we'll need your email address. Be assured that we will not provide your address to any other party for any reason. In providing your email address, you'll receive a special bonus - a free subscription to our weekly newsletter that contains valuable blah blah blah"

... in that scenario, your newsletter becomes the follow up and is viewed by the person as a value added item.

The "free" word can turn away people

Humans are funny creatures - I guess it boils down to the old saying of "if something is too good to be true, it probaby is". Some people apply that to extremes.

Let's say you have an information product. As part of your marketing strategy, you decide that you will give part of that product away. It's solid, valuable information, but you have little response - why is this? It may be that people believe if you're giving away information, it's probably something they already know. This is often the case with ebooks on marketing - the same old stuff, rehashed time and again.

If this is happening to you, try this - if the product is valued at $100, charge the client a small amount, say $5, for the information you are providing for free, also promise $10 discount if they should subsequently purchase the full version. To top it all off, back the $5 purchase with a money-back guarantee. 

This strategy achieves a few things:

  • The client may perceive that they are getting something of real value

  • You establish the client has a credit card

  • You inspire confidence with the money back guarantee

  • You offer further incentive for purchasing the full version

Money back guarantees can really hurt if you get multiple clients claiming them. This way, the most you'll ever have to refund is $5 as the purchaser has screened the information and found it to be valuable enough to purchase the full version. You never know, you may even make enough on your $5 version to make it quite profitable in itself!

email marketing tips, software and reviews

Autoresponder software 
& mailing list managers

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marketing - tips, reviews 
& free trial software/services.

Don't let free offers outshine premium

It's great to promote your free offer extensively, but do it in such a way that it doesn't draw the user away from your premium goods and services. This can be done with an incentive to purchase. On the page where the freebie is being offered, try something like this:

- Download our free evaluation software -
- Buy it now for $x - limited offer! -

This is a way you can convert the person coming to your site specifically for the freebie into a paying customer without any follow up needed. Give them a reason to buy it now rather than later.

It's also a good idea to have an effective landing page for your freebie items; it will allow you to better gauge performance and easily tweak content on the fly, plus increase search engine visibility.

Related learning resources:

List management/autoresponder software - tips/reviews

How to create an effective landing page

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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