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After sales marketing - the unexpected bonus gift 

Throwing in an unexpected gift after the sale can be a great way to keep customers, get people buying more and have them telling others about you.

I buy most of my coffee online from a business in Western Australia that specializes in Fair Trade goods (if you're curious about Fair Trade, check out this article I published a while back). 

I've been buying coffee from Fair Go Trading for a few months now and the service has always been good. I just scoot out to the site, follow a well beaten path to the order form, done in 60 seconds. It also means no stops along the way to check out other items.

When I unpacked my latest shipment of caffeine fix, there was a nice surprise - a small bar of fair trade organic chocolate. I happen to love chocolate :). This gift had a number of effects:

a) It was a nice surprise, leading to even more warm and fuzzy feelings about the business

b) I'm reminded that they sell chocolate - something I'd forgotten

c) I've gone back out to the site to see what other goodies they have that I've missed on past visits.

d) Even if I wasn't a chocaholic, I likely would have given the complimentary bar to someone who was and told them where it came from.

e) I'm writing about the business now, so it's had an added positive word of mouth marketing effect.

f) Given I could sample the product with no strings attached, there's a greater chance I'd buy it in the future. It was far more effective than a brochure about the chocolate.

All this from a bar that might have cost the business a buck. Of course, not everyone would be as excited as I was about this small gift; but chocolate? It's hard to go wrong :).

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One of the other great aspects about this strategy is that it felt very personal. There was a handwritten note accompanying the chocolate with just 3 words on it - "With compliments, Robert". The paper the message was on didn't even have the company logo on it; which further added to the "hey, you're special" sort of feel.

Beyond chocolate

If you're not in the business of selling coffee or chocolate, but other physical goods; consider using low cost items you're overstocked on and having trouble shifting or request samples from manufacturers that you can distribute to your customers. Your supplier partners may be more than happy to provide these samples to you for free if you explain how you intend utilizing them.

Alternatively, old favorites such as pens with your logo or other trinkets that have some practical value are well received. Bought in quantities of a thousand, refillable pens with your logo can cost as little as 35c each.

Maybe you don't sell physical goods at all - the gift you provide doesn't have to be a physical. Here's some suggestions for purely online businesses.

Subscription services

- After a few months of subscription, throw in a free month to select clients. Flag the freebie with them via a personal email, recognizing their loyalty and a gentle reminder for them to let others know about you doesn't hurt. Ask it as a personal favor rather than as an expectation.

Software 

- Do you have a low $ value software items that you sell? Surprise your clients who have bought other more expensive titles with a free license for the cheap item and encourage them to give it to someone else if they can't use it. 

- You can also pick up cheap premium software packages from other software companies offering reseller rights. In these arrangements, the deal usually is you can distribute the software without charging for it as part of a existing commercial relationship with a client, but you can't give it away totally free to just anyone that visits your site - that way the software title retains some perceived dollar value.

- Another effective strategy I've seen some companies implement is providing all their clients with a software item that's reached the end of its life cycle. The software is useful, but not popular enough to warrant promoting or supporting it any more. Let the client know what the retail value of the software was.

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Reports and white papers

- Put together a *useful* report or white paper that isn't generally available to non-customers; and be sure to flag this when you distribute it to your clients. Don't use the white paper as a hard sell for another product; it's meant to be a gift purely to stir up warm and fuzzy feelings about your business and to make your clients feel special. Be sure to stick a dollar value on it and let your customers know what their bonus is worth.

Remember - it's a gift

The power of the unexpected bonus strategy lies in the fact that the client hasn't had to do *anything* to get the bonus and it's totally unexpected. If you make people jump through hoops to get the freebie or hint about it in your pre-sales pitch, it loses the feeling of being a gift.

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Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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