Marketing legend Seth Godin has accomplished a lot in his career.
But most importantly, Seth is the inbound marketing pioneer who famously said:
“In the digital world, the more free samples you give away, the better you do.The miserly mindset that afflicts the merchant watching inventory walk out the door at the market is counterproductive in the digital world.”
Now, if you are in the digital space as an entrepreneur, manager or business owner, you have doubtless heard this before.
You know full well that giving stuff away – whether it is in the form of marketing content, free samples or something else – is smart marketing.
But if you are like most of us, the last thing you want is to give your best stuff away for free!
See, the truth is, most business people work hard to minimise how much they give away before a sale for reasons like…
- We don’t make enough money as it is. How is giving value away going to help drive sales?
- Giving free content and product to people will discourage them from buying.
- It is an extra cost that may never deliver any returns. Why risk it?
And all of these points are perfectly valid…for brick and mortar businesses.
In the digital world, though, freebies are the surest way to build a successful business.
To prove it, here are 7 research-backed reasons you must give your best stuff away for free, starting with…
1. Giveaways create customers
In one study, 52% of respondents ended up buying from companies that gave them promotional items. Another 48% said they would be more likely to do so.
Granted, this is a study on physical freebies – but the law of reciprocity works in the digital world, too. When you give people something, they want to return the favour and become predisposed to buying from you.
Another thing freebies do in the digital world is develop trust. Consumers prefer to buy from businesses they trust, and giving something away allows you to build that trust.
This works particularly well if you are giving away samples of a strong product. A free trial is the best way to demonstrate value, win trust and eliminate resistance to the sale.
Of course, freebies are about much more than just acquiring new customers, because they are perfect for…
2. Guiding users through your sales funnel
A customer acquisition funnel is a sales framework that covers the stages of a user first hearing about an offer to becoming a repeat customer. In growth hacking and startup marketing, a funnel is usually broken down into 5 steps:
- Acquisition, usually of a user’s contact details and interest
- Activation, usually of a free trial
- Retention of a user past the end of the free trial
- Referral, when active users refer a product or service to potential users
- Revenue driven by repeated sales
Now, it is possible to acquire leads, activate them and retain users without a free trial…
But giving stuff away is your best shot at acquiring users and seeing them turn into paid customers. Without freebies, you have to push users through your funnel instead of letting them be pulled in by the value offering.
This is not ideal – especially because freebies are the best way to…
3. Acquire free leads for your funnel
If people don’t know what you are selling, they cannot buy it. Obvious, right?
That is why the first order of business is making sure people know what you are selling – which you can do with PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, a strong lead list, or a website with regular organic traffic.
But what if you don’t have the money and resources to take your product to market?
Well, you can freak out and panic…
Or you can exchange freebies for traffic, leads and sales – like this business did to generate 1,500 subscribers and $5,000 in sales in just 10 days.
All you need to do is register with a service like Product Hunt, Noah Kogan’s KingSumo and Pay With a Tweet, and voila! You have got leads that don’t cost you a red cent, which is incredible news if you are a startup!
And if you are a mid-sized or large business, well, you still want the…
4. Brand recognition
39% of all people who received a freebie in the last 6 months remember the name of the business associated with it.
This is an incredible number when you consider that digital promotional products cost you virtually nothing to distribute.
For this reason, sample-based marketing is just as important for big businesses with valuable brands as it is for small, cash-strapped startups.
5. Free stuff gets you referrals
The best way to get incredible returns on your marketing investment is through viral marketing, where new customers are brought in by referrals and not direct advertising.
One company that did this perfectly was DropBox. They gave users 500 MB of extra storage space in exchange for every user referred, and grew to $10 billion in market valuation as a result – even with a shoestring ad budget.
Now, exchanging product for referrals may not make you the next DropBox, but it does give users an incentive to bring their friends, coworkers and family members into the fold – which is the best (and cheapest) way to market…
And reason #5 to give your best stuff away for free.
But perhaps the most important reason is that…
6. Freebies add value to your business
Giving marketing content away for free is 800% as effective as traditional advertising. This means that for every $1 you “give away” via blog posts, videos and other resources, your company gets $8 back…
Which makes for a +$7 net gain for every dollar invested.
Now, so long as your marketing is smart and effective – which it should be – there is no reason your freebies should not deliver a positive ROI, too.
And so long as they do, every freebie you “give away” actually adds value to your business by driving money and customers to you.
In other words, you are not losing anything by working “pro bono”. Especially because…
7. Your free stuff is free!
The ultimate reason to market with freebies is that they cost you nothing. This is Seth Godin’s ultimate lesson in inbound marketing – and it is true.
At the end of the day, giving your product away costs you nothing. So, as long as you don’t give away lifetime subscriptions to your service, happy freebie users will become regular customers – so what have you possibly got to lose?
That is right: nothing!
Instead, you have everything to gain because you are using an infinite resource that costs you nothing (virtual product) to generate real money, which is a huge win for you no matter how you spin it.
The question is, how do you turn your product into freebies that encourage users to spend money with you going forward in the digital world?
There is plenty of information about doing it in the brick-and-mortar business world, but little about doing the same in the digital world.
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