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You’re starting a new business and you want to have customers? You’re already in business, but you want to enter a new market / segment? You want to grow?

All these are good reasons to offer freebies. But to maximize your results, it must be done the right way.
First, let’s define the notion of free: For our purposes, we mean the exchange of goods / services to access a market/customer base or to get something back in return.

A little more in depth:

Access a market/customer base:
In a previous article, we talked about cross-marketing initiatives. That is what we are after here. We "buy" with our time or our products into an established market, or customer base, created by another entity (company, association, organisation, etc.). 

This visibility could have been otherwise acquired but with more time and money than with the association. A perfect real life example; a Quebec-based toy company had a kiosk at an amateur youth football tournament (tent, pamphlets, on-site personnel, a selection of toys, etc.) and gave all the participants a free toy. Several hundred young players participated in this tournament, including parents (football games were being played all day). The company estimated that the price of free toys and that of their presence at the event was worth the notoriety they gathered.

So the important points from this example are:

  • - You need to choose a market/customer base that has a strong correlation with your target customers.
  • - Do your calculations to make sure that selected platform will create a net positive result for you and your company (the cost of your gratuity is outweighed by the value created for you: customers, sales, potential customers, notoriety, etc.).

Get something in return:
Let us use an example to illustrate this.  Let’s say that on your website, you create a section that gives free information related to your products or services. To demonstrate the quality of that information, you can offer free samples. To access the rest, the reader must register with an email. This set-up does not cost anything to the user. The end result for building this system: getting your readers’ email. Still too vague? Let's be more specific. Let’s say that your company manufactures pie crusts. You want to get the email from your users to develop your followers and do email marketing. So you build a "pie recipes" section. To get people interested, you give the first recipe without any commitment from the reader. But to see the rest, or to receive the monthly recipe in your inbox, the reader must provide an email. 

Another thing you might be after: testimonials. When starting a business, it’s difficult to convince your first customers. By doing some free work, you could build a certain amount of testimonials that could help you sell easier.

If you have questions or comments about this article, feel free to contact me.

Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed., MBA
Marketing consultant

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