In the last decade, we have witnessed the “free revolution.” Marketers are giving away everything from books and software to vacations and even cars. This has shaped consumer behavior to the point that people often expect free and resent having to pay.
I see this every week in the publishing industry with ebooks. Many consumers expect them to be free or sold for a nominal amount, because they incorrectly believe that they don’t cost anything to produce.
Unfortunately, authors won’t write for free. Editors and packagers won’t work for free. Online retailers and distributors also want to get paid, as do the publishers who find the books, curate them, and market them.
So free is certainly not a viable business model. However, it can be a brilliant marketing strategy. Many individuals and companies are using this strategy very effectively to:
- Build mailing lists. I have been offering a free copy of a my 94-page ebook, Creating Your Personal Life Plan, to everyone who signs up to receive my blog updates via email. In the first six months, I have generated 23,326 subscriptions. In the next few weeks, I will offer a new ebook to take my subscriptions to 50,000 by the end of the calendar year.
- Generate customer reviews. A few years ago Thomas Nelson launched BookSneeze, a website designed to get its books into the hands of bloggers (sneezers) who could “infect” their readers. We let bloggers chose which books they wanted to review in exchange for an honest review on their blog. We now have over 20,000 bloggers participating in this program. We have generated thousands of reviews for our books.
- Provide product samples. Assuming you have a great product—and this is a prerequisite!—the best thing you can do is “seed the market” with free samples. For example, last week on my blog, I gave away 100 free copies of Marcus Buckingham’s new book, StandOut. I generated 1,353 comments, 567 retweets, and 340 Facebook shares. More importantly for the publisher, it helped drive the book to #4 on Amazon.com’s overall sales ranking.
So how does this apply to you? Simple. You should use free to drive your marketing strategy. This can help you build your platform and launch your products. Here are ten quick idea-starters to make free work for you.
- Offer free samples of your product to potential customers. This could the first two chapters of your book, the first two songs from your album, or a recording of you performing live.
- Offer an ebook or special report in exchange for newsletter subscriptions. Hubspot is a master at this.
- Offer a free copy of your product to bloggers in exchange for an honest review on their blog. Start with the bloggers you know and follow.
- Offer free copies of your product to bigger bloggers to do a giveaway on their blog. You can offer fewer copies for smaller blogs and more copies for larger ones.
- Offer your time for free to people who buy various quantities of your products. Gary Vaynerchuk did this here. Phil Cooke did it here. They did it to drive the bestseller lists.
- Offer a free copy of the product in another format to customers who buy in your main format. (For example, offer a free copy of the audio book to everyone who buys the print book.)
- Offer a free ticket to anyone who gets two of their friends to buy a ticket. You will make it up in terms of merchandise sales and additional visibility.
- Offer free bonuses (e.g. workbook, group discussion guide, video course, etc.) to anyone who buys your main product.
- Offer a free membership in your paid forum or club to anyone who buys your main product.
- Offer a free seminar or performance and then sell your products at the event.
There are literally hundreds of other ways you can use free to drive your marketing strategy and create visibility and excitement for your products.