This is another question I've been asked recently because of the pandemic and I can understand why. Everyone, it seems, from Joe Wicks to David Walliams is giving away free stuff.
So if everyone else is doing it, does that mean you should?
Here are the things to consider.
What are you giving away?
The first question I'd ask is "what are you giving away for free?"
Joe Wicks might be giving a free workout every day, but he's still charging for his 90-day plan, not to mention all his other products. This free workout is a generous gift, but he's getting lots of great PR for it which I'm sure will translate into extra sales for him. He also has a platform from which he can afford to be generous.
So how much are you going to give away, and what are you going to keep back to sell.
It's not always easy to work out where to draw that line so I often use the dating analogy of sales here. Building a relationship with your customer has a lot in common with dating. And if you give away too much for free then you'll end up in the Friend Zone, where you customer will mentally file you as a source of free stuff but not something they pay for.
Don't end up "in the Friend Zone"
Believe me, I've made this mistake a lot in the past and it was always galling when I'd have a long chat with someone over coffee and after a couple of hours of me giving them loads of great advice they'd say "thanks Ros, that's really great. Can we meet up for another coffee in a couple of months?"
So now I'm much more upfront. I'm more than happy to give people a free 30 minutes – I can afford to do that and it allows people to get to know and trust me before they buy. After that, I'll ask you to pay me for a sounding board session or a course.
So think about how much you're comfortable giving away for free and what you need to keep back. I've spent 20 years developing my skills so I can offer the value I offer – I'm not going to start giving that away for free. I also have a mortgage to pay! If you start giving away your value for free then people won't value it.
This is especially true for any kind of training, personal development, health or wellbeing service. I've noticed this having run both free and paid workshops: when people have paid for something, they're much more invested in it. They work harder and are much more likely to get a lot of value from the training.
How will past customers feel about this strategy?
If you have a following of loyal customers, the last thing you want to do is insult them by suddenly giving away for free something they've paid for.
If you're going to give anything for free, make sure it's new and not as valuable as whatever you've charged for in the past.
How will this lead to sales?
Joe Wicks isn't going to be doing 9am workouts forever. He's made it clear that this is only for the period while the schools are off. And I'm sure he's hoping people will get into a routine of working out with him so they'll want to continue with him once he stops.
I expect this is also the reason behind the strategy taken by the various home schooling resources I've seen this week, who are offering long free trials while the schools are off.
Also bear in mind that not everyone is struggling right now. Yes, a lot of people are worrying about their finances, especially many self-employed people, but not everyone is. There are people who don't have children at home who have been furloughed because they can't do their job from home and the Government will pay 80% of their salary. If a lot of your audience are in this bracket then why would you give them your best stuff for free?
What should I be giving for free?
The best things to give away for free are the things that are easy and low cost for you to deliver, and also demonstrate the real value you offer. Like when you test drive a car, you get a feel for what it would be like to own the car before you buy. These are the best free gifts because, for your customer, it reduces the perceived risk of taking the next step in their buying decision.
I give away a free 30-minutes because it helps people get a sense of what I'm like to work with and whether I'm a good fit for them. I also write blogs (like this one!) and make short videos to give away free value. Giving away these things for free helps prospective clients feel more confident in taking the next step and getting in touch with me.
Need more help?
If you're considering giving something of yours away for free, book a free 30-minute call with me and I'll be happy to discuss it with you and help you work out whether it's the right decision for your business.
In response to this extraordinary situation we're in, I've created a self-guided online workshop called One-Day Marketing Machine. You'll set your strategy and create a 1-page marketing plan that you can start executing straight away. If you need some clarity and a structured approach to marketing, take a look here.
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