The Benefits of Free Stuff for Brands #freebieman

Before we get into this I’d just like to say a big thanks to Mike for agreeing to let me publish an extract from his book for this blog post, I’d also like to wish him a happy birthday! (or ‘appy both’dee as we say here in Stoke) …enjoy..

Below is an exclusive extract from “Free Stuff Everyday”, the book by Mike Essex which explains how to build a brand by giving away freebies. If you enjoy this post be sure to check out Mike’s experiment that is happening today (!) which you can help with by visiting the Koozai website

Customers love free stuff and trying new things.

Brands are always in need of brand advocates to share the word about their products.

These two goals aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the same customers who want free stuff are not freeloaders, they are 100% the ideal people to turn in to brand advocates.

Where else will you find people who have actively sought out your brand, and who are prepared to offer something in return? Here’s just a few of the ways you can use free stuff to gain increased sales and brand awareness ;

Market Research

Forget internal guesswork, and mass surveys. The best way to gather effective research on what the market wants is to bring together your prospective customers and to ask them. In return you can offer your product to them when it’s completed and it’s also a nice way of showing them you listened to their ideas. They get free stuff, and you get actionable data.

Product Feedback

Similarly to Market Research, you can give people early versions of your products and ask them for their help and feedback. For the customer it’s a great way to make them feel a part of something important and to reward any previous brand loyalty they may have had. For a brand, it’s another way to build real customer data in to your product development process.

To do market research and product feedback you can find people at Fiverr and Sponsored Reviews who pay bloggers to review your products, but whose fees pay for their finder’s fee so reviews remain ethical and truthful.

Improving Local Awareness

If you want to raise awareness of your product in the local community, then giving a product away to vocal people in that community is a great start. Find local journalists or businesses and give them products to talk about.

Alternatively pick a random member of the public and give them something for free. You can be sure they’ll tell their friends about it and help spread the word in the community. In addition the unexpected nature (“who will company X pick next?”) helps generate a talking point and a buzz about your product.

Interflora do this well by picking people and giving them free flowers:

Reviews / Testimonials

When your product has been released, reviews and testimonials are a great way to build some exposure for the product. It’s recommended that brands start giving away products to reviewers 10 weeks before the official launch as this can help to generate an early buzz, and it gives people chance to fit the reviews in around their existing schedule.

To find people to review your product, search online for bloggers in your niche using Followerwonk, or other active people in the print press or online environments. Then check if they’ve covered anything similar and make contact with them to see if they’d be interested. Don’t send something to every person, but those with the strongest websites and communities are your top priority.

Social Media Awareness

Competitions with free stuff tend to go viral very quickly on social media like Twitter and Facebook, especially if you are giving away something that people can’t buy in a shop.

To capitalise on this, try to find something unique you can give away (e.g. your product in a different colour / packaging / or with engravings etc) and mention this as a competition to people online. Make it so they have to display a message on their social profile in order to enter, and then other people in their network will do the same. It’s a quick way to spread a message to a lot of people online, just by giving away one free thing.

Building Loyal Customers

If your product is the first in a sequence (e.g. the first book in a trilogy), something people consume often (e.g. cheese) or one that has future bolt-on purchases (e.g. a razor that needs replacement blades) then giving them away can encourage customers to make future purchases. People love free stuff, and the initial gesture can go a lot further than 50% discounts in getting people to reuse your brand in the future.

Lots of authors do this on Amazon kindle by using a one day free promotion to get initial sales, such as the below example which is part of a wider series:

Building Business Connections

It’s not just customers who like getting things for free, businesses do to. Whether it be a trial of your product, or a goodwill gesture, a free product is a nice way of building links with other businesses. For example if you feel you’ll need the services of a business in the future, then a free product now can work wonders in giving you an opportunity to speak to the right people later.

Proving Yourself

Regardless of whether you feel your product is the best, a customer would much rather be shown this fact that told it. If you can create a trial version of your product that can be given away for free then it’s a definite must for every business. Give people access to your product and prove to them that it is worth using on a regular basis. Alternatively offer a 30 day trial or money back guarantee to effectively give something away with the promise of extra income.

Sky Sports let people view their channels for free on the 20-22nd July, a perfect example of giving people a brief glimpse of what they could see as a paying customer:

Generating Online Buzz

The Internet has generated millions of new places to get product exposure, and endless conversations that would be ideal places for your brand to be mentioned. Free products can lead to reviews, and they can also lead to links back to your website. From a search engine optimisation perspective this is an excellent indicator to the search engines that your brand is being talked about, and is relevant to show higher in search results. A great added bonus.

I use Gorkana to find journalists seeking products to review.

Improved Brand Perception

When choosing a brand would a customer rather pick one they have never heard of, or one which they’ve heard about in competitions, or from people who got a freebie? It’s a no brainer, and an active brand, who isn’t afraid to engage customers in multiple ways is far more appealing.

Improved Customer Confidence

Only a brand that is confident in their product will be prepared to give it away. After all people may write bad reviews, or be turned away from buying it in the future. However by giving free stuff away you are allowing people to try before they buy, or giving people the chance to write good reviews. When other customers see these conversations, it gives them the confidence they need to trust your product in the future.

This is a small sampling of ideas, and there’s plenty more ways to engage with customers throughout the full book. You can find the book on Amazon or take part in Mike’s experiment today at Koozai

For more from Mike visit the Koozai blog or find him on Twitter as @Koozai_Mike