So what is a four-letter word that can help you grow your business? We’ll get to that in just a moment. Before that, I’d like to take you back 170 years to the birth of what is now a global brand.
Do you know the product Jell-O? Or as we call it in Australia, Jelly? It was invented around 1840 and over the next 60 years, several owners tried and tried to make the product fly, but no one could. Then in 1899, the company and its patents were sold to Francis Woodward for the modest sum of $450.
At first, Woodward decided to run advertisements in major papers proclaiming Jell-O to be ‘America’s Most Famous Dessert’. The result from this campaign was a trickle of orders, but not enough for anyone to quit their day job.
Determined to make the idea work, Woodward then embarked on what was, at the time, a radical marketing strategy. He produced a small booklet with a dozen dessert recipes, had copies printed and then distributed them for free.
Naturally the booklets were snapped up in a flash and thousands of people now had some useful information on their hands – that others where charging for. So what does a free booklet have to do with selling more Jell-O? Well clearly each of the recipes in the booklet contained one must-have ingredient – yes, you guessed it – Jell-O.
So have you worked out what the four-letter word is yet? Yes, you guessed it again, free!
Now you may be thinking, “Nice story but what does this have to do with growing my business?” Well, it has everything to do with growing your business. Why? Because even though times have changed, people haven’t. Just as true as the sun will rise tomorrow morning, people will always love free stuff.
Seriously, if you want to grow your business, start giving away more free stuff.
So my question to you is, what are you offering for free in your business? If the answer is nothing, I’d like to suggest that you make a change. Seriously, if you want to grow your business, start giving away more free stuff. Don’t believe me? Use the headline, “FREE X” in your next advertisement and you can typically expect double the calls.
Now at this point I’m often met with the response, “What could I possibly give away in my business?” I’m glad when this is asked, because there is in fact, five ways in which you can give stuff away for free and still grow your business.
1. Free Product
You can approach a supplier and order a couple of hundred items for a couple of dollars each. If you run a camera shop, offer a free lens cleaner. Not with purchase, that’s expected. Just offer it for free. Then when people come into your store and ask for it say, “Sure, happy to give you your free lens cleaner, but do you mind if I ask you three quick questions first?”
Now one in five will say no, so you just give them the product and you’ve lost $2. Three will chat and not buy now, but you can get their email and add them to your database, which is cool. And one in five will spend $500. Now you might say, “Well I sell to one in five already.” Yes, but do you have that interaction with the other 10 people that walk in your store? What if you suddenly had 100 people in your store and you did the same numbers? Your business would explode.
More examples: offer a free top-up of engine coolant if you are a mechanic, offer a free drink bottle if you sell bikes, offer a week’s supply of vitamins if you are a health food store or offer a free biscuit bowl if you are a pet shop. Do these cost money? Yes, of course they do. But talk to your suppliers and ask them what stock they can’t move and buy this off them cheap. Or order directly from China and you can get product for peanuts.
Next time you are tempted to spend $2,000 on a newspaper ad, ask yourself if you want 10 buyers or 1,000 lookers. I’ll take the 1,000 lookers any day of the week.
2. Free Information
It doesn’t matter what business you are in, you are always in the information business. Why? Because people need and will seek information before they decide to part with their cash. Furthermore, they need to know why they should choose you as opposed to the scores of other businesses in the same space.
So to make things easy, let’s stick with the same examples as above. And again, it doesn’t matter what business you are in, just apply a little creativity and it will work for you too.
If you are a mechanic, offer a free CD with ten tips to extend the life of your car. If you sell bikes, offer a free workshop for parents and kids on how to stay safe on the road. If you are a health food store, offer a free ‘lose weight for summer’ workshop. If you are a pet shop… well, you get the picture.
For me, I run one-day business seminars for free and I have used this strategy to successfully generate millions of dollars in sales. So believe me, it works!
3. Free Gift Voucher
This one is fairly obvious but again it is not to be underestimated. Basically, rather than run a promotion that gives people 25% off, as hundreds of companies do every day, include a headline that reads, FREE MONEY. Under that headline, insert a gift certificate to the value of $25. Unlike a discount, people feel compelled to use gift vouchers, because they feel like they are throwing away real money if they don’t.
Following on from our previous examples, each of the above businesses can use this strategy. The only thing you need to know is to include in your fine print ‘offer only available for selected product packs’. Then ensure that you create a bundle of clearance items, which would normally retail for around $100. Then when people come in with their $25 voucher, show them how they can use it.
Oh and remember to include an expiry date. That way you create a sense of urgency and you’ll drive more sales sooner.
4. Free Test Drive
Normally associated with cars, this same strategy can be used by loads of other businesses. Said another way it’s the classic ‘try before you buy’.
Going back to our examples: if you sell bikes, tell your customer to take one for a spin, if you are a health food store, give people free samples, if you are a pet shop, invite people to take their favourite dog home for the weekend.
By doing this, not only do people get a chance to experience the benefits of your business, but you are also activating the principle of reciprocity. This means that when you give something to someone, people feel compelled to want to give something back, which in this case means to buy your product.
5. Free Review
Finally you can also offer free reviews. Or if that word doesn’t fit for your business you can use the words: free audit, free inspection, free assessment or free appraisals.
Basically this is where people come in and you assess their situation for free. You give them your honest feedback and then you make recommendations about what they should do next. Again it’s simple but it works brilliantly in most businesses.
To use the same examples one more time, the mechanics and bike store’s can both offer a free gears and brakes inspection, the health food shop can offer a free skin-care assessment and the pet shop can invite a Vet to come in for two hours on a Saturday to conduct free health checks for pets.
This article is all about challenging you to think differently about your business. In challenging times, you need to be flexible and if things aren’t working (like the case of Jell-O) you must be prepared to take bold action.
I’m suggesting if you really want to grow your business, give away more free stuff. By doing so you create trust, you can show the unique benefits of your product and as you give to others, people will want to give back to you.
More specifically, I have given you a bunch of examples and methods to implement. All you need to do now is pick something and put it into practice.