Freebies & The Art of Old School Marketing

A business pal posted an interesting status today about tolerance for how to access “free stuff” in online marketing… and if it should have opt-ins (giving up your name and email address) for customers to get that free stuff. Before you get all bummed out, feeling like you’ve just cracked the “opt in” concept for your business and now are to be told not to bother, or feeling like you’ve been duped the last time you gave up your email for an information product, let me remind you this is actually REALLY old school marketing – like real world marketing, not just online marketing. And I think it’s fine!

You know when you stand in line for that free draw for a barbecue at the local Home & Garden Consumer Show, or sign up for a free Bath & Body Works sample coupon? You were doing the same thing for bigger businesses. You were extremely happy to give up your name to get the goodies! So why should your small business, solo entrepreneur friends lose out on the same style of marketing that, frankly, works. It’s a win-win-win – for you, for the company, and for a potential new relationship that could actually benefit you personally or your business if that freebie turns into a loyalty for your business (ahem – that’s the ultimate point).

If I take off my marketing hat for a few minutes, I see the pain… I have a daily chore of unsubscribing from stuff I opted in to, to “try before I buy”. But I’m also finding myself NOT unsubscribing from surprising lists that I never would have discovered had I not saw a free business product that caught my eye.

“Opting in” may feel a bit gimmicky. But if what you get out of giving your name and email address is of true value, then you have nothing to lose but an extra 30 seconds to unsubscribe anytime you like. And by the way, what is value? It’s not what your best business friend told you is value… it’s what YOU value. If it’s something you want, sign up for it! If it’s not clear what you get, ask for more information or move on.

Put on YOUR business hat for a minute. There are consumers out there who collect free stuff like they are about to end up on an episode of Hoarders! You don’t want to clutter your inbox with non-qualified, uninterested looky-loos who are JUST in it for the free stuff. When you offer free with opt-in… make sure you are offering something that proves your credibility and expertise a level deeper than everyone else. Let your unique gifts and voice shine in e-books, worksheets, audios, videos or whatever it is.

My Facebook response… But yet what’s always worked still works… delivering exceptional customer value. I was thinking on this more… I think some can use a double opt in because they have created a strong brand, with great value and high trust… plus a “you know what you are going to get” experience. Those who are inconsistent, inappropriate and ineffective in actually delivering value will not be able to “ask” from customers as easily as those who have built a relationship or a brand or a reputation that is solid already. And different audiences have different levels of sophistication and tolerance for “savvy marketing”. If it’s slick and smooth it generates either a “you are so professional, wow what an expert” response. Or it generates a “yuck – this is too good to be true” response. Isn’t marketing fantastic!? Love it.

To really amp up your credibility, offer loads of high quality free content without opt in on your blog, on Twitter chat, on Facebook statuses/notes/discussions, in articles for others, chapters in others’ books. Build your reputation. I am still clunky at the online opt-in processes, but I’ve come a long way baby in integrating my strong traditional marketing methods with online marketing ideas. And I think I’m getting enough to believe this post I just wrote.

I have no fear of asking for your  name when I’m giving you something that has a high value to MY business. If you value it to, you’ll let me know who you are. And it won’t hurt my feelings if you opt out after you get it. For now, until my online expert colleagues show another win-win way (I’m sure they are working on it right this second), I think it’s an age old system that works in real life on a trade show booth, at a retail store, at the coffee shop, and online.

Bottom line in how you operate YOUR business is to know your audience and where you stand with them – whether your business is online or in real life. Have you built trust and credibility enough to ask more of them in return? Is your offer so delightful that you don’t need to build trust for them to enjoy giving their name and email address? How much time do you have to cull a huge qualified list? Would a small, easy to connect with list be better for you right now?

My fear always is that you will undervalue yourself and your business. And offering something for free with nothing in return, if you haven’t already built your reputation and set your prices and created value in your business, is that you’re not worth it. You’re not valuable enough to take a tiny risk of sharing an email address to get your brilliant work.

But you are worth it. Asking for what’s fair isn’t just about proper pricing. It’s about not giving away your best stuff for free inappropriately. You’re worth it! Don’t miss the opportunity to build your business.

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