Everybody knows that free samples can bring in new business. But for the manager or entrepreneur, the question is always, how much to give away free? You don’t want to give away the proverbial store.
At the same time, if you’re giving out samples, you don’t want to look cheap. Better not to do it at all.
It’s one thing if you have hard costs — say, ice cream or iPods. But if you’re in a service business, we’re talking about your time and your intellectual property.
And the wisdom these days, in the world of Web 2.0 where people are giving away free photos on Flickr, free videos on YouTube and lots of free thoughts and advice on Facebook and Twitter, is to err on the side of giving too much rather than looking stingy.
The marketing benefits are legion. Mainly, giving advice helps make you an authority and giving it out free makes you likeable. And people want to do business today with a likeable authority — that’s how you earn their trust.
The folks at RainToday, never short on free advice for businesses, just came out with a list of 9 Non-technical Ways to Increase Website Traffic. Author Eric Rudolf offers one I haven’t heard yet: Form a Purpose-Driven Social Networking Group:
As businesses continue to implement social networking strategies, marketers are finally realizing that the goal of social networking should not be to drive revenue but to develop a community that will eventually drive revenue. Are you an IT consultant? Start a group for people struggling with ERP implementations. Do you provide accounting services? Start a group for people who have questions and concerns about their taxes. Helping people without expectation of profit is a great way to not only build credibility, but to also drive web traffic in the future—when members of your social group are finally ready to make a purchase.
Rudolf’s other ideas — including to start a blog, convince other sites to link to yours and give away e-books and other educational content — are all tried and true and still worthwhile.
— Erik Curren