Free is not free anymore


Along with ‘special offer’ ‘limited time only’ and ‘money back guarantee’ ‘FREE’ has become one of the most overused terms in a heavily cliché-ridden marketing lexicon. Everywhere you look businesses are supposedly offering you something for nothing. The public has either come to expect it, don’t believe it, or are suspicious of a catch.

I remember back to my childhood and visiting the Easter Show at the Showground in Moore Park.  You would go around to various food stalls and pick-up free samples. The suppliers of the samples were not trying to convince you on the spot to buy; they just wanted you to try their product today in the hope that you might buy tomorrow. There were no forms needing to be filled out, or having to endure a scripted sales pitch before the sample bag was handed to you. It had a genuineness about it, reflective, perhaps, of more innocent times.

Nowadays there are almost always strings attached to anything which is labelled free. The word ‘free’ has lost its true meaning.  It now means, we will give you something so long as we can see we are getting something in return.  In most cases this is data – personal data, that inevitably finds itself in phone, email, text and mail databases. From a business point of view, there is a need to understand the possible consequences in terms of either consumer backlash or apathy. It’s a delicate situation. A well thought out offer that genuinely connects with your target is still one of the best ways to attract potential customers.

When formulating your offer consider the following:

1.Be transparent and up front. If you are offering something for free, make it clear to consumers that you’ll be in contact to see if they were satisfied with the item, but that they will be under no further obligation.

2.  Make your offer more genuine and valuable, so it will be no surprise when followed-up.  When you do contact people, be personal and clear that they have not joined a mass database.

3.  Look at the bigger picture and that what you are ‘giving up’ is part of a longer-term relationship-building campaign aimed at establishing authenticity and trust, two traits that are priceless for any brand.

by Anthony Perl
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