Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What Should I Give Away For Free?

When you first start marketing your wares, you look for advice.

And one of the most common pieces of advice you'll come across is "Give something away for free."

Okay. What?

What should I give away for free?

I recently reviewed some of the things I did early in my business, and through the years. Here are some things that worked and things that didn't.

First, the obvious: Mouse pads.

Over the years we have occasionally printed up mouse pads and distributed them to our clients. Cost is about $3-5 each, depending on what you get.

As an I.T. company, this is a GREAT give-away. Even with optical mice, a nice mouse pad goes a long ways. If it's funny, beautiful, or useful, it will stick around.

My favorite mouse pad had the following message:

KPEnterprises Troubleshooting Guide for Windows

1. Reboot the computer.

That will fix 99% of all problems. If you still have problems

2. Call KPEnterprises

In addition to solving a lot of problems, this became part of our client culture. People would call and say "I've already rebooted . . .."

Nowadays, consider instructions on entering a service request.

Second, fun stuff.

I like to troll the "scratch and dent" department at Staples and Office Max. When they put end-of-life stuff out, I look to see what's interesting. One time they were closing out Dilbert business card holders. I bought some, packed them with business cards and sent them to clients, asking for referrals.

I didn't get many referrals, but people kept those cards holders and remembered it for a long time. Good P.R. with current clients. Not too expensive.

Third, Labor.

This the most common give-away. For example, you might use my 68-point checklist or the Microsoft Business and Technology Assessment Toolkit to offer a "3 hour network checkup."

A few things to remember:
1) Don't give away too much.

2) Be totally advisor and not pushy sales person.

3) To get the report, they need to meet with you personally. Period. End of story. There is no Option B.

Fourth, Useful Stuff.

There are two primary kinds of "useful stuff." One is the written word. This includes handouts on virus security, acceptable use policies, DRP, backups, etc. Handouts. Things that can be photocopied.

The other kind of useful stuff is something a bit fuller in content. For example, if you do client-facing webinars, record them, press them to CD, and offer them to clients and prospects. These engage the client in a total advisory role. Whether it's a webinar or audio CD, the client consumes the information at their leisure -- on their schedule.

So, when they choose to access the information, you have been welcomed into their conscious mind. That's cool. Make the most of it. Brush your teeth, wear a clean shirt, and present your company in a professional manner.

If you have a CRM system for tracking marketing campaigns, such as Results Software, you can make a note when someone requests a CD. Over time you can see the pattern of people who rely on you for this information. They see you as someone who gives useful advice.

And that means you've got a collection of people you can go to with new technologies and they'll be open to the idea.


One of the great weaknesses in marketing is goal-setting.

Why are you doing this marketing?

Think about all the squeezy toys you've thrown away over the years. Was that Intel or AMD? Trend? Symantec? Notinbusinessanymore?

Imagine yourself afloat in a sea of white XL t-shirts. Will you add another shirt to the pile? I hope not.

Some marketing needs to be regular and consistent (your monthly newsletter).

But quick campaigns can be anything you want: interesting, fun, stupid, etc.

Whatever you do, it needs to have a goal. Why are you giving this thing to this person for free? What's the call to action? If you don't know, don't give away anything.


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