When to Use Free Stuff to Market Your Products and Services


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In 1999, I was contacted by a furniture company asking for advice about how to turn around their internet business. It seems that they were very successful in the non-digital, real-world, business environment. They were a small enterprise generating a few million dollars a year in sales for their furniture products.

Yet, they had been on the internet for three years at that time, and they had yet to sell their first piece of furniture online.

As was explained to me, they were pumping the traffic through their website to the tune of 100,000 unique visitors every month. But, for some reason, they were selling zero products.

This was a manufacturing company who was trying to jump into the retail market through their website.

I took a look at their site. Their products looked excellent. Their website could have been tweaked to make it easier to navigate. They could have changed the color scheme to make it a bit more attractive and easier on the eyes.

But, the truth be known, manufacturers are not always the best people to write the sales copy for their products. Sure, their descriptions were great if they were using their websites to reach out to more retailers and wholesale agents, but they were trying to reach into the direct retail market.

They honestly needed a different type of copywriter to sit down and write the sales copy for their products. They needed someone who specialized in selling products to the end user rather than someone who was good at selling to the people who wished to buy and sell their products. They also needed a copywriter who understood the nuances of using words to help drive targeted traffic to their website through the search engines and online advertising.

Each of these points helped them to better tailor their website to reach their intended customers. But, the one point that helped them to turn their bad money into good money was to recognize that they Should Not give away a free office chair every month to some lucky visitor.

I don't know if you realize it or not, but there are hundreds of websites and ezines dedicated to help people to find free stuff on the internet for the taking.

My ex-girlfriend spent a solid six months online looking for free stuff and registering for give-aways. She was knocking down anywhere from $300 to $500 per month just in free products from the websites she visited.

The important question to ask yourself is this.

Did she ever intend to buy a single product from a single website that she visited??? Nope. She was Not on the internet to buy things. She was on the internet to Get free things.

In the previous 18 months, the furniture company that I was advising had given away 18 office chairs with a value of $300 each.

As soon as they removed the monthly drawing for a free chair, their traffic nearly dried up. As it turned out, 98% of their site traffic was only dropping around to register for a chance to win a free chair.

Now, our furniture company was ready to get down to the business of selling chairs without wasting their resources on people who were there only for the freebie.


So-called internet guru's jump up on their soapboxes and declare that you should give away something in order to drive paying customers to your website.

What kind of “customers" do they say??? Paying Customers???

I don't think so.

If the thing that you are giving away has any real value, then be prepared for an onslaught of freebie-seekers to come around sucking up your bandwidth and your free products and services of value.

If what you are offering has zero real value, then you need to know that the people you are trying to draw in with your freebie will see right through your offer and see you for the sham that you are trying to sell.


I used to believe that I could offer a free ebook to people to get them to subscribe to my ezine. I should have known better.

For a six-week period, I tested the concept of “free" to get subscribers for my own ezine. On the surface, it worked great. Under the microscope, it was an abject failure.

In the six weeks that I offered a free ebook in exchange for a new subscriber, I netted 500 new subscribers per week. Then on the following week, I noticed that I had really only netted 50 new subscribers for my efforts. Okay cool, I thought, I am picking up 50 new subscribers every week on account of my promotion. So, I ran my promotion again with similar results.

At the end of six weeks, I thought to myself, “Wow! I picked up 300 new subscribers for my efforts. "

Then a funny thing happened. I stopped the promotion for a few weeks and found myself up only twenty subscribers from when I started my freebie campaign.

Odd I thought. At the time, I was running my own list server, and I had a hankering to know the truth.

If you don't know what a “hankering" is, I am from Oklahoma, so we get those a lot. ;-) Dictionary.com defines a “hankering" as, “To have a strong, often restless desire. "

When you have a hankering and you have the time, you can find the truth of a matter.

After comparing the timing of the release of my “freebie" advertisement with the subscription timestamps, comparing those with my new subscriber comments to eliminate the people who told me they subscribed as a result of a referral, and then comparing the remaining addresses to my unsubscription records, I learned what I should have known in advance of my campaign.

90% of the people who came for the freebie were gone in a week. A full 99% of the people who came for the freebie were gone in three weeks. Only 1% of the freebie takers lasted for more than a few weeks, and a large majority of those were completely gone after three months.

The successes that I felt that I had accomplished, from offering a freebie for subscription, turned out to be a complete waste of my time and energy.


Those of you who know who I am also know that I offer a service of value to people who write articles to promote their online businesses.

Now and again, I will get someone knocking on my door, promising me tons of new business, if only I will give them one freebie to prove the value of my service.

Going against my better instincts, I did take this offer on two occasions. I won't do it again.

See, the thing is that the writer is responsible for creating a title that is appealing to both the publishers and the readers. Without a good title, an article will fail to produce results.

The writer is responsible for the creation of the article and the presentation of his information in an interesting and intriguing manner. Without a good story, an article will fail to produce results.

The writer is responsible for the wording of the Author's Resource Box. If the resource box is unappealing to the reader, then the reader will not click through and review the writer's website or program.

The writer is responsible for tackling a topic that would be of interest to his target market. If an article does not reach the people who would be interested in what the writer is selling, then the article will again fail to produce the desired results.

If a writer sends me a crud article that has no hope for accomplishing the results that he or she desires, then the fault is not mine. I did my part. I put their article into the hands of more than 12,000 publishers who were looking for content to reprint in their ezines and their websites.

If the writer fails to create an article that will serve his desired end, and he gets to use my service to put it into circulation, then the writer will need a scapegoat for his or her failure. There I am, the scapegoat for the failures of the writer.


The last guy who asked me to give a freebie distribution for his article got mad when I said no. He proceeded to brow beat me for being unwilling to give away something away in order to earn his business on the backside. After all he said, he gives away a lot of free stuff on his website to drum up new business.

It is true that it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. Everyone who knows me well knows that it takes a miracle to make me mad. This is a fact seriously upsets my wife when she is in a mood to argue. . . ;-)

This guy made me mad, but I held my temper in check.

Sir, if you knew me, you would also know that I give several hours of my week to help other writers distribute their articles for free on the internet. People who know me know that I own and moderate hundreds of open-membership, moderated-posting, article distribution groups on the internet.

It takes a lot of my time to make these resources available to the internet community and to make sure that these resources are not abused, and I do not get paid to provide these “free" writer resources.

Sir, I give a lot back to the writer's who make up the writing community on the internet. I just don't give away my bread and butter. And, if I were to give away a bread and butter job, I would much prefer to give that service to a paying customer rather than to a person who out-of-the-blue is promising me the moon and the stars.


I don't give away my bread and butter, to anyone, and you should not either. There is a time and place for everything, including freebies. Just be careful that you don't give your products and services to people who are only there to get a freebie from you.

Copyright Bill Platt - All Rights Reserved. Reprints allowed with article and resource box unedited. If you post this article on a website, you must set the links up as hyperlinks.


Bill Platt is the owner of http://www.LinksAndTraffic.com

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