How to Grow Your Business by Giving Away Free Stuff

February 12, 2014 • Branding, How To, Life Tips

grow-your-own-business

At first, giving away stuff for free to grow your business doesn’t seem logical. However, providing free things of value to prospective customers is a sure way to bring new business into your company.

Having effective channels for customer acquisition and retention are important for any business owner. Finding the answers to  “How do I get customers?” and “How do I make sure my customers are repeat customers” can be answered using this method.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example from my own life.

As  a freelance consultant, I help business owners with their communications, marketing, and branding needs. I do this part-time so I purposely keep my client list on the shorter side and choose projects that I want to work on. Most of my recent clients have come from casual networking and direct referrals. Yet, I am constantly looking for avenues for developing a prospective client pipeline. Part of my business development strategy is to offer free “30-minute branding consultations” during certain times of the month with anyone who is interested.  I advertise these on my Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin profiles.

A few months ago a former classmate of mine from college, Julie Nkodo, contacted me about scheduling a branding consultation. She works full-time as a Program Associate in Maryland but was very interested in developing her passion of dance and choreography into something bigger. And having recently moved back from Chicago, she was looking for a way to re-brand herself in the DMV area.

For the next 30 minutes, Julie and I chatted about her goals and some important next steps she had to take. I promised to stay in touch with Julie and let her know about my services and that I was available to help her with any business needs in the future.

So did Julie hire me?

No.

So how did I make money from this?

After the call, I asked Julie to post about her experience working with me on her social media platforms.  I made sure to ask that she linked to my appropriate social media handles. The platform Click to Tweet is great for this purpose.

Julie received a service for free and was, in essence, becoming a brand evangelist for me in exchange.

Fast forward a few months. Julie’s friend Maseray Kamara, the owner of a budding test prep company Foundation Preparation contacted me to schedule a consultation. She was eager for help (and heard good things about me), so I was hired for a one-month marketing director position that has now grown into a more long-term partnership.

Giving away free stuff to grow your business doesn’t always mean the customers will start to roll in. At the end of the day you need to have a viable product or service. Nevertheless, this process is a great way to get people to start talking about your company.  It’s also a great way to reach people that might not naturally be on your radar. The more eyes on your brand, the better chance you have of scoring a customer. If you need some ideas for other types of promotional items you can give away for free, check out this great article.

Some important notes to remember:

Make sure what you are giving away is of value to the prospective customer and relevant to your business.  I give away free branding consultations because I want prospective clients to see my branding expertise as credible.  I don’t give away gift cards to clothing stores because it just doesn’t make sense.

Impose limits. It’s not worthwhile to fill up your entire schedule with “free consultations.”  Figure out how much “free” you can afford to give away each month. Don’t give away any more. At the end of the day, you’re trying to build a business. Also, if you are giving away a free 30-minute conversation, try to make sure it lasts for 30 minutes and not two hours.

Make the individual on the receiving end part of the experience. Asking for customer help in providing feedback (and sharing it with their social circles) is crucial to your sales strategy. Get the customer to create buzz for you. (Heck, you did give them something for free!)

Be genuine and trustworthy. Treat everyone you interact with as if they are one. People remember how you make them feel. Also, nobody likes working with or buying from someone who has bad customer service.

Keep track of progress. Align accordingly. Don’t give out products or service haphazardly. Make sure you are tracking your metrics including successes and failures. Use the lessons you learn to realign your sales strategy.

Have you ever given away anything for free and saw an increase in business? Got a question or tips to share? Share your comments and stories below.

Rana Campbell is a branding professional that helps small businesses do branding better. Check out her website for more info or connect with her on TwitterInstagram, or LinkedIn.

This post originally appeared on Madame Noire.

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