Business Freebies Can Help You Land More Sales – Really

If you’re in business, you want to make money. When you invest time or money into something, you expect to see a return on investment (ROI). In fact, the goal is to maximize that ROI. But your potential customers aren’t always eager to spend money with you. How can you set yourself apart from the competition, make potential customers or clients love you even before spending anything, and manage to turn them into buyers?

Easy. Give them something for free.

I tell freelancers this all the time. Give your knowledge away — not all of it mind you. Some people are just too protective. They figure they should charge for everything they have to offer. That’s silly though. Here’s why:

Why Freebies Lead to More Sales

When you give something away for free, you’re attracting leads. Will everyone convert into a paying customer? No. But the conversions can be just as high (if not higher than) other lead generation tactics like advertising. It can cost far less up front too (improving your ROI even more).

Think of freebies as a base for an up-sell. This happens quite often in publishing. For example, a free excerpt of a book might be given to magazine publishers (and therefore their readers). The idea is to suck them in and entice them to the buy the book. It’s true of information products online too. Let’s look at a hypothetical example.

Credit: Christian Ferrari (via
Credit: Christian Ferrari (via

Let’s say you run an online consulting program or course on SEO. There are a lot of people giving SEO advice, and you need to set yourself apart if you want people to actually pay. You already have a decent selling point in that you run a highly successful SEO firm that regularly wipes the floor with the competition. But you need more.

You also know that not everyone can afford your comprehensive course (let’s say you’re charging $199 for a four week course). To bring in more revenue from those people, you decide to assemble some complementary information into an introductory e-book which you’ll sell for $27. Now you can reach people at the higher price point, but still monetize those in a lower-budget market.

Your e-book is setup to be a lead-in to the course. The intention is to convert some of those e-book buyers into course subscribers later on, after they’ve realized that A) you know what you’re talking about, B) your information is high quality and not just reiterating what they already know, and C) they like your style enough to want to pay more to learn more from you.

To get people to buy that e-book as a lead-in to your SEO course, you could then turn to freebies. Free stuff has a bigger potential of spreading virally via word of mouth than a paid product does (in most cases).

In this case let’s say you decide to release a shorter free report on SEO, and you make it available for download on your website. It will be much easier for you to drive leads to your site for a freebie than for that $199 course. You also convince prospects to take a closer look at your style and information without a commitment. They love that. (And if your website is monetized by ad revenue, you might even make money in the process that way as you drive traffic there for the freebie.)

Those free reports (or the opt-in list you build when people sign up to get that freebie) should then try to up-sell people to the e-book if they want to learn more beyond the report. Then those people who purchase the e-book will see further promotion for the course for “advanced” information on SEO. Do you see how up-selling works? It tends to work very well when you start with freebies as your base — more initial eyes as the word of mouth spreads.

You’ve seen an example of how giving away freebies can lead to more sales. But what kinds of freebies can you give away? You’re not limited to free reports (although they can be effective). Here are some ideas to get you started.

Business Freebie Ideas to Attract More Buyers

Consider using any of the following types of freebies to generate more business leads to drive to your paid products and services:

  • E-books (how-to varieties work nicely)
  • Reports covering an industry issue
  • White papers (great if you’re targeting executive-level decision makers)
  • Software
  • Apps for Facebook, iPhone, etc.
  • Blogs (free advice on those blogs)
  • Forms or templates (including Web templates or blog themes)
  • Promotional products (sticky notes, pens, keychains, bookmarks, etc.)
  • Excerpts of a larger project (good for information products)
  • Free consultations
  • Free membership sites (for more exclusive information — lets you build an email list)
  • Videos

You don’t have to use all of these freebie types. It can actually be best to focus on just one or two at a time (otherwise you’ll spread your promotional time and budget too thin). Here’s something else that’s important to keep in mind:

When you choose a business freebie to help you attract more customers and sales, make sure it’s worth the investment. For example, if your projections don’t show that you’ll earn a significant profit on all of those pens and keychains, skip them and try something else. Remember that they’re supposed to help you improve your bottom line, not hurt it.

Credit: Beth Kanter (via Flickr)
Credit: Beth Kanter (via Flickr)

Figure out what types of freebies might attract the buyers you’re looking for, and see if it makes sense for you to invest some time or money up front to put together those freebies. The leads you’ll generate in the long run can make freebies well worth the investment. Don’t overlook them in your marketing mix just because there’s no immediate financial return. Business is a long-haul game.

Written by
Jennifer Mattern