Throughout 2020 we were flooded with a sea of look-a-like marketing materials. In March we were happily signing up to online events, reading whitepapers and going through copious amounts of information online. Given the impact of COVID-19, there were not many other ways for us to gain this information and companies tried to capitalize on the ‘captive’ audience. The problem for consumers is that these methods are nothing new and we’ve become fatigued by all of the content being thrown at us. Sending another email about how you can help if they just get back to you will not grab people’s attention, or interest – an obligation free offer of real benefit to them, will.
Customer Buying Behavior
Customers often make decisions based on their own biases, even after they have done their research. A product or service that is similar to a competitor’s in design and appearance is not going to alter these inherent biases. One method, proven over decades, can. Give away free stuff. A free toy in a box of cereal or a free month’s subscription to a TV streaming site. The tactic is aimed at different demographics, but the impact is the same, people’s attention is drawn to the offer that provides instant gratification.
You don’t find small, plastic toys in cereal boxes anymore. What you’ll find now are codes that can be redeemed for prizes online. The method is the same but our ability to execute has progressed significantly through technology. Replace the cheap gimmick with a piece of software, build it to scale and millions of people can use it without hiking up the costs. Doing so allows you to take a different angle on the approach, similar to online television companies, the free offer no longer needs to be conditional of a purchase.
A New Messaging Strategy
“We’ve developed this really cool product that you may find beneficial, enjoy it and let me know if you have any questions.”
This message can be sent to customers, old leads and people that you’ve never spoken to before. At worst many will ignore that too, at best they want to speak to you about the core services you offer. Somewhere in between, it creates goodwill and brand recognition, enhancing your reputation for when they are looking to make a purchase. Interested and appreciative recipients are pulled towards you and it is they who want to start a conversation and share your product with their network.
The impact that stems from targeting consumers with this technique during the awareness and consideration phases vastly differs from the intent or purchase phase. Yours is the brand that helped them at the start of the buying process and a level of trust has already developed. Those that share your free product are fast-tracked straight to the advocacy stage of the buying journey, even if they don’t make a purchase themselves.
Creating the Product
Organizations don’t typically have a technical team capable of developing these products, but you don’t need one in-house. Construct a project team consisting of internal marketing and leadership personnel and external developers. The biggest challenge is no longer building the technology, it’s coming up with a practical, innovative idea.
First, you need to consider the type of free product or tool that will work for your business. There are two main categories:
An alternative for creating an actual product is to create a campaign that is not necessarily related to your core work. A non-profit organization such as Goodpin is an ideal partner for a targeted campaign of this type. For $100 of your marketing budget, send a note to 10 individuals at a prospective B2B customer, allowing them to donate $10 each to their favorite charity. This will be far more memorable than the $10 spent to get them to click on a LinkedIn ad and provides insight into your brand values.
Regardless of which option is best suited to your business, your free offer should incorporate three overarching factors -Practicality, Availability and Shareability. Basically, it needs to be something people can and will use, that they can easily find and that they can share with their network, expanding the reach beyond your database.
A free offering is far from a novel idea but the possibilities to effectively use this marketing tactic have progressed significantly. The options are plentiful, we simply need to explore them. Turn your attention away from digital strategies that we have seen work in recent years and go back to what has always worked, freebies.
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