Giving something away for free gets people’s interest in your product or service with very little sales “friction” since it’s free. If they like your free product or service, there is a far greater chance that they will return to buy later.
One of the most famous mainstream examples of free marketing is Ben And Jerry’s annual Free Cone event. Every year in late April, anyone can walk up to a Ben and Jerry’s store and receive one free cone, no questions asked. The promotion has proved to be so popular that many other stores such as Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Taco Bell, etc have followed their lead and have a “free” something day.
There are huge psychological marketing benefits to giving someone something for free.
Free is Easy
First off, giving something away for free breaks down that initial barrier to purchasing something. Maybe you have never had Ben and Jerry’s before, maybe you just like the idea of free ice cream. Whatever it is, giving something away for free draws people in. Unfortunately, many online marketers have discovered this and have been hooking people in with the false pretense of “free”.
Black hat marketers soon learned that giving away Acai Berry pills or Home Income Kits for a “free trial” would draw people in. They would charge some nominal ($1.95) amount for shipping of you “free” item, mainly just so they could get your credit card.
What most people don’t realize until later is that “free trial” means that one day after you ordered you would get whacked with $97 and $47 and $27 charges on your credit card. With the Acai Berry’s if you didn’t return the unfinished bottle of pills in some short time frame (5 days), you’d get charged $197 for it, then $197 a month thereafter as they sent you a new bottle of pills.
The free trial that automatically charges you lots of money does NOT create goodwill but rather anger. People making money this way know that they will likely only get that first bill in, maybe the second before the customer gets angry and takes action.
Free trials with rebills like this only create badwill with your customers. If that’s your business plan to squeeze a payment or two out of each customer before they flee, then so be it.
Real Free Creates Goodwill
Studies have shown that giving things away for free creates future goodwill. That by accepting that free cone from Ben and Jerry’s, you are creating a future debt in your mind that you own Ben and Jerry’s something in return.
This translates to you wanting to pay for ice cream the next time you see their products in the supermarket or are walking past one of their stores, far more so than if you have never accepted their free gift in the first place.
People act irrationally about free as well. If given the choice between a free item of low value and a higher value item at a discounted price of half off, people will opt for the free item 90% of the time.
Don’t Screw Up Free!
The fast food chain KFC had a free chicken day, but only at some locations. The company refused to pay back the franchise owners for the promotion and thus many of them opted out.
And those KFC locations that were participating quickly ran out of chicken once the promotion was announced on Oprah.
The result? People were PISSED! They were promised some free chicken and then when it didn’t appear, they were angry at KFC. What started as a goodwill marketing promotion actually ended up creating a great deal of BADwill toward the company.
So what? Give stuff away for free and you will make money in the long run. True free is a very powerful marketing tool.