Should every business offer a freebie?

Freebies. Also known as lead magnets, opt-ins and list builders. Those things that say ‘get my guide to…’, ‘sign up here for my list of…’, ‘enter your email to download…’.

Should every business have them?

Freebies are designed to get people to join your email list. And email is absolutely vital in marketing your business.

You may have heard me banging on about this before. And you’ll definitely hear me banging on about this again!

When marketing people and business leaders talk about freebies, they’re usually talking about ways to share advice and help people. That’s great if you’ve got a knowledge-based business, like the kind of thing I do. In a consultancy, you can offer things like The A to Z of Stupid Marketing Jargon, How To Grow Your Facebook Audience Without Paying For Ads, and a list of fab free tools for building a business with no budget.

Unashamed plug: All of those are available, do give me a shout if you would like any of them.

So, those sort of freebies are pretty easy to do if you’re in the type of business based on your knowledge and giving advice.

But if you sell products you’ll probably be thinking ‘oh well those freebies don’t work for me so I don’t have to worry about it’.

Not so fast!


What do you do, if freebies don’t work?

You don’t specifically NEED a freebie. You don’t have to have a one-off advice guide, how-to or ultimate list of…

The point of the freebie is to entice people to join your list.

But once they’re on your list, you need to keep their interest – otherwise they’ll unsubscribe pretty quickly!

So what would you offer to people if they were already on your list? Something valuable, interesting, useful, entertaining.

You must have something desirable that you send people regularly by email. Otherwise, what would anyone join your list for?

Here’s a few ideas about what you could offer.
Priority Access

This is very attractive to people, really easy for you to put out, and gives an amazing benefit for both parties – particularly if you release products as limited edition or there’s always new products coming out. Offer priority access to the people on your email list – tell them ‘here’s the new thing, it goes on general release in 48hrs/a week/whatever timeframe suits’.

If you use a booking service, this will also work well. Say you’re a restaurant with a Sunday Night Supper Club, or a tattoo artist who opens their books a few months at a time. You could email everybody and say ‘bookings are now available for February, you folks get first dibs’ and in 48hrs/a week/whatever timeframe put it up on social media and everybody else then gets the chance to book.

It doesn’t cost you anything but it makes people feel a bit special – they definitely get an advantage by being on your list, which is great reason to sign up.
Exclusive Discount

Who doesn’t want a discount, eh? Well, be careful.

The problem with enticing people to join your list to get a discount is that once they’ve cashed it in, they won’t stay. They’re just there for the saving, they’re not interested in you long term. If they really want your product, they’ll buy it at full price.

Remember the horror story about the people who bought a DFS sofa at full price…

One way this might work is if you have GENUINE sales. As in, stock you can’t shift and need to get off your shelves. You could make that exclusive to people on your mailing list, or they could get advance notice of the sale.

Either way, this sort of offer will attract short-term people to your list. So be careful with this sort of approach. Ideally, you want your list full of long-term people, who will be repeat customers and will recommend you to others.
Exclusive Product

How about offering something that only people on your email list are able to buy?

And you don’t need to hold a warehouse full of stuff to do it!

I’ve been talking about redbubble quite a bit recently. It’s an online service where you upload your artwork and people can buy products with it on. So it’s great for artists, graphic designers, illustrators and the like, but also if you have a really cool brand that people love you can put your logo on there or if you’re known for a catchphrase you can upload that sort of thing. They have an enormous list of products that are available to have your stuff printed on, and when someone places an order they print and ship it for you – so you don’t have to fill your garage with printed t-shirts, mugs, canvases, pin badges and shower curtains (told you it’s an enormous list!).

You could create a new thing so often, that’s only available for a limited period. That exclusivity and scarcity would be rather attractive to the right people!


But none of those things work for me!

What if you’re not knowledge-based or sell products?

As I said earlier, you just need to offer people something that they’re interested in, something they’ll find useful/interesting/entertaining.

One of the key reasons for doing email marketing is to take people through that Know, Like, Trust process that I may have mentioned one or twelve times before…

In your emails, you can show them things that get them to know you better.

Show them behind the scenes. If you make things, show how you do that.

Don’t worry that they’ll take that info and make your things themselves and not buy from you. If that were the case, with the amount of New Yankee Workshop shows I’ve watched, I’d have filled my house with beautiful hand-made furniture – instead of buying it all from IKEA.

Here’s another idea, that I came up with while writing the notes for the video version of this. It’s something I want to do, so look out for it in the future.

This works particularly well if you’re in the kind of field related to modern culture and what is going on in the world – Playlist of the Week / Watch List of the Week.

You get to show some personality, by theming each list to a particular product range or current event and giving a little commentary about that. It’s a great way to get some conversation going, especially if you invite them to share their thoughts about the songs/shows on your social media.


So, should every business offer a freebie?


Just because you don’t offer what people generally think of as a freebie, it’s still doing the same job.

Offer something that your audience benefits from, that shows who you are and what you do, and starts people on the Know, Like, Trust journey.

Everyone should be doing email marketing, and everyone should be offering something that gets people to want to join their list.

One last note to finish on – don’t call it a newsletter.

A newsletter isn’t something your audience benefits from, it’s a pat on the back for you. Who wants to sign up for that?

Look at the content of your newsletters. What’s actually in them, what do you talk about? Tell people what that is – that’s what they’ll actually get when they join your list.

So you might link to some industry news and tell people how that will affect them, or how they can implement it, or give your opinion on it. Tell them that they’ll get insights on what’s happening in the industry, they will get industry-leading information that they can easily and immediately apply.

That sounds more useful and interesting than ‘sign up for our newsletter’, eh?

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