A few years ago I had to meet with a consultant who had asked to see my boss but who had to settle for me first. It wasn’t a good start, but determined to make the best of it I listened to the lacklustre patter that would not have sold iced water in a heatwave. I thought some questions would improve the situation, but I made it worse; after the 3rd or 4th question on what his solutions would be to particular problems, he became agitated and then angry. He said that he did nothing for free and if I wanted any further information, I would have to pay for it. I wonder what he’s doing now?
Giving something free has always been part of marketing. I have a publication written in the 1920’s that states that “free” is essential and never ask for orders in your advertising. From my own experience as a charity fundraiser, I would always offer free fundraising advice and appraise (and sometimes rewrite) funding applications as part of my marketing. Although this promoted some paid work, I was inundated with the “free” side and had to withdraw the offer until I cleared the backlog.
As a manufacturer of price tags, I always provide free samples in anticipation of an order – about half pay off. I’ll also write free blog posts to promote this side of my business; the return on this is much less, but there is no other way to do it.
FREE is an essential part of marketing. Actually, just FREE is not enough – it’s got to be QUALITY and FREE. Gone are the days when you could give a prospective customer a free, cheap pen with your name printed on it and expect them to be so grateful that they would give you orders for ever more.
FREE gets you business, but I don’t know the limits. All I know is that if I don’t provide FREE a competitor will.