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Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

By Harper Willis

The basic idea of trying to lure customers and increase sales by giving away something for free has been around for at least 100 years. Jell-O put itself on the map in the early 20th century by giving away hundreds of free Jell-O recipes to homeowners who didn't know what to make of the new product. In a few years the company went from being virtually worthless to making $1 million in annual sales.

How can you sell more by offering up freebies? Take a cue from these five businesses that have finetuned the strategy. NEXT >>

Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

Target customers with influence

Target customers with influence

Target customers with influence

Since he started his company a few years ago John Cole, CEO of Dexter Industries, has tried to use free giveaways to promote his products twice. The first attempt was a dismal failure. The company makes third-party robotic sensors for a new brand of LEGO toy that allows buyers to design their own robots. Cole tried giving away sensors to customers through online raffles on the condition that recipients post about the sensors on their social media networks. "We got absolutely no response. Most people never even used the sensors — some didn't even open the box," says Cole.

So he tried again, but this time he targeted the experts. "We started giving away our products to technology bloggers and robotics experts," says Cole.

The move paid dividends in the form of more free publicity on blogs and social media sites, expert feedback on products, and ideas for new sensors and projects. NEXT >>

Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

Give a freebie that's hard to throw away

Give a freebie that's hard to throw away

Give a freebie that's hard to throw away

Tom Connellan is a New York Times best-selling author of "The 1% Solution" and four other books on business. He has been the keynote speaker at dozens of companies including FedEx, Dell, and the U.S. Army. He says one of the keys to his success is giving away his books for free. When a company gets in touch with him about delivering a speech he sends them free copies of two of his books that most match the subject in question. "Even if I don't fit their budget or particular needs at the time, they'll have the books to remind them of me in the future," he says. "Brochures people discard; books, not so much." NEXT >>

Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

Go for small and useful

Go for small and useful

Go for small and useful

A few years ago Jason Goldberg, CEO of America's Floor Source, a large flooring company based in Columbus, Ohio, started giving away free bags of felt pads — the things you put under chair legs to prevent them from scratching the floor. Each bag is branded on the outside with the company logo and phone number and contains several pads, a magnet, and a double-sided card explaining the importance of protecting flooring investments."

"Now we are known for our felt pads," says Kristan Sock, director of marketing. "We go through thousands of them at home shows we attend throughout the year. It goes to show that customers really do appreciate the little things." NEXT >>

Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

Give freely — with a catch

Give freely — with a catch

Give freely — with a catch

Hurricane Grill and Wings started in Fort Pierce, Fla., and is now in more than 40 locations. The restaurant chain gives away cards that entitle customers to free garlic-parmesan fries, the restaurant's most popular appetizer. Sure, it's a tactic that lots of restaurants try, but Hurricane Grill introduced a twist to encourage customers to interact more with the business: To get the cards customers have to sign up for the restaurants' loyalty program, answer online questionnaires, or engage with the company via social media.

"Fries do not comprise a whole meal, so customers often pay for an entire meal to go with their appetizer — possibly more than they'd usually spend because they feel like they are already saving money," says Shelby Fox, a representative of the restaurant. NEXT >>

Freebie Marketing: How to Use It to Grow Your Business

Differentiate with generosity

Differentiate with generosity

Differentiate with generosity

TJ Mahony is the CEO of Flip Key, a vacation rental website that offers over 100,000 vacation rentals around the world and was ranked top vacation rental site two years in a row by Travel and Leisure Magazine. The company expects more than 200% growth over the next year. To prepare, it needs to hire a lot of new top-notch software engineers and Web designers to help organize their website.

To attract talent, he's offering a free weeklong stay in any of their vacation spots to new hires. "It might cost us, but the average headhunter is going to charge at least $20,000, and I'm betting most applicants won't choose the $50,000 a week castle," says Mahoney. "My dream vacation spot is around $5,000."

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