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Marketing Today

The best four-letter word ever

We tend to look down on four-letter words, often with very good reason. Today, however, I&

d like to introduce you to the best four-letter word you&

ll ever see for your business:

Free.

This small word has the potential to completely transform your marketing. Look at it this way: You probably already invest time and money proclaiming how wonderful your business is. What if you could invest a portion of those resources in proving it? Talk is cheap. Action is everything.

What can you offer for free to establish yourself with prospective customers and/or stay in touch with existing customers? The list is nearly infinite. Here are some ideas to spur your creativity:

Free consultations: No matter what business you&

re in, chances are there are lots of similar establishments hawking their own wares. What if you advertised not your products or services but a free consultation on how to select the best of what&

s available? I suggested to my housekeeper that she offer a free 15-minute consultation in her classified ad. She tried it and has been buried under prospective customers ever since.

Free gifts: A major bank sent out a mailing advertising financial services to high-net-worth prospects. Some mailings contained an offer for a free leatherette notebook that cost somewhere under $2 apiece while others did not. The mailings with the free offer outperformed their cousins by a factor of about 4 to 1. What&

s interesting is the very low cost of the gift relative to the target audience. This proves that your free gifts need not be extravagant. Don&

t hand out junk, just don&

t spend a fortune.

Free samples. Free upgrades. Free newsletters. Free products. As I said, the list goes on and on and on.

Why is this such a potent marketing tool? Two reasons.

First, the typical ad makes some big claims and asks for the sale. What does this tell you, the potential customer, about the quality of the business and its goods and services? Nothing. It does tell you that they want your money, all too often in no uncertain terms. Offering something for free gives the customer the chance to try you out in a totally risk-free environment. Once they&

ve gotten a taste of the wonderful quality and superlative service you offer, they&

ll be far more inclined to come back for more.

Second, remember that the best way to sell is by not selling at all. Adopting a giving versus a taking stance will yield far more results in the long term. Case in point: A jewelry store in Medford once offered an evening of free pizza and sports on a big-screen TV. Attendees received a consultation on how to select jewelry for their significant others. I urge anyone with any information about the store and/or this event to email me because that idea struck me as one of the most brilliant ideas I&

ve ever seen and I&

m dying of curiosity to learn how it worked.

So far we&

ve talked about prospective customers. What about existing customers?

I&

ll let you in on a little secret: Finding ways to give free things to your existing customers may well be the single most amazing marketing tool you&

ll ever employ. Think about this: Your existing customers have already taken the hard step of giving you their hard-earned money, thereby demonstrating the ultimate act of commercial faith. If they did it once, there is an excellent chance that they will do so repeatedly. You can enhance this chance by showing them that their relationship with you is a two-way street.

If you sell auto parts or service, try offering free car washes for a year. Finding a car wash place that would gladly discount their prices in exchange for the free business should be fairly easy. Think they might be willing to tell their customers about you, thus giving you a fusion marketing partnership? I do too.

Do you sell personal services (especially that have to do with having fun and/or taking care of one&

s self)? How about a &

bring a friend free&

offer? This could also work well for some of the more seasonal businesses around here during the slow period. You&

re paying your fixed costs no matter what, so why not take the chance to introduce new people to your business?

Your ability to offer free goods and services to your existing customers does of course mean that you need to know who these people are and have some sort of process for following up with them to keep the relationship alive. That, dear readers, is the topic of next week&

s column.

The examples in this article randomly sprang to mind as I typed. As an entrepreneur, you are creative and imaginative by nature. Use that creativity to come up with innovative offers for your prospective and existing customers and you may find yourself reaping the rewards of increased profits.

Need additional help with your marketing or any aspect of your business? If so, please e-mail me to set up a free 30-minute consultation with no obligation whatsoever.

As always, I look forward to your questions and comments. You may e-mail me at anthony@coachanthony.com.

is a local business consultant with over 19 years of business and marketing experience. He lives in Ashland with his wife Robyn, son Logan, and their three dogs.