Sunday, September 30, 2007

Marketing Methods: Using freebies to build business

In my last post, I talked about the idea of designing promotional products or sales around notable dates.

Today, I want to talk about a related idea, that of using freebies as a way to build business.

In real life, giving product away is a good idea, but when considering doing so, you must also balance the benefit against the cost of making the product. In Second Life, on the other hand, it doesn't cost anything to make additional copies of something you sell, so freebies can be a terrific way to create loyalty and interest among existing and potential customers.

On Friday, Insky Jedburgh--who is featured in my soon-to-be-published book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, as an expert and well-known builder of custom and prefab castles--sent what I understand to be everyone on his friends list an offer of a free sample of his specialty.

Since I wasn't logged into SL at the time, I got this by email. It said, "Insky Jedburgh has offered you...'FREECASTLE PACKAGE' in Second Life. Log in to accept or decline the offer."

This was pretty cool. And knowing that Insky does good work, I decided to check out the freebie.

Well, it's a pretty nice little castle. It's small and only has a couple of rooms, but I'm sure it has plenty of uses, and would surely fit on even the smallest plot of land. And he smartly attached a notecard and a landmark to it which makes it easy for anyone who happens on it to visit his showroom and see what else he sells.

I would quibble with some of the choices he made: He has plastered his name all over it, and I think he may have overdone it a little bit. Similarly, if you touch the castle in any way, up pops the notecard offer, and that can be a bit annoying.

But the principle is very sound: At no financial cost to himself, Insky has reached out to a lot of people, giving them all an easy way to see what his work is like. Plus, by putting his brand all over the place, he's showing that he's not shy about letting you know who the builder is or where you can go if you want something else he built.

The notecard says so, explicitly: "Freecastle is intended to act as an advertising tool for IJ Designs, but if you would like a modifiable, non advertising version please" ask.

Ultimately, I recommend this marketing approach to anyone getting started, and so do many of the most successful SL businesspeople. You can give freebies away in your shop, to everyone on your friends list, to everyone on your update group or, really, to anyone you choose. And if you're smart about it, you've found a simple, inexpensive way to cultivating a new customer, and any others they might lure in for you with enthusiastic word of mouth.

But, do be sure to be smart. Word of mouth works both ways. If your freebie is low-quality, or is bothersome to people, you may end up shooting yourself in the foot. And that's no way to build a profitable business.

1 comment:

dyerbrookME said...

Bad idea. Freebies stifle initiative, kill newbie-to-newbie sales in particular, and paralyze our economy. They're often on copy and transfer, and the makers scream if anyone sells them, although of course, tiering their presentation in the market should be reimbursed, somehow.

I'm all for some loss leaders. We all use them. But there are just far, far too many in this environment, and there is this awful aura around them of altruism and helping newbies that is fake -- as in fact they are mainly about getting brand recognition and driving newbies to pick up more expensive stuff then in the store later.