I love free stuff.
When I go to the mall, I enjoy the free samples more than almost any other part of the trip. About a quarter of my t-shirts came to me as a free benefit from participating in different events. Free is fun!
Discovering the free Kindle downloads of classic books rocked my world (and was largely responsible for getting me to try an e-reader). Clearly, a smart marketing decision by Amazon.com.
I first sampled local Orlando restaurant 4Rivers BBQ at a food festival, and have visited their restaurant almost half a dozen times since then, reviewed them on Google, and brought others with me to eat there. Clearly, a smart marketing decision by 4Rivers.
You’ve probably got plenty of examples of your own, where a free benefit that you received affected your decision to purchase a product or service later on. We all know that free stuff makes sales.
For businesses, giving things away online is just smart.
And I’m not just talking about contests and gift card giveaways either. Though those can be useful for generating brand popularity on social media, when it comes to search rankings and sales opportunities, other things can be far more meaningful.
In his book of the same name, Jay Baer calls it Youtility— the idea that you can be more successful by helping people openly than by hoarding your ideas.
With the aid of Google, the answers to millions of questions are no further away than our computers or mobile devices. Real people like you answer those questions on their websites, blogs, magazine articles, videos, and more. Google catalogs it and, when queried, returns its picks for the best answers.
(It’s getting even smarter, too, with the evolution of semantic search—but that’s a topic for another day. If you’re curious now, take a look at this semantic search summary from Search Engine Watch.)
This answer-oriented approach means that, when you write something for your audience, it’s in your best interest to make it as helpful as possible. It’s in your best interest to be attuned to their needs.
Boost Your Business With Radical Giving
Freely available information and guides all over the Internet mean that your customers are free to fix the problem themselves. Why, they might not even need you anymore.
That’s the kind of fear that keeps business owners awake at night. That’s the reason so many businesses have shied away from embracing this kind of radical giving.
It’s actually an old and deeply ingrained sales attitude – that making sales depends on the business having more information than the customer.
The competitive spirit dictates that you hoard your ideas, sharing them only with strategic partners. Knowledge is your secret weapon, because if everyone knows how to do what you know how to do, you’ll never be able to get anyone to pay you for it.
That’s the specialization model, version 1.0: learn it, hoard it, and then sell it for massive profit.
With the advent of the Internet and the rise of Google, that attitude is antiquated. It’s based on assumptions that no longer hold water.
Consumers are more educated than ever.
In fact, they are actively looking for opportunities to become more educated about their purchase as the economy has struggled to regain its footing. Baer documented the number of information sources that your average consumer needs to look at before making a buying decision—and the more expensive the purchase, the more sources people will look at. A fast food restaurant? 6 sources. A car? 18.
Your customers are looking for answers. They are looking for help. They are looking for someone who cares enough to help them understand what they are doing.
If you’re willing to give something away for free through your website, the people you help will remember. And they will say thank you. In fact, if you give them the opportunity, they will probably thank you all over the Internet. You earn credibility by the people you help.
You can also earn sales by helping people directly. By virtue of the questions you answer, your audience grows to trust you. Your answers may mean that they don’t need you today, but someday they may not have time, talent, or inclination to do what you can do. Something may go wrong, and they may not be sure how to fix it. Because they trust you, you’ll be the person they call.
But what can I possibly give away on my website?
Just as you should think about the questions your customers ask when you are writing a blog post, when you’re thinking about meaningful giveaways for your audience, you should consider what you know and could release in a form that others could apply on their own if they so choose.
This can manifest itself in many ways, besides being fodder for regular blog posts–
1) Publications are certainly always a good option, as long as you’re providing consultation-level advice. The extent of these publications may vary from a 10-page white paper to a full e-book.
2) Helpful Graphics – Informative graphics, or ‘infographics’, can be immensely valuable as shareable material, and the high level of visuals makes them appealing and easy to understand.
3) Templates, Outlines, and Plans – Maximize your usefulness by empowering your site’s visitors. You can read blog posts describing how to make Twitter backgrounds, but being able to download a template with visual guidelines makes it that much easier to do it yourself. Give away outlines, plans, forms, templates…anything that will help your audience in accomplishing their goals.
4) Tools of the Trade – Got techies? If you can develop a free website plugin or (even better) a free app that other people can use regularly and make their lives easier, you stand a good chance of winning brand loyalty whenever your users have a need that aligns with your services.
5) Old and New Products – Invite superfans and customers to sign up on your website to be part of a launch team for new products, or hold random giveaways to surprise and delight regular customers of your existing products.
Whatever you choose to give away, make sure you take advantage of the branding opportunities that are available through your giveaway. Logo placement, contact info… whatever you choose to do, in your quest to be helpful, just make sure people can remember who helped them!
Be Massively Useful.
This is our rallying cry for Internet marketing today.
Don’t try to hide your knowledge from your potential customers. Be massively useful. Overwhelmingly helpful. If your clients are in pain, be the good doctor they need.
Along the way, you’ll probably show them how much you love what you do. You’ll get to know them, because you’ll need to pay attention to what their questions really are. The relationships will feed the answers, and the answers will strengthen the relationships.
What could you give away on your website that would be massively useful to your potential customers?