Of course you do. So then the question is – how do you do it? I have a one-word answer for you.
Studies show that the most powerful word in advertising is “free.” It turns out the same is true in both customer acquisition and retention. Offering both current and potential customers something extra or something for nothing is the sort of value-added bonanza that creates and cements relationships.
Let’s consider all of the ways this kind of offer can benefit your business:
1. It creates interest: Let’s say you are a new business and you want to generate attention. Offer something people want for free. That will surely capture their attention.
This sort of loss-leader strategy is tried and true and works because:
- It allows people to try out a product or business with no commitment
- It gives them a chance to get a feel for the goods
- It makes them feel like they are getting a deal
Back when I first started practicing law, I never charged for initial consultations. This proved to be an excellent way to get people to give me a chance.
2. It gives people a reason to switch: While customer loyalty is not what it once was, it is still real; people tend to find products and businesses they like and stick with them. So you have to give people a reason to leave their comfort zone and choose you when they do.
Freebies do just that.
First, because there is no commitment involved, offering something for nothing makes it easy for the potential customer to check you out. And second, free creates a good vibe. As the saying goes, you really do not get a second chance to make a great first impression and giving something for nothing helps foster that great first impression.
3. Free makes current customers want to stay your customers: This may be the most important reason. We all know we are supposed to appreciate and reward our best customers, but how do you really do that? Maybe the most powerful way is to give them extra products or services at no extra cost. It is especially useful if you give your customers something they need and are not expecting to get for free.
Let’s say you are a landscaper. You might offer to build a raised garden bed for some of your best clients. The hairdresser can refuse payment the next time her best customer comes in. The virtual assistant can send a $0 invoice after the next project. Do you see how powerful this is? It is a very real and tangible way to show your appreciation for your clientele, and it does so in a way that resonates in this economy.
4. Free generates sales: When you offer value-added extras for no cost, customers tend to want to thank you in return. And they do that by buying more from you. Those “buy 10 and get one free” cards do just that. First, it makes people want to fill up the card, and second, it makes people want to come back and start again after they get the free meal, car wash, etc.
5. It is great branding: Offering new and old customers something extra at no cost has long-term benefits as well. It reinforces the image that shopping with you is smart, that you offer real value and that you sincerely appreciate their business. Is there a better brand to have than that?
So the question is what can you give away? The answer is what your customers would appreciate. The dentist can give away a free exam. The florist can give a free bouquet. And the columnist?
He can give away a great tip:
Free really works.
Do you ever offer free services? What have you found resonates best with prospects and current customers? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.