What everybody ought to know about free offers

Do you offer people free gifts as incentives to try your work for free or buy more from you etc?  If you do, I have a question for you:

How free are your free gifts?

Some businesses are great when it comes to gifts

It’s over 4 years since the area where I lived suffered serious flooding.  Some of my friends were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses for almost a year, while flood damage was repaired.  Even though 4 years has passed, I still clearly recall receiving a letter from Staples, with a free coupon, worth £10. 

They said they wanted to help businesses in the area following the floods and this was a gesture, at a point where many small businesses were struggling.  The coupon came with no strings attached; no minimum order – You could just walk into Staples, get £10 worth of supplies, hand them the coupon and leave.

The value of a genuinely free gift

That gesture from Staples changed how I thought about them and how I felt about them.  I started seeing them as being part of the local business community, rather than just another multinational brand.  Even though I am pretty sure the gift was given, with Staples very aware it was going to create a lot of goodwill toward them, it was offered with no strings and no requests on their part.  Just; here, please accept this.  It’s a great example of genuine giving.

Many businesses get it wrong

We saw some huge companies, including Microsoft, offering to donate to the Japan tsunami / nuclear disaster relief fund, but only by “gifting” $1 for each person who retweeted a Microsoft message.  These gifts with strings attached, can be counter-productive and leave a bad smell behind them.

My phone provider, o2, offer me gifts every month; all of which require me spending even more money with them or spending money with their business partners.

Authors send me their books for free too; even though none of them have been offered freely.  The note below is a great example.  It came with a book I was sent recently:

Jim, I love your work and wanted to give you a free copy of my latest book.  It’s just a gift from me to you, by way of thanks for all the great work you do for small business owners.

As your readers are small business owners and (name of book) is written with them in mind, it would be great if you would write a review.  Please include this link (which was it’s page on Amazon) in your review and email me when it’s live. 

A gift is given from a mindset of contribution.  A business incentive is a genuine, ethical commercial tactic.

  • A gift says; take this, it’s yours.
  • An incentive offer says; take this, then do something for me (like the book review request or the upsell from my phone provider.).

If it’s a free gift, with no strings attached, call it a gift.

If it’s an incentive, call it; an offer, an opportunity, a great deal, a recommendation, a chance to get 25% off their next purchase.

The bottom line: It’s more than semantics.  When you figure out that a free offer isn’t free, it changes how you feel about the person or company, who told you it was.

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