How to Make Money and Expand Clientele by Giving Away Free Products

by Jill Tooley on April 25, 2012

Product giveaways are huge moneymakers when correctly executed. They bring new customers through your doors, they solidify existing customers’ loyalty, they promote new services you offer, and they give people something to talk about – all key ingredients for a successful business!

There are two main ways to use free products in your promotions:

  1. Give away your own products or services – this includes free samples, buy-one-get-one-free deals, and free trials.
  2. Give away personalized merchandise with your company name – this includes promotional items like t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, or tote bags.

What’s in the recipe for success? Patience and research! Whether you choose to hand out your own products or personalized merchandise, be sure to…

Make it known that you’ll have plenty of free stuff, but don’t make it ALL about the free stuff.

Freebies tempt potential customers, but you don’t want them showing up just for that. You want them to stick around and eventually buy more, right?

Right. So, when the time comes to advertise your giveaways, carefully write your copy. What’s the purpose of your giveaway – is your goal to promote a new service that isn’t as popular as others? Are you building your email subscription list? Find the root of your need and make 80% of your copy about that. The part about the freebies should make up the other 20%.

For example, instead of writing an ad that says, “Come in between 12 and 5 to get a FREE t-shirt,” try writing one that says, “Sign up for our email list between 12 and 5 and get a FREE t-shirt!” That way, customers will know they need to do more than simply show up to grab a gift. Believe it or not, I’ve seen companies make the mistake of shouting “we’re giving away prizes!” from the mountaintops without putting any emphasis on the end goal.

Don’t do that!

Free gifts or buy-one-get-one deals will almost always bring traffic to your store, but the trick lies in keeping them around after that. Advertise that you’ll offer giveaways for visitors, but don’t be shy about highlighting the reasons why you’re doing it. Most customers know they’ll have to give a little to get a little!

Seamlessly tie your products into your giveaways.

Which type of free sample would you expect in a grocery store: food items or hair care products? Food is the logical answer, because grocery stores primarily carry food. Freebies give shoppers the chance to try an item they might not have picked up otherwise, which ups the odds that they’ll purchase it after they’ve tried it. When you give away a completely unrelated product, though, then you’ll get too far away from the core of your business (and you probably won’t sell many products).

Think of the same grocery-store strategy for your business! Which product do you ultimately want to fly off the shelves? If you’re promoting a new software program, then offer people a free trial of the service so they can try it out for themselves. They’re getting a deal because they aren’t required to purchase the service to experiment with it, and you’re benefitting because the trial brings you closer to a sale.

It’s best to pair new products with existing bestsellers to spread the word. Offer a new product or service for free if a client purchases a different one – this is commonly referred to as “buy-one-get-one-free,” or “BOGO.” Or, even if you can’t do it for free, offer that service at a discounted rate with the purchase of another service. If the customer likes it, they’ll likely return for more (and they’ll probably refer a friend or two, too!)

Consider limiting your giveaways.

Are you working with a small budget? No worries; you can still run a giveaway.

To cut costs on your promotions and convey a sense of urgency at the same time, limit freebies to the first 50 or 100 customers (think Black Friday and doorbuster specials). Customers will flock to your store to claim their gift, and they’ll do it sooner rather than later.

Here are a few popular giveaway ideas for limited recipients:

  • Gift cards to your store – Gift cards and certificates are essentially free cash for the customer, but they also urge people to spend more money. Think about it: how many times have you redeemed a gift card for exactly the face value?
  • T-shirts and clothing – When I’m lucky enough to get my hands on a free t-shirt, then look out; you can bet I’ll put it on and advertise for you like nobody’s business! It’s in my nature, and I’m not the only one.
  • Travel mugs or water bottles – You can never have too many of these, since people often misplace them. Choose a unique design or color to ensure yours will be the first one customers reach for in their cabinets.
  • Seasonal giveaway items – Items like beach balls, blankets, or umbrellas can be huge draws, especially when they’re given away in the appropriate season.

Of course, these are only suggestions. First and foremost, you should give away products that your customer base will care about. People won’t go out of their way to stop by if you’re only giving away pens, but they will go out of their way to stop by if you’re giving away an item they can’t resist. It has to have a perceived value.

You can use freebies for online businesses, physical locations, tangible products, and intangible products – you just have to do you research!

Don’t forget the “runner-up” prizes for customers who miss the cutoff, either. Simpler items like tote bags don’t cost very much, but they’ll still make good gifts for latecomers!

Freebies work – plain and simple. I work for a promotional products company, where I’m surrounded by branded goodies all day long, but I still take any free product that’s handed to me. Personalized pens, sticky notes, tote bags…you name it, and I’ve probably got it at my desk. Why shouldn’t it remind me of your company?

How have you used giveaways for your business? Which promotions brought you the most success?

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Tracie

I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

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Jill Tooley
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Thanks, Tracie! Glad you liked it.
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Mandy Kilinskis
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As another employee from a promotional products company, I can only attest to how true your closing paragraphs are. Even though I could grab a handful of promo pens from a bin at work, I will still seek out freebies at stores and tradeshows. I already have three tubes of lip balm in my purse, but it definitely didn’t stop me from picking up another one at a convention last weekend!

And hey, if a free tote bag from Target can get me up and in their store by 8 am (and promptly spend over $100), just think of what a great giveaway can do for your business!
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Jill Tooley
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Haha, thanks Mandy! You know I’m exactly the same way. Freebies are appreciated by all, even if we already have the items in our possession. At the last convention I attended, all the vendor had to yell out was “You want some free stuff?” and I hauled ass right over to his booth. See how easy that was? ;)

I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of spending less than $100 at Target any time I go there, so you’re right on that one, too.
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amy swanson
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Anytime I get a free t-shirt you can bet I’m gonna put it into my normal rotation of clothing. Excellent suggestion, Jill! I love travel mugs as well, anytime I can bring along my coffee or tea you’ll have my attention (and my business) in the future :)
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Jill Tooley
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Travel mugs are always welcome, too! I’ve managed to misplace all of the lids on the ones I do have, so there can never be too many in my cabinets.

I wear my “I [thumbs up] Pandora” shirt all the time! It feels good to promote a company that has my loyalty in lockdown. :)
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Harvey Baker

Thanks for this timely advice. These are simple things that I can implement today!

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Jill Tooley
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You’re so welcome, Harvey! Good luck and let me know if you need any further guidance.
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Chris
Twitter:

I market my Tampa Roof Cleaning Business to realtor’s. I had a friend who makes hand lotions make me some small bottles of it with my company name on it. The cost for 1000 small bottles of the hand lotion was 80 cents each.
I went around to every real estate office in the Tampa area, and placed them in the Realtor’s Office Mailbox’s.
Best 800 dollars I ever spent!
I still have Tampa Realtors call me years later, and ask where they can buy that hand lotion, as well as send me roof cleaning business.
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Jill Tooley
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Many thanks, Chris! :)

You were ahead of the game with that lotion giveaway. What a fantastic idea! That’s exactly why promo items work as well as they do. People may throw away flyers or door hangers, but they’ll hold onto tangible and useful items (sometimes even years later). You targeted your product well, too; realtors dig hand lotion, but they may have ignored a pair of cheap sunglasses. It’s all about picking the best item for your audience, and you excelled at that for sure. :)

Thanks for stopping by to comment, I really appreciate it!
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