Use Digital Freebies to Capture More Customers
Offer something valuable to your customers yet inexpensive to you to attract new business.
The digital economy has made it easier to produce and distribute a product to the general public, especially if that product deals in information. We’ve all seen and participated in examples of this, whether it’s from using a free e-mail service like Google to downloading free e-books or getting free apps for our phones. Free is nice. Businesses have taken advantage of this phenomenon by offering freebies to generate interest in their product, gain new customers or simply collect e-mails for future marketing.
For retailers dealing in tangible items, though, how does the low cost, and ensuing “freeness” of many digital products matter? You’re still working in terms of concrete stuff: food, clothes, gift items, raw materials to be transformed or tangible lines to be distributed. The good news is that you can still take advantage of “Free!” by offering digital content that appeals to your customers but costs you next to nothing to create and distribute.
A blog is one of the easiest ways to create and give free digital content. It doesn’t have to cost you anything to set up a blog; you can invest in a professional design and hosting service—and at some point you might need to—but getting started can be as simple as setting up a free blog on one of the many web services, such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com, or TypePad.com.
After the initial set-up, the cost for you is in terms of time. You need to put the time in to create one to three posts every week, on a regular basis. These posts are your freebie; they’re informative, valuable, helpful, and, of course, somehow related to your business.
One step up from blog posts are digital products such as e-books and e-newsletters. Both, again, can be produced for only the cost of your time. You can easily create an e-newsletter weekly or monthly and mail it out to your e-mail list of customers who want to hear from you. Make sure the articles you include in your e-newsletter are informative, valuable, helpful, and somehow related to your business. Even though you’re giving this content away free, if it becomes irrelevant, then it moves into the “spam” category.
An e-book can be a collection of the blog posts and e-newsletters you’ve produced, or it can be new content entirely. You can format an e-book in an office program, convert it to a .pdf file, and offer it as a free download on your website, blog, and Facebook page. Here are a few examples:
A retail storeowner could offer an e-book that related to her products in some way, such as the following:
- Great gift ideas for men
- Great gift ideas for women
- Tips on hosting a great party
- Ideas for fun dinner parties
- Ideas for family activities
- A style manual for spring/summer/fall/winter
- An up-to-the-minute clothing & fashion trend tip list
- Advice on putting a great wardrobe together
- Help on dressing for your body/personal style
- Tips for wearing accessories
A restaurant owner could offer an e-book that contained any or all of the following:
- A recipe collection
- Ideas for entertaining
- Cooking tips
- A “day in the life of a restaurant” story
- Ideas for creating restaurant-worthy menus
- Ideas for cooking at home
- Tips on using fresh, seasonal food
- Essays about cooking/eating green
- Essays about food/eating in general
- Tips on any food-related specialty topic (spices, herbs, growing your own veggies, ethnic cooking, desserts, etc.)
The list is endless, and limited only in how much time you can give to producing the content. Of course, if you’re thinking “I am not a writer,” then look to your staff for someone who is. You can often find a willing volunteer, someone who can dedicate some portion of their working hours to helping create and promote these digital products.
As you create the digital freebies, of course, you want to let your customers know about them. Facebook and Twitter, flyers in your store, e-mail sign-up sheets at the counter, and some simple training so that all of your employees promote your digital freebies by word-of-mouth. Every customer who walks into your store should know about the great e-book they can get (free!) or e-newsletter they can sign up to receive (free!) or regularly updated blog they can follow (free!).
Every digital freebie you distribute builds your reputation and strengthens your connection with your customers; and, since digital is so easy to share, it gets passed along from one network to another, extending your reach well past where you can go with a print mailing or newspaper ad. It’s cheap for you and free for them, so everybody wins.
Reprinted with permission from the Results Revolution. The Results Revolution teaches local small-business owners and community leaders how to strengthen and grow their local economies. The Results Revolution provides entrepreneurship training and marketing advice in the form of this blog as well as a weekly web TV show, e-mail newsletter and webinar. The Results Revolution was founded by Marianna Hayes Chapman & Andy Chapman, marketing consultants at HALO Business Advisors, who teach local marketers, small media companies and business development groups how to increase sales and create new revenue streams using social media and new media. Visit the Results Revolution website for more information: www.resultsrevolution.com.