From the July 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

Do your marketing campaigns promote offers that only apply to purchases? If you're not marketing free information, then you're not connecting with internet researchers on the verge of becoming internet shoppers.

When you give away information, it seems like you're sharing secret stuff. You're not, but that's the perception, because you're offering people value without asking them to open their wallets. Help people solve a problem or teach them something, and they'll want to learn about your company. Tips to try:

1. Choose information your prospects want. Your website is probably loaded with valuable free information: articles; a newsletter, forum or blog; a calculator or assessment tool; a how-to or FAQ section; maybe even an events directory. Check your web analytics reports to see which pages of your site people visit most often. Write down the benefits of these site sections--you'll use these in your marketing copy.

2. Use the right communication channels. A per-impression or per-acquisition ad program is the ideal pricing model for promoting free information because you won't be charged for a spike in traffic. But carefully track per-click campaigns--you could pay for clicks that don't convert into leads or sales. Don't forget to mention your site's free resources in articles you give to other websites for use or in any other free promotional opportunities for your site.

3. Direct people to the data. If you attract visitors by promoting free information, send them to that exact site page. Otherwise, visitors will get frustrated and leave.

4. Get visitors' contact information. Offer additional free goodies if visitors give you their names and e-mail addresses. For example, invite them to subscribe to your newsletter or e-mail alerts. If first-time visitors don't buy anything because they're in research mode, your follow-up communication will remind them to shop from you when they're ready.

Swapping sales pitches from a few marketing campaigns with free information offers doesn't cost you a penny, but your future customers will see it as a priceless gift.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.