Offering your products or services for free, or a reduced fee, can be a powerful and effective marketing strategy.
Let’s say you’re a photographer and a friend from college is getting married. She shoots you an email and asks if you’d be willing to photograph her wedding for free.
You agree to be her official wedding photographer. After the wedding, she shares her photos with 1000 of her closest friends on social media. Within days, you receive multiple inquiries and even get booked for a few paying gigs.
In some cases, you’ll gain little by working for free. However, there are some situations in which working for free, or a reduced fee, will open doors and help you grow your business. Here are four reasons to consider this option.
1. You want to jump-start your business.
When you’re starting out, you want to develop an impressive portfolio to show to prospective clients. This is a challenge, especially if you don’t have a advertising budget.
One way to build a reputation is to make a list of your dream clients, then call or send an email to the appropriate department head and offer your services. Or, introduce yourself to the owners of the businesses you frequent and tell them about the services you provide.
For example, if you’re a web designer and you frequent a local hair salon, offer to redesign the company’s website. Ask permission to add your company name and a link to your website at the bottom of their website. Who knows, you might even be able to barter for a year’s worth of free haircuts in return.
2. Get your product or service in front of influencers.
There is a reason why fashion designers compete to get movie stars to wear their gowns on the red carpet. Celebrities are influencers. They have fans and attract attention. People talk about what they do, wear and say. Whenever designers offer their products for free, they want exposure in return.
Celebrities aren’t the only influencers. Many influential business leaders and bloggers command a large online presence. These influencers have hundreds of thousands of followers who read their blogs, follow them on social media and subscribe to their emails.
Reach out to someone with a large audience and offer to provide a complimentary article. Or, if you have a product-based business, send the company a free sample in return for an honest review.
Look for influencers whose followers would be interested in your product or service. One mention from the right person or company could earn you dozens of new clients.
3. You want to acquire testimonials.
Customer testimonials and endorsements can take your business to the next level. It signifies to others that you’re an expert at what you do, you deliver high-quality work and your past clients are happy with the value you provide.
Consider lowering your fee, for the right client, in exchange for testimonials. Seek out clients with name recognition so their endorsement carries more weight.
Or, create a case study based on the work you provided for free. The best case studies include quantifiable statistics. For example, if you’re a marketer and optimized a company’s cost-per-click advertising to save money and reach more people, share those numbers.
Say something like, “I reduced advertising costs by 10% and reached 23% more customers through a retargeting campaign.” That’s impressive and will stand out to potential customers.
If possible, include the CEO’s photo and testimonial along with the case study. When you put a face to an endorsement, you strengthen the value of the testimonial.
4. You want to give back to your community.
One way to build a reputation for yourself and your business is to offer free education to others. It’s also an excellent way to connect with people who might be interested in doing business with you down the road. For example, if you are an accountant, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or civic organization and volunteer to present a mini-seminar on ways to save money during tax season.
Speaking in front of potential clients and customers not only gives you instant exposure, but can also lead to new business opportunities. The Law of Reciprocity works. As the saying goes, “What goes around comes around.”