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I was talking to a client and we were discussing how there is never such a thing as a free lunch and that most things in life that are free usually have a direct or indirect cost associated with the offering. Not realizing my outside voice just created a valuable life lesson, I blurted out “There is always a cost to free.”

When it comes to marketing, offering a trial for free or offering a freebie with a service, is common and has it’s place in advertising. However, most business people that have been around the block a few times, know that a free lunch or no cost seminar, likely has a monetary obligation attached. I’m reminded of a business client who insisted that I attend a free seminar on how to make a multimillion dollar income.  Perhaps I have a “been there, done that and won’t repeat again” complex, but I  know red flags when I see them and know the end of the story no matter how pretty the wrapping looks.  In other word, there is always a cost to free.

So when is it the right time and place to give away and how should you present it?

I believe there are a few areas of marketing where a freebie is not a bad idea; it’s even fully acceptable and trusted. Using a “carrot” included with email marketing or blog signups still is highly recommended. Online giveaways could include an educational ebook or a series of informative emails. Most used today is a free trial to get potential customers to test drive a new software as a service like Adobe Creative Cloud or perhaps a new razor system like Harry’s razors. Offering free services or products as a form of promoting or advertising good brands is usually a safe bet for consumers. So if your company is new, promoting in this manner will be successful if you clearly state what you are offering for free, why you are providing these products or services at no charge and what business services follows the promotion.

In conclusion

If the offer is too good to be true, it’s likely too good to be true. Most free give aways do have a cost associated. However, there are some truly free promotional items that companies have used as their advertising means. If you are going to use advertising to promote, perhaps avoid the word “free” when offering a trial.

Love to hear your FREE stories on this topic. The good, the bad and the ugly!

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