Here is a well-known, but little used fact: People like free things.
If you went to a street corner and started handing out staples, people would line up to take them from you. This is true even if you were giving away something they don’t need.
If you told them the staples cost $2, they would feel proud of having snagged one for free.
Now what would happen if you gave out something that people actually wanted, that they actually wanted to pay for, even stand in line for?
In fact, we assume that if something is given away free then it must be inherently invaluable about it.
When we receive something that we know has value, either in dollars or in its interest to us, we not only remember who gave it to us, but we actually feel indebted to them.
Seth Godin is the author of an amazing book called “The Idea Virus“.
In that book, to simplify, he states that in order to quickly spread a message (virus), one needs to give something of value away, make it significant enough that others spread it on your behalf, and if the message is virus-worthy it will quickly spread through a group without much work from you. How can you profit from this? Read the book.
To illustrate this, Seth gave the whole book away free on his site, asking only for emails in return and he asked readers to forward the book onto friends and workmates. Knowing the crowd he was looking infect with his virus, he knew that if they liked what they read they would want to tell people and boast of what they smartly found for free.
He actually had about 400,000 downloads in the first few weeks, and just before you think he made no money: when he released the hardcover through amazon.com, it climbed to the top of its sales charts. In fact people who had bought the ebook version, went and purchased the hard-cover they felt like they owed Seth. This was a 400 page book I read it, twice (it was that good), and proof of the actual theory he was exposing.
Be aware that what is free for your visitors will cost you something it will cost you in your bandwidth/hosting costs, it will definitely cost you something in terms of time and effort to produce the site and the very thing you give away but if you play the strategy right, it can pay off well. Get a good idea of what you are trying to accomplish, and determine what you can do or give away to help you grow.
1. Get something of value to your audience
2. Get them to give you something in return their email and their friends email
3. Give them permission and instructions on how to share that free download.
4. Encourage, or reward those who share that download (sometimes if your stuff is good the pride of sharing something great is enough to motivate people but it has to be amazing!)
5. With all the awareness, buzz and traffic you generate find away of profiting from that.
It’s not hard, but its easy to get greedy and mess up the strategy. In fact it takes a lot of courage to do this. You will be giving away something you could be earning from Seth Godin gave up 500,000 potential sales instead he had 500,000 advertisers who willingly and honestly spreading the word in a well defined market which resulted in sales of that book and with his new popularity, many others. By the way, the book isn’t free anymore.
It doesn’t need to be. Companies actually buy books by the box for all their marketing employees. How did that happen? Because some net savvy marketing VP downloaded the book loved it, and bought a hard copy for his CEO, who thought it was brilliant and ordered it for everyone and the waves of impact spread. You can do this too!
Learn from the masters. Find a mentor who can help you do your best!