Got something good? Give it away.

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In the past, the phenomenon of free downloads have attracted some bad press. The reality is quite the opposite. The internet was virtually built on the concept of free stuff and it’s really as much a part of the internet culture as email and cat memes. The internet didn’t invent the phenomenon that people like to get things for free. It’s human nature. The real question is whether you are going to work against human nature, or are you going to tap into that desire for free goodies for your marketing purposes.

Some of the most popular web sites there are have become that way because they give stuff away for free. One example is YouTube. While visitors to YouTube generally do not download the videos, they can see them for free as often as they wish and at no cost. The end result is a website that has enjoyed explosive traffic and made the YouTube creators very wealthy as a result.

Free downloads bridge the gap between marketing to prospective clients where they are, which is what you do with email marketing or marketing to them where you are which is what you do on your website. When a customer comes to your web site to see something interesting or to download the latest free give away you have to offer, they take that download to their own world. That download becomes viral and it can be used to take new customers back to the web site or to encourage them to make contact with you via email so you can expand your email mailing list as a result of one simple download.

Probably the reason tapping the natural instinct in visitors to seek out something free from you is so successful is that it shifts the movement of marketing to the customer who wants to come to you rather than you forcing yourself on the customer. In that way downloads can become a clever and natural way to get around email delivery problems as a result of over zealous spam filters. By organizing downloads to tie in with email communications, you encourage customers to add your corporate email address to their favored contacts list. They will want to get your emails in the future so they can hear about the next download.

Once your customers feel that they can rely on you to provide away desirable downloads, word of that activity will spread like wildfire through the user community. It’s possible to encourage that momentum by providing existing members of your online community additional free stuff if they pass an invitation email along to a friend. By adding fuel to the fire of the download fever, you are using that natural energy of online customers to get things for free to expand your marketing base and resolve your email delivery problems all in one simple marketing step.

The funny thing about using downloads in this way is that the thing you are giving away really doesn’t have to have a huge value to you in the first place. It might be a digital e-book you own that long ago lost its marketing value as a sales item. But by giving it away, it suddenly becomes hidden treasure to your customers. You can also give away a something from your catalog of products on your shopping cart pages. For the cost of one item, you will harvest a wealth of new customers and generate web traffic and new sales that will more than pay for the promotion.

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