Freebies can be an effective or expensive proposition. E-zine subscribers of The Marketing Minute recently chimed in on the subject. The survey results: 68% said they agreed with giving away free bait, 9% took the opposite view (most "reluctantly", and 23% had a mixed opinion. The offer of a free brochure, tips sheet, product sample, or consultation can keep your phone ringing nonstop. It's effective, though, only when you're able to convert a high number of inquiries into sales. It's expensive when you're just entertaining freebie junkies. The key to turning "free" into a passageway for "fee" is to carefully evaluate your offer.

Know the industry protocol. You need to get an idea of how marketing with or without samples will fly in the face of your prospects. Market research will help you uncover some answers. For example, it's standard practice for a person to have a free consultation or demonstration before receiving an electrolysis treatment. Some offerings lend themselves to be sampled. Manufacturers send out toiletry, food, and cleaning items, and you can often sample menu items before placing an order. If your offering is expensive, novel, or up against heavy competition, freebies can help people see its value.

Modify your offer. If your budget cannot justify a lot of giveaways, then consider modifying your offer. Accent on Travel purged its free packets mailing list because it discovered that a low percentage of inquirers were actually booking trips. It switched to collecting a shipping and handling fee for the packets, which now include a $30 coupon redeemable toward any trip.

Adopt a cohort's strategy. Most businesses can share with you a tale or two about freebies. Check out the Free or Fee? Survey tales at Then you can decide what will work for your business.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly Stansell. All Rights Reserved.