Give Away Stuff for Free and Grow Your Business

Posted March 22, 2013

-- By Janine Popick, CEO, VerticalResponse

If I told you that can grow your business by giving away your product or service for free, you'd probably call me crazy. Sure, for some businesses -- the kind with high start-up fees or entry-level products, for example -- it might be cost-prohibitive to give a sample or trial run for free.

But for other small businesses, it can very well work.

The Try-Before-You-Buy School of Business Growth

In the software business, for example, lots of companies give away a free trial of their tools. The hope is that potential customers will see the value of the product enough to pay for it once the trial period ends. Big companies such as Salesforce, Norton AntiVirus and Autodesk all offer free-trial versions of their software.

Some companies take it a step further and offer a full version of their software as a free trial. This is the ultimate sign of a company's confidence in its product. The company believes that the more accustomed potential customers get with the real thing -- and the more they like what they see -- the easier it is to transition them into paying customers.

Of course, these companies usually send their "trialers" a lot of reminder emails and tips during the trial period to remind them to give the software a try. The idea is that they can evaluate the full suite of services from beginning to end, and then make an informed decision.

This approach often turns a tough sale into an easy sale. When prospects ask your sales reps how your product or service differs, or what makes it better, your team can just say, "Why don’t you try us out? It’s totally free. And try our competitors, too. Then pick which one did the best job for your company."

That takes a lot of the pressure off your sales people, and it puts the decision right into the prospects' hands.

As I mentioned earlier, giving away a full working demo of a product or service might not be feasible for every business out there. There are, however, other things of value that you can give away to potential customers.

  • Guides or how-to handbooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Checklists
  • Other exclusive content or tools related to your business

Remember, the more value you can provide to on-the-fence customers, the more influence you’ll have over their purchase decisions.

Have you ever tried giving away a free sample, demo or trial period to potential customers? Did it bring in new business? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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