Do freebies attract the right kind of business?

I have seen plenty of resistance (i.e. fears) that come up when I talk about introductory freebie offers with small business owners. The idea of giving something away with no guarantee that a sale will come back can be scary. There is the worry that by giving things away customers won’t have a need to buy or that free offers attract the wrong types of customers (price shoppers), or that freebies don’t encourage loyalty.

All of these concerns are valid, but I have seen too many examples of using a free offer as a client attraction strategy be extremely effective, that I often do recommend this marketing technique to my clients.

Think about test driving a car, trying a sample at the ice cream shop or grocery store, or reading very smart articles on a business coaching website. All of these things are completely free and give you a better idea of what you can expect from these products or services.

An intentional and thoughtful introductory offer can be very effective when working to attract new customers and clients, but the key is to make sure your offer is both intentional and thoughtful, and to make sure it is very easy for these testers to become paying advocates for your business.

A freebie intro is very different than ongoing sales and discounts.

The goal is not to train existing or potential customers to wait for deals. What I am suggesting is no Groupon. You want to provide a simple way for your ideal customer to test drive your product or service with a clear path to purchase.


Here’s how to do it right:

Don’t do a discount – A discount is not the same thing as an introductory offer. It may seem counterintuitive that discounts attract price shoppers and freebies attract serious customers, but in my experience this has been true in most cases. When a person is paying you for a product or service even at a discounted rate, they feel no responsibility to consider a repeat purchase or support for your business. They paid you, which relieves them of obligation to do anything more. When you are generous with your freebie offer, customers often want to support you in some way as a sign of gratitude whether they end up purchasing that particular product or service at that time or not.

Offer your best – Do not offer expired products or bottom shelf services as an introductory offer. This is your marketing opportunity and often first experience with a new potential customer. Offering something that is expired or a service that doesn’t really showcase how you can potentially support them is not the way to make a good impression.

Make it very simple for testers to become customers – No matter what your offer, it should be very clear what you want these customers to purchase and how they can do that in a very simple way. That means it is your responsibility to follow up, provide clear instructions, and secure a sale after the freebie is experienced.

Don’t provide an endless supply – It is ok to put a cap on how many freebies you will offer at a time. This can create a sense of urgency and help you to not over extend your resources. Make sure you are clear in communicating this cap and be thoughtful about how the freebie will be delivered so that every customer has a good experience testing out your product or service.


Case Studies of Freebies Done Right:

Maven Made: Gift with Purchase Facial Serums

Maven Made’s Facial Serum is Bethany’s best selling product. She was approached by a local publication requesting a sample of her product to include in gift bags for a holiday event. Following her donation of these samples she saw a significant spike in sales of that product on her website. This gave us the idea to offer samples for her favorite retail stockists to offer to their customers as a Gift With Purchase. This not only gets her products in the hands of potential new clients at a nominal cost to her, it also creates good will with her stockists by providing them a value to pass on to their customers.


Richmond Psychiatric & Nutrition Services: Free Food & Mood Conversation

Ashley Mannell owner of Richmond Psychiatric & Nutrition Services has a unique functional medicine approach to working with patients struggling with mood disorders including depression and anxiety. In order to spread her message and knowledge about her approach to treating these conditions, she started conducting a free talk each month at her office. Potential patients and referring practitioners can attend to learn more about her research and how she is effectively treating patients in her practice before they schedule an initial consultation. To our surprise, these talks have been more popular with referring medical providers looking for a place to send patients that they know are not being served by conventional medical practices.


barReVA: First Class Free

People are turned off by the intense sales force and long-term commitments required by the big box gyms which is why we are seeing a boom in boutique fitness studios, but finding a fitness home can be challenging. By offering a completely no-strings-attached offer to a potential new client, barReVA, a local barre studio, is able to lead with their incredible experience. They can show a potential new client the upscale experience they provide and welcome new people in to their community easily by limiting the barrier to entry for newbies who aren’t sure if this fitness style is a right fit for them.


& Be Well: Free Exploratory Health Coaching Conversations

As a coach or consultant finding a right fit is essential to creating a mutually beneficial working relationship. Allison, a women’s health specialist, owner of & be well, wanted to make sure she was speaking the same language as the women she wanted to serve with her 1-1 services. We decided to have her conduct 5 interviews with people in her community to get a better feel for their needs and challenges. She offered these consultations for free with no expectation of converting these interviewees in to clients, but when people mesh they mesh, and she did end up signing on new clients in this process simply by having the solution that some of these women were looking for.


Ginger Juice: Free Juice Day Event

To create something fun and unexpected and to get feedback on new juice flavors, Erin the owner of Ginger Juice hosted an event at her shop and give-away 8 ounce bottles of juice to the first 100 customers on a specific day that we expertly called, Free Juice Day. The event was a great success and left her juice cooler almost completely empty. Most people who came for the free juice ended up buying something else, regular customers who happened in on that day were thrilled that they happened upon something special, and all had a great experience in the shop since it was busy and exciting on a random Wednesday. In many cases customers took to social media to spread the word about the freebie they received creating even more buzz about the business in the community.


Centered: Richmond Acupuncture: 15 Minute Free Assessments

When working with Maegan, the owner of Centered: Richmond Acupuncture, we talked through the common misconceptions about acupuncture from the general public. Many people do not understand how it works and are afraid of the process. By offering 6 free 15-Minute assessments and treatments, on one specific day each month, she is able to see patients that would have been hesitant to book a full 90-minute intro appointment. She can determine if they are a good fit for her treatment, provide an abbreviated version of her service, and really show people the amazing benefits of her healing modality. During her first event she spent less than 2 hours converting two clients immediately, and one who expressed interest for the future.



You may have some people who do not convert, which is completely fine for both parties. You don’t want to attract a customer or client who is not a fit and will not be a good source of recommendations and referrals, so don’t sweat it.