FREE! Just reading the word makes people excited. Something irrational happens when we hear it. I’ve gone out of my way to pick up a freebie from inside a store I would never have gone into just because I saw the word “free.”
Years ago Amazon conducted an accidental study on free offerings. They ran a promotion in which you got free shipping if you purchased a second book. Their sales skyrocketed across the globe, except in France. Amazon, thinking the French must be a more rational people than everyone else, did some intended research. They found that the promotion had been changed in France, where they’d offered to reduce shipping to only one franc (about 20 cents at the time). When Amazon revised the French promotion to FREE shipping, sales jumped immediately. To this day Amazon still uses the word “free” in their marketing.
Free seems to be the big thing in business these days. You have “freemium” business models, with services like Dropbox and LinkedIn giving away a basic version of their products and collecting money from users who upgrade to a premium account for added features. Likewise, there’s the “free to play” movement in the gaming world, where once again you give away your product and hope that fans will support you through micro transactions inside the game.
Podcasters and YouTubers create and deliver free content with their collective fingers crossed that donations and advertising revenue will pay the bills. One channel, DC Toys Collector, is making almost five million a year in ad revenue by opening toys on-camera. That’s it, unwrapping toys and describing the merchandise. Free seems to pay!
Even if you don’t offer a product or service that lends itself to a freemium business model, you can still use the power of free in your marketing. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a free ebook for your customers.
Hmm, what to write?
Writing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Before I started blogging I thought the hardest thing about writing would be, you know, actually writing. It turns out that the most challenging aspect of writing, for me at least, is not having anything to say.
Here’s a tip to make choosing a topic for your first ebook a little bit easier. Take one of these topics and apply them to your industry:
- Top Ten Best Practices for…
- A Simple Guide to…
- The Secret to…
- Learn How to…
Next it’s time to outline your ebook. Create a short, bulleted list of the points you want to make. Remember, you don’t have to write a novel the size of War and Peace (unless you really want to). In our ebook, A Simple Guide to Organic SEO, we chose four main points we wanted to cover. After picking a topic and outlining what you want to say, you’ll be able to easily fill more pages then you know what to do with.
A simple message is the best way to educate your readers and give them valuable information.
There’s no need to get overly technical if you’re writing for the average reader. Just write clearly and simply state your points so the information you’re providing is easy to digest. Time magazine is written at an eleventh grader’s reading level and some of most popular novels are composed at the seventh-grade reading level. There’s a reason that more people look for medical advice on WebMD then in the New England Journal of Medicine!
Include calls to action
Just because you’re giving away your book for free does not mean you’re not trying to make money. You’ve put time and effort into creating a product that’s filled with valuable information, so you want to get a return on that investment. How? Well, you might ask for an email address in order to download the ebook. That’s a great way to build your email database.
Another method that I consider even more important is filling your ebook with calls to actions. In our ebook we offer insights for building incoming links to their website. While we’re providing this information so readers have the know-how to apply it themselves, we also include some key calls to action to drive traffic to our business. These include:
- Learn more.
- Call for a free consultation.
- Need help? Call us.
Designing your ebook
You’ve lost most of your hair at this point, fretting over your punctuation and grammar, but if you’ve made it this far it’s time to slap some lipstick on this hog. Your ebook needs to look like a book. It needs a cover, title page, table of contents and images. And you’ll probably want it to be downloadable as a PDF.
I like to start with a template just so I can organize my thoughts. There are many free ebook templates online; we’ve used some of the customizable templates available at no charge from Hubspot. Once you have a template, finalizing your ebook is almost too easy. Change the colors to match your brand. Add pictures and graphics. Copy and paste your content in. Finally, before you save the ebook as a PDF, ask someone you trust to review it. Then ask someone else. You want it to be clear of any typos or funky line breaks; your ebook represents you and your business — make sure it does so well.
Now you can start marketing your ebook and watch the power of FREE go to work for you.