How to market your small business with customer giveaways

Small BusinessCategory
13 min read
Will Stevens

Think giving something away for free doesn’t make business sense? Think again.

Offering freebies can help attract new visitors to your website and can even turn these visitors into customers.

The idea is simple - you announce your giveaway, people visit your website to get it, they connect with you on social media or sign up to your email list and then they keep coming back for more.

Giveaways can be a great way to introduce your business to your target market, but there are pitfalls along the way. In this guide, we’ll explain how you can market your small business using giveaways and the challenges you’ll face.

1. Plan what you’ll give away

Your giveaway should be something that ties into your business and is of interest to your customers. You’ll also need to make sure it’s something you can create yourself or can afford to pay someone else to create for you. It’s also a good idea to think about how it will fit into your wider digital marketing strategy, so you can ensure your efforts complement each other.

For example, if you’re selling children’s books, you might choose to give away free activity sheets for children. That’s the perfect example of a good freebie: it’s low cost and a good fit for your target customer base. You always should consider your target audience when deciding on a freebie as getting this wrong will mean your giveaway will fail.

Here are some giveaway ideas.

An ebook

Know a lot about a topic? Then why not write an ebook about it and give it away? For example, a search engine optimization (SEO) consultant might write “50 SEO tips for beginners”. The book should appeal to people who know they need to work on SEO but don’t know where to start. This is the first step in building a relationship between the SEO consultant and potential customers.

A course

Instead of writing an ebook, you could turn your knowledge into a free course. It’s an idea that would work for our SEO consultant in the previous example, as well as a range of other businesses.

A yoga instructor, for example, could create a short video course introducing the basics of yoga. The instructor could then offer course subscribers paid-for intermediate yoga lessons.

A consultation

Offering a free consultation is a great way to show people the value of your work. For example, an SEO consultant could offer a free consultation highlighting the areas where someone’s website could be improved to boost search rankings. The idea is that the website owner would then pay the SEO consultant to carry out the work highlighted in the free consultation.

An interactive guide

Falling somewhere between an ebook and an online course, creating an interactive guide is a great way to present potential clients with a large amount of information in an attractive and stylish way.

As with an ebook or a course, the idea is to appeal to people who know they need information about the service you offer but don’t know where to begin.

For example, a web designer could create an interactive guide about the qualities needed for a top-notch ecommerce site.

The information in the interactive guide would be a great learning tool for potential clients and it would also showcase the designer’s skills.

An educational and/or fun worksheet

This is a particularly good idea if your business is targeted at the parents of young children. Just make sure that your fact sheets have real educational value if that’s what you’re aiming for, or that your worksheets offer something fun and different if that’s the path you choose to go down.

A “state of the market” report

If you’re targeting business-to-business clients, creating a state of the market report can be a great way to get their attention.

The idea is that you research the industry you’re working in and put together a report focusing on the key factors of this market.

By doing so, you’ll have a good chance of positioning yourself as the kind of expert potential clients are looking for.

Swag such as T-shirts

Giving away free branded items such as clothing, mouse mats or badges is a great way to get your brand to stick in people’s minds.

However, it can be difficult to make sure that the people who are interested in your swag are also interested in doing business with you.

That means offering swag is usually a good idea when you’re trying to keep your business in the forefront of the minds of people who have already done business with you.

A product

If you’re selling a physical product, you could always experiment with giving away a free product in the hope that doing so will drive repeat customers to your business.

This kind of product giveaway isn’t suitable for every kind of business.

It works best for businesses that sell products which either have a logical upsell, or where customers are likely to make repeat purchases over time.

For example, there’s no point in giving away free sofas to attract new customers because they’re usually large one-off purchases.

However, it could be worthwhile giving away a free pair of shoes. Clothing is something that people buy on a regular basis, so giving away a free pair of shoes might convince people to try your brand.

Local businesses that look to attract customers through their doors, such as a café, could offer a free coffee for local residents with the hope that they’ll come back for more (paid) coffees in the future.

All these options we’ve looked at here have the potential to build brand awareness, so work out what has the potential to work best for your business and start planning your giveaway.

2. Plan how you’ll gain customers from your giveaway

How will you turn people who accepted your freebie into paying customers?

The most common way of doing this is through email marketing.

If you require someone to provide their email address when they claim your free offer, you can then send them marketing emails aimed at converting them into a paying customer. (Just make sure that your giveaway campaign complies with data protection rules.)

To do this, you’ll need an email marketing tool like the one offered by GoDaddy. You’ll also need to create a landing page for your offer. This page should explain your offer and include a form people can fill in to claim it, which is how you gather their details for your marketing emails.

It’s best to create a series of emails which follow on from your free offer. For example, the yoga teacher who created a video course could send a series of follow up emails aimed at encouraging people to take their yoga skills to the next level. They might even want to send a special offer, such as four lessons for the price of three, if it makes financial sense to do so.

Don’t just send one follow up email to your email list and leave it at that – people may take more convincing, so plan a series of follow up emails.

You should also avoid just adding people to your newsletter mailing list and thinking that’s enough. It’s definitely a good idea to add people who accepted your freebie to your newsletter list (with their permission), but it’s no substitute for a targeted campaign.

In some cases, an email might not be enough. If you’re selling a high-value service, it’s likely you’ll need to have a sales call with any potential client who accepts your freebie.

This means you’ll probably want to add the option for someone to book a sales call into your email marketing campaign.

You may also want to gather the phone number (as well as the email addresses) of potential clients who take up your free offer. Just make sure that people understand you’ll be calling them to offer your services.

It’s also usually a good idea for anyone gathering leads to spend some time qualifying them.

That means putting in place a process which you can use to identify potential leads who aren’t a match for your business before you follow up. It’s a way of making sure you don’t waste time trying to chase down customers who aren’t a good match for your business.

You can learn more about qualifying leads in this guide.

3. Decide what success will look like for your campaign

Put simply, your giveaway campaign will be a success if you earn more from the new customers it brings in than you spend on running it.

However, there are lots of variables to consider and you need to understand them fully to ensure that your campaign is a success.

One of the most important of these is the lifetime value of a new customer to your business.

For example, if you give away a pair of shoes worth £50 to someone and that person goes on to buy a £25 scarf a week later, it might be tempting to view that as a loss.

But what if that person goes on to buy another £50 pair of shoes six month down the line? And then a £100 pair of jeans two months after that?

This is a simplified example as it’s the profit margin on those items that counts, but it illustrates why knowing the average lifetime value of your customers is important.

If you understand the lifetime value of a customer, it will be easier for you to workout how much you should be spending to acquire a new customer.

You can learn how to understand the lifetime value of a customer here.

If you’re aiming to generate leads through your giveaway, it’s good to know the average value of a lead and your lead conversion rate.

Once you know how much you stand to make from attracting a new customer or lead, you can use it to set a campaign targets for revenue, campaign costs and return on investment (ROI).

Basic ROI can be calculated with this formula: Revenue – Cost/Cost x 100 = ROI%

However, don’t forget that we’re talking about revenue here, not profit. That means you’ll have to factor in your business costs, as well as the cost of running your campaign, to ensure that your giveaway is profitable.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to create a campaign target for revenue by deciding how many new customers/leads you want to attempt to bring in with your campaign.

You can then use the ROI formula to work out how much you can spend on your campaign and still achieve a good ROI.

If your business is new, you may find that these figures are largely based on estimates. If your business is more established, you’ll be able to use existing data to help improve the accuracy of those estimates. For example, if you know the average amount your business has to spend to attract a new customer, you can use that to help workout the cost element of the ROI equation.

Once you’ve run your first giveaway campaign, you’ll be able to use that data to improve future campaigns.

For your earlier campaigns, you may want to take a cautious approach to ensure you don’t spend more than you generate in revenue.

You can learn more about setting targets for marketing campaigns in this guide.

4. Plan how you’ll get attention for your giveaway campaign

Potential new customers aren’t just going to stumble across your giveaway campaign, so you’ll need to work out how you’ll get their attention.

If you’ve got an established social media presence, this will help. But, don’t forget, people who follow you on social media are more likely to be existing customers, and you really want to reach people who haven’t bought from you yet.

Although word of mouth can help your giveaway once it has started to attract attention, you’ll probably have to use some sort of pay per click advertising to get that initial interest.

Your two main options for PPC ads are search engines (such as Google ads) and social networks (such as Facebook).

There are two big advantages to promoting your giveaway campaign on Facebook.

The first is that its powerful targeting techniques make it easier to reach relevant people. For example, someone offering yoga classes could target people who are interested in yoga and are based in the Birmingham area.

The second is that Facebook allows you to create specialized lead generation ads, which might be an excellent match for your campaign.

You can learn more about generating leads on Facebook.

The big advantage of search engine ads is that you can jump right to the top of search engine results for terms that are relevant to your offer. However, effectively targeting search engine ads can be tricky, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before. Search engine ads can also be highly competitive, which can push up the cost. These factors can mean promoting a giveaway campaign via search ads isn’t profitable, so make sure you research the potential cost if this is a channel you want to use.

You can learn how to get started with Google ads here and with Facebook ads here.

The other way you can attract people to your giveaway is by highlighting it on pages that rank well in search engine results and are already attracting visitors. You’ll need to make sure that the offer is relevant to any pages you include it on, and that the offer doesn’t put off people who would have become customers anyway.

5. Launch your giveaway campaign

You’re ready to launch your giveaway campaign.

Once you do, you should monitor your campaign to make sure that it runs as planned. You may discover that promoting your campaign costs a lot more than you expected and fewer people take you up on your offer than you hoped.

If this happens to you, don’t be afraid to bring your campaign to an end early. Doing so could help avoid wasting money. (Just make sure your terms and conditions allow you to withdraw the offer at any time).

If you’re promoting your campaign on Facebook, keep an eye on metrics like click through rate and relevancy score as these will help you tell if your offer appeals to the people you’re targeting. You can then adjust your targeting to make sure you’re hitting the right demographic as you go.

Once your campaign comes to an end, make sure you assess it against your original goal so you can start to analysis what worked and what didn’t.

This will help you refine your future giveaway campaigns.

Summing up

Whether you’re an established business or just starting out, giveaways can help you attract new customers. Just make sure you tailor your freebie to the right audience so you’ll attract people who are likely to pay for your products in the future. You’ll also need to do the maths to make sure that your promotion makes financial sense.

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