Great Business Ideas: Give It Away

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Give It Away

No matter what kind of business you’re in, “free” is the most powerful word in your marketing vocabulary. Offering potential clients or customers a no-charge deal is an excellent way to gain new business. For example, Sprint signed up thousands of new customers by offering small business owners free phone calls on Fridays. “I was given a Sprint deal which pays all my local telephone service for two years and provides free calling on Fridays, plus free 800-line pagers for my employees,” said Bob Dudley, president of Amerisat, a San Diego commercial satellite-dish provider.

But you don’t have to be as big as Sprint to offer customers something for free. Consultants can host a free educational seminar to attract potential clients. The session is a perfect way to show off your expertise and prequalify clients without spending a lot of time or money. Breakfast meetings work best because people can stop by on their way to work— and breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day!

If you sell clothing, consider giving free fashion consultations, by appointment, to new customers. Of course, after the private consultation, encourage customers to buy the clothes and accessories that looked best on them.

If you are an image consultant, create free “dress for success” seminars for local businesses. Business owners welcome the program because the consultant’s outside expertise helps them establish a more professional dress code for employees.

Offering a gift-with-purchase is another effective way to boost sales. Big cosmetic companies have done this for years, giving away tote bags, umbrellas, and sample-size goodies.

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You don’t have to sell cosmetics to make this free promotion work. Other industries such as food distributors also find this tactic particularly effective. Free samples are an inexpensive and effective way to get products into the mouths of consumers. Food companies rely on in-store demonstrations quite frequently to test-market products.

Years ago, I was browsing through the aisles of a gourmet food store when a woman ran up and stuffed a bite of plum pudding in my mouth. I ended up buying some as a gift—and also interviewing her for my syndicated column.

So whatever you do, figure out a way to give it away for free.