free_imageIf you’re a business owner, or a marketing strategist, you know that the thing that gets customers flocking to you is…free stuff! It’s the reason Costco is famous for their sample “buffets”, and why customers love sharing a good freebie on Facebook. But how much is too much? How much can you give away without hurting your company or your brand?

You’ve probably heard of business card moguls Vista Print. They’ve become famous for their “free business cards”, which made small business owner rejoice with their pre-made templates and easy access. Recently, an article was published about their “free product” business model, and why they’re steering away from it (you can read the full article here).

One of the pitfalls, as detailed in the article, is that free items can cause the target audience to question the value of your product or services. They may be thinking, “If they’re giving this away, why should I ever pay for something from this company?”, or “How good can it be, if they’re able to give it away?!”. Vista Print ran into a problem when it became obvious that they were not appealing to the small business owner who wanted a long-term solution. Their intended audience would eventually “outgrow” the freebie items, and need more valuable, high quality items.

For faith-based marketers, here are some of the key tips outlined in the article:

The goal of any free product should be an introduction to the company, not an end-all item. Vista Print found that their customers got their free cards, and did not peer further into what they had to offer. For the faith-based marketer, you may want to give away items because you have a unique perspective on the customer experience. Especially in the faith-related market, there are often Gospel centered items like Bibles and literature that are given away, which serve differing purposes than secular “giveaways”, but even literature can serve as an open channel to other items like DVD’s.  It’s great to reel someone in with a valuable freebie item like a free ebook or other item, and it DOES have to have value, but be sure you are getting value in return, such as securing their email address to follow them up with your drip marketing campaign to create deeper engagement with your ministry, web site or other faith-based products.

-Know your audience.  The faith-based market is smaller than the general market, but it can be narrowed down even more. Just as Vista Print is now proclaiming their “target audience” to be micro businesses, faith-centered brands can hone in on audiences like Christian businessmen, Women involved in women’s ministry, teens in the church, etc. By narrowing the audience, and be strategic about what products you are giving to the intended participant, you can better boost your results in creating engagement and a return customer or donor.

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