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Why is giving products for free a challenge?

September 26, 2011

One of my clients came up with a unique strategy for beating the competition in a particular product category… (I obviously can’t get into the details). The idea was to make an entry into a new market and at the same time grab the attention of potential customers who might look at their competitors products. Unfortunately they weren’t having much traction with the free product introduction in this new market.

Here’s the problem of free, and how to make free interesting.


So lets assume you’ve got product “X” as illustrated above, assume it is interesting and you want to give it away, what could the challenge possibly be?

The Problem with Free

What’s the catch

The first one is a problem of perception. When looking at something which is being offered free, most people naturally begin to wonder if there is a catch to it. We’re naturally trying to figure out if this is a trap and there is some danger.

In fact even before people get wondering, there is another problem.

How do you grab people’s attention?

How to grab attention

The challenge you’re going to face is the issue of trying to make sure people pay attention to your offering, especially when you’re competing against people who’re trying to make money of their products and who probably have large budgets to grab people’s attention via a variety of channels.

Is this of any value?

Whats the value

Money and TimeLets say you are able to grab their attention, they will immediately try to question whether it’s worth their time to even look at your product or whether they will be able to make any gains with your product.


Here are a couple of ideas I visualized for them.

Exclusivity and Scarcity

Exclusive-Invite Only

We naturally gravitate to things which we believe are exclusive and scarce. I suggested that they introduce their product indirectly via the following:


InfluencersWe look up to experts, speakers at conventions, role models – essentially influencers.

I suggested that they identify relevant influencers(known and unknown – i.e. people who they already have relationships with and some they don’t). Essentially experts in the field pertaining to their industry and enable them to give away the product via their online blogs, websites, or at events they are speaking etc. Additionally, where relevant ask these influencers to review the product. This will automatically increase the perceived value of the product, if an influencer considers any of the above options.

Exclusive to certain – Clubs and Groups

Clubs and Groups

I recommended that they approach and provide the product to certain club and group members. This is valuable to the clubs as it allows them to offer something relevant and of value to their members at no cost. Additionally the perceived value of the product increases and the more exclusive it is the more others who’re not part of the club or group might consider it of value. Also, I recommended that they allow the club members to in turn the ability to offer it at no cost to atleast 5 of their colleagues who might find it valuable. This enables one to take advantage of their individual networks or circles of influence.

Plan it out

Plan it out

Lastly I recommended that you they not do this all at once, but do it in stages, to ensure longer mind share and ability to tweak their messaging and execution plan depending on uptake by people.

There are so many other ideas which one can pursue, such as organizing contests and providing the product as free giveaways etc. and I guess you’ve go the picture Smile

Can you think of some giant businesses who adopt a similar strategy as the above? Hint: One is the largest software company in the world today, and the other a very large search engine company Smile


From → Visual Thinking

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