Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Value of FREE

I had an interesting discussion last week with an exhibitor at the SOHO business conference and trade show in Vancouver. Specifically, about the lack of promotional pizzazz being shown by the exhibitors.

My friend’s company was giving away free product to anyone who visited the booth. It offers a service that people may use twice to 20 times a year, and it has extra inventory, so why not? Sampling is a time-honoured technique, good not only for getting prospects used to consuming your product, but also to attract people's attention in any competitive marketplace, such as a trade show.

Ever notice how trade show attendees usually avoid eye contact with any sales people in the booths? That’s because they see no value in initiating any sort of relationship with you. It’s a lack of interest, lack of trust, and unwillingness to explore the ROI they might gain by doing business with you. All because you have not caught their eye by offering any obvious, easy-to-grasp VALUE.

So how do you overcome that? Offer something free! Not just a cheap knickknack for stopping by the booth (“How many free pens do you need?” asked my friend), but a real, knock-their-socks-off FREE offer that presents real value – and an acknowledgement that in today’s ultra-competitive markets, prospects are doing you a big favor by even considering your wares.

They say people are exposed to 3,000 marketing messages a day (or about a million a year). We all feel like the quarry in a fox hunt, being chased through the woods and hounded to death. You have spent a lot of money to be at this trade show: show your prospects a piece of that. Give them an offer (something free, or a whopping introductory discount) that reflects their true value to you.

It’s not just a cost of doing business. It’s the price you pay to be noticed and trusted.

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