The Power of Free: Psychology, Examples, and Ideas


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Businesses exist to make money. Even charitable organizations require revenue or funding in order to continue operating and adding value. Thus, when most entrepreneurs or business owners are encouraged to give away things for free, they cringe. But we’re here to change your mind. Freebies, when used properly, can be incredibly valuable to your business.

The Power of Free

F-R-E-E. Just these four letters can get anyone’s ears to perk up. The human brain loves the idea of getting something for nothing and will, in many cases, cause someone to go out of their way just to obtain the asset being handed out.

The power of free is why people are more likely to attend a baseball game when there’s a bobblehead giveaway (even if tickets are more expensive). It’s also one of the big reasons why people love shopping at Costco. Free is what gets millions of people to opt in to email lists every single day. It’s those four innocent letters that make the business world go round.

Examples Worth Studying

Free offers can take on any number of formats. Here are a few timely examples of ones that are working well for some of today’s most successful brands:

  • Chime. This online banking company has free accounts with free debit cards. And while that might not sound like much, it’s a nice perk when you consider that a lot of physical banks charge account maintenance fees.
  • HubSpot. This free website grader allows website visitors to fill in their information and get an immediate analysis. HubSpot uses it to add value and collect email addresses of semi-qualified leads.
  • Law firms. Almost every law firm offers some sort of free consultation. This provides a low-risk opportunity for prospective clients to meet with a lawyer and build trust.

Almost anything can be given away for free – and it doesn’t have to look or feel gimmicky. As these three examples show, freebies can be mutually beneficial to the brand and the consumer. It’s all about how you execute.

4 Tips to Help You Win With “Free”

Okay, now that we’ve seen some examples of free offers that work and convert, let’s roll up our sleeves and walk through some of the specific steps you need to take win with a “free” strategy:

1. Make it Something People Want

“The trick to doing Free or Freemium business models right is to ensure that the product/service that you are giving away free is of very high value to the customer, which should result in both high customer satisfaction and a likelihood that they will tell others about your product/service, leading to viral effects,” entrepreneur David Skok writes. “The usual temptation is to stop short of this, and take out the valuable features that would make the product interesting and valuable.”

Most people think that by giving away good stuff, customers won’t feel the need to make a purchase. But, actually, when you give away your best stuff, customers feel compelled to make a purchase. They trust that you have more to offer – so they respond in kind.

2. Give Your Time or Knowledge for Free

Can’t afford to give away a physical product or service for free? You can always offer up your time or knowledge. Try giving away 10-minute consultations, an eBook, or access to  premium blog posts. People eat this stuff up! (It also gives you a chance to educate and nurture leads.)

3. Include Your Branding

Make sure you include your branding anytime you give away something for free. The goal is to delight the customer and to have them associate that delight with your brand so they make a purchase at a later date and time.

4. Collect an Email Address

If you’re going to give someone something for free, you need to get their email address in return. (This is the very least they can do.) In doing so, you’re able to stay in contact and put them into a drip campaign for additional lead nurturing.

Putting it All Together

Few brands are willing to give away something for nothing. They’re worried about the costs and/or the notion that they may water down their brand. But these are such short-term mindsets. The reality is that free works. It’s worked for centuries and it’ll continue to work for many years to come. It’s all about how you deploy your strategy and the implementation of the right steps in the correct order. Hopefully this article has given you some encouragement and motivation to move forward!

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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