SIT AND CONTEMPLATE THIS STORY
In 1999, I was contacted by a furniture company asking for
advice about how to turn around their internet business. It
seems that they were very successful in the non-digital,
real-world, business environment. They were a small enterprise
generating a few million dollars a year in sales for their
Yet, they had been on the internet for three years at that
time, and they had yet to sell their first piece of furniture
As was explained to me, they were pumping the traffic through
their website to the tune of 100,000 unique visitors every
month. But, for some reason, they were selling zero products.
This was a manufacturing company who was trying to jump into
the retail market through their website.
I took a look at their site. Their products looked excellent.
Their website could have been tweaked to make it easier to
navigate. They could have changed the color scheme to make
it a bit more attractive and easier on the eyes.
But, the truth be known, manufacturers are not always the best
people to write the sales copy for their products. Sure, their
descriptions were great if they were using their websites to
reach out to more retailers and wholesale agents, but they were
trying to reach into the direct retail market.
They honestly needed a different type of copywriter to sit down
and write the sales copy for their products. They needed someone
who specialized in selling products to the end user rather than
someone who was good at selling to the people who wished to buy
and sell their products. They also needed a copywriter who
understood the nuances of using words to help drive targeted
traffic to their website through the search engines and online
Each of these points helped them to better tailor their website
to reach their intended customers. But, the one point that
helped them to turn their bad money into good money was to
recognize that they Should Not give away a free office chair
every month to some lucky visitor.
I don't know if you realize it or not, but there are hundreds
of websites and ezines dedicated to help people to find free
stuff on the internet for the taking.
My ex-girlfriend spent a solid six months online looking for
free stuff and registering for give-aways. She was knocking
down anywhere from $300 to $500 per month just in free
products from the websites she visited.
The important question to ask yourself is this.
Did she ever intend to buy a single product from a single
website that she visited??? Nope. She was Not on the internet
to buy things. She was on the internet to Get free things.
In the previous 18 months, the furniture company that I was
advising had given away 18 office chairs with a value of $300
As soon as they removed the monthly drawing for a free chair,
their traffic nearly dried up. As it turned out, 98% of their
site traffic was only dropping around to register for a chance
to win a free chair.
Now, our furniture company was ready to get down to the business
of selling chairs without wasting their resources on people who
were there only for the freebie.
THERE IS A TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING, INCLUDING "FREE"
So-called internet guru's jump up on their soapboxes and declare
that you should give away something in order to drive paying
customers to your website.
What kind of "customers" do they say??? Paying Customers???
I don't think so.
If the thing that you are giving away has any real value, then
be prepared for an onslaught of freebie-seekers to come around
sucking up your bandwidth and your free products and services
If what you are offering has zero real value, then you need to
know that the people you are trying to draw in with your freebie
will see right through your offer and see you for the sham that
you are trying to sell.
FREE EBOOKS OR FREE ADS TO GET SUBSCRIBERS
I used to believe that I could offer a free ebook to people to
get them to subscribe to my ezine. I should have known better.
For a six-week period, I tested the concept of "free" to get
subscribers for my own ezine. On the surface, it worked great.
Under the microscope, it was an abject failure.
In the six weeks that I offered a free ebook in exchange for
a new subscriber, I netted 500 new subscribers per week. Then
on the following week, I noticed that I had really only netted
50 new subscribers for my efforts. Okay cool, I thought, I am
picking up 50 new subscribers every week on account of my
promotion. So, I ran my promotion again with similar results.
At the end of six weeks, I thought to myself, "Wow! I picked
up 300 new subscribers for my efforts."
Then a funny thing happened. I stopped the promotion for a
few weeks and found myself up only twenty subscribers from
when I started my freebie campaign.
Odd I thought. At the time, I was running my own list server,
and I had a hankering to know the truth.
If you don't know what a "hankering" is, I am from Oklahoma,
so we get those a lot. ;-) Dictionary.com defines a "hankering"
as, "To have a strong, often restless desire."
When you have a hankering and you have the time, you can find
the truth of a matter.
After comparing the timing of the release of my "freebie"
advertisement with the subscription timestamps, comparing
those with my new subscriber comments to eliminate the people
who told me they subscribed as a result of a referral, and
then comparing the remaining addresses to my unsubscription
records, I learned what I should have known in advance of my
90% of the people who came for the freebie were gone in a week.
A full 99% of the people who came for the freebie were gone in
three weeks. Only 1% of the freebie takers lasted for more than
a few weeks, and a large majority of those were completely gone
after three months.
The successes that I felt that I had accomplished, from offering
a freebie for subscription, turned out to be a complete waste
of my time and energy.
NEVER EVER GIVE AWAY YOUR BREAD AND BUTTER
Those of you who know who I am also know that I offer a service
of value to people who write articles to promote their online
Now and again, I will get someone knocking on my door, promising
me tons of new business, if only I will give them one freebie
to prove the value of my service.
Going against my better instincts, I did take this offer on two
occasions. I won't do it again.
See, the thing is that the writer is responsible for creating
a title that is appealing to both the publishers and the
readers. Without a good title, an article will fail to produce
The writer is responsible for the creation of the article and
the presentation of his information in an interesting and
intriguing manner. Without a good story, an article will fail
to produce results.
The writer is responsible for the wording of the Author's
Resource Box. If the resource box is unappealing to the reader,
then the reader will not click through and review the writer's
website or program.
The writer is responsible for tackling a topic that would be
of interest to his target market. If an article does not reach
the people who would be interested in what the writer is selling,
then the article will again fail to produce the desired results.
If a writer sends me a crud article that has no hope for
accomplishing the results that he or she desires, then the
fault is not mine. I did my part. I put their article into
the hands of more than 12,000 publishers who were looking
for content to reprint in their ezines and their websites.
If the writer fails to create an article that will serve his
desired end, and he gets to use my service to put it into
circulation, then the writer will need a scapegoat for his
or her failure. There I am, the scapegoat for the failures
of the writer.
I SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF MYSELF, THEY SAY...
The last guy who asked me to give a freebie distribution for
his article got mad when I said no. He proceeded to brow beat
me for being unwilling to give away something away in order to
earn his business on the backside. After all he said, he gives
away a lot of free stuff on his website to drum up new business.
It is true that it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. Everyone
who knows me well knows that it takes a miracle to make me mad.
This is a fact seriously upsets my wife when she is in a mood
to argue... ;-)
This guy made me mad, but I held my temper in check.
Sir, if you knew me, you would also know that I give several
hours of my week to help other writers distribute their articles
for free on the internet. People who know me know that I own
and moderate hundreds of open-membership, moderated-posting,
article distribution groups on the internet.
It takes a lot of my time to make these resources available to
the internet community and to make sure that these resources are
not abused, and I do not get paid to provide these "free" writer
Sir, I give a lot back to the writer's who make up the writing
community on the internet. I just don't give away my bread
and butter. And, if I were to give away a bread and butter job,
I would much prefer to give that service to a paying customer
rather than to a person who out-of-the-blue is promising me
the moon and the stars.
I don't give away my bread and butter, to anyone, and you should
not either. There is a time and place for everything, including
freebies. Just be careful that you don't give your products and
services to people who are only there to get a freebie from you.