Should You Give Your Product Away?

Recently, I asked you, my readers, to send me questions for the upcoming EntreLeadership Podcast with author Mark Sanborn. And let me say, you blew me away.

I was totally amazed with the quality of the questions asked. I was equally impressed with the amount of questions received. There were too many for both the podcast interview and the extended interview for readers.

So I wanted to include one of them here today:

The answer to that question Bret is absolutely yes! But it must be done intentionally. Here are a few things to think about.

  • Plan it– If you’re going to go to the effort of giving away your hard work, you have to be sure that you know exactly what you’re going to do with your shiny new customers. When we launched  Andres Gutierrez with the Hispanic version of Financial Peace University, we:
    • Promoted on a local radio station that we were holding a free six-week version of the class for anyone who wanted to attend.
    • Held the program in its entirety, with a discussion group at the end of each lesson to see exactly how each attendee felt about the class.
    • Compiled all of the data and then shot video testimonies of each attendee, including planned-out questions specific to their individual situations.
  • Prepare it – Once you have all of this info, don’t let it sit around waiting to be used. Do whatever edits and preparation necessary to get it ready. Otherwise, it will become useless.
  • Promote it – Use every possible channel you can think of to get the word out. This doesn’t need to be expensive, just thought through. Use all of the social media platforms! (Except Google+ because nobody really knows what that’s for.) Check out Michael Hyatt’s Platform for the best plan of attack. Make sure that word-of-mouth is happening with your new found tribe.

Too many times I watch companies give away their product for promotion, and they don’t have a plan. The more intentional you are, the more productive you will be in the long run. Click to Tweet

Question: What are your thoughts on giving away product? 



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

99 thoughts on “Should You Give Your Product Away?”

  1. Agreed. Even Seth Godin talks about this. The first book he wrote was an ebook called IdeaVirus and he gave it away so much that people were asking him to publish it so they could buy a hard copy. Now that’s great marketing.
    And I think Chris Brogan would disagree with you on Google+. I haven’t used it much but he makes an interesting case over on his blog. Check it out and let me know what you think. 

    1.  @JaredLatigo Thanks for the reminder pointer to Brogan’s G+ post. I’ve been meaning to give it a read. I have to think there’s value over there, I just haven’t figured it out either, yet, and I’m pretty much a geek at heart!

  2. Free needs to be free within a positive context. People love free stuff, but nobody loves going on a “free” vacation where you are locked in a room and sold a timeshare as part of the deal. Same thing applies to giving away a product or idea. Unfortunately, I see waaaay too many ambitious marketing-types with this approach to “free,” trying to beat some product or idea into the masses just because it is free.

  3. Awesome! I love your input, Chris, and can’t wait to see what kind of discussion this kicks off today. Of all the days to be stuck in a meeting….
    Looking forward to checking up on this in a little bit!

  4. I’m in agreement with giving product away, but it must be intentional. While starting in the field of life coaching I took on my first few clients as pro bono clients. It gave me needed practice, coaching hours and recommendations from people. The trade was that they had to recommend me to a number of their friends. Free clients normally turn into paying clients!

    1. @Eric Such a great point about the experience. If they’re getting a product or service for free, they can’t complain if you mess up as your working out the kinks!!!

  5. “You can never get enough free!”  (our local DJ says every morning as he asks for free pie, etc.. 
    As Chris says, be intentional about it.  Document it out as a contract with the scope and would be price included.  That way they know they are receiving something of value, not just getting “free.”

    1.  @tbric1 Good point. I also think my responsibilities need to be spelled out so I’m not getting called in the middle of the night on my vacation. Just sayin’….

        1. @CarolDublin @Bret @tbric1 I have NEVER been able to do it….but I have been so thoroughly frusrated and frankly angered by my current manager in now more than willing to do so 🙂

  6. Well I figure you have two options when starting out.
    1. Charge a high price and really work hard and hope that you get a few takers.
    2. Rack up some clients at low prices and build a business and reputation.
    I’ve done both but for different reasons. And both worked.
    When I started a political consulting business in 2003 it was kind of at the dawn of the internet age in politics (think Howard Dean). The only way I was going to get a bunch of stuck-in-the-80s old farts to agree to try this new “interwebs thing,” was to basically work on commission only. I only made money if they raised money and generally a pretty low rate.
    Within 3 months I had enough clients and a good reputation so I raised my fees. By early spring 2004 I was charging a lot because everyone wanted in on the internet. Not only did I benefit from my reputation and client referrals but from the early success of the Dean campaign and others online.
    When I started my marketing consulting business 3 years ago I was on the heels of winning a major award in the industry that basically said I was the best at what I do. Plus I had a great job. So I took the advice of a good friend and figured what I would pay for my services and just about doubled it. I felt like that was still very fair for what they got.
    I had no trouble getting clients and now do it full time.
    So the answer to the question is that it depends on where you are at in the cycle I guess. Of course, even now I still give away quite a bit (newsletters, free consultations, etc.) Free advice will always be in style and will always be rewarded.

    1. @MattMcWilliams2 Burnt rice!!! There is no end to yor experience and knowledge is there??? I know you’ll downplay it by saying you made a ton of mistakes or something, but I’d say that that counts as experience!! Thanks for being so willing to share!!

        1.  @MattMcWilliams2  I like your journey from politics to marketing. Mainly because I earned an undergrad degree in political science, and then felt so bad about it that I’ve spent the last seven years or so fixing that sin by earning more legitimate degrees in economics, business and the like. 
          Totally off topic I know, but for some reason your brief story makes me smile.

        2.  @Jon Henry I love politics and loved working in it.
          But I simply could not keep up the pace. I respect those people who can but 20 hour days 6 days a week and “only” working 12 hours on my off day was unsustainable. It was great for 3 years and the money was insane but I’d be dead by now if I kept it up. 
          I’m a big fan of the sub-50 hour workweek now 🙂

        3.  @Jon Henry  @MattMcWilliams2 Jon, is the sin of poli sci really erased by the further sin of economics? 😉
          Then again, I was a math major, so I probably shouldn’t throw stones….

        4. @lilykreitinger @Bret @Jon @MattMcWilliams2 Sometimes I think you think I have very low self esteem…haha they were just talking about bad degrees so I thought I’d throw out that I don’t even have a 4 yr degree at all haha

        5.  @Bret  Ironically, while I was in school for economics I was also getting a real estate license. Unfortunately, this was also 2008…. Hopefully, my dabbling with the business world won’t ruin the business world for the rest of you. Just saying.

        6.  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger  @Bret  @Jon  Nor I my friend. I got a PhD in D-U-M-B as Dave would say though while in college.
          I played golf…that was my focus. Forgot to go to class for a few weeks, um months.
          Thankfully it was during college that my FM radio broke while traveling across the country for tournaments so I had to listen to AM and some guy named Dave Ramsey (this was literally 1999 when ChrisLoCurto was still not at Lampo I think…in fact he probably only had like 20 people then). Best thing that ever happened to me.
          FM radio breaks > I listen to Dave > Wife works for Dave > I marry wife…yeah that worked out.
          I am considering going back to college. Big difference now of course…wife and kids and I’m not an idiot. That helps. Should do just a weeee bit better this time.

        7.  @MattMcWilliams2  @Skropp  @Bret  @Jon  ChrisLoCurto I have lots of respect for people who have Master’s and PhD degrees… after all I work for an online University. However, some knowledge is the same as money… you have to be intentional and do something great with it. 

        8.  @lilykreitinger  @MattMcWilliams2  @Skropp  @Bret  @Jon  ChrisLoCurto I liken my educational experience to Daniel (Old Testament) in Babylon. The King’s officials wanted all the young talented people including Daniel to eat meat; Daniel pleaded to be granted an exception to eat just veggies. After awhile, Daniel was stronger (and apparently more pleasing to the eye) then the other individuals in the King’s court who ate meat. Daniel was educated in the Chaldean / Babylonian ways, but he never gave up who he was in service of God.
          I absolutely hate school. I went to more schools than I had birthdays thanks to being in a military family. My mom home schooled me for 3 months in one state to deny the school system funding (which was based on attendance) because the system tried to hold me back a grade for no reason other than we were from somewhere else and they wanted more money. Yet I thrived in the system, everywhere we lived, even though I felt like a foreigner — much like Daniel.
          I have been encouraged to and may knock on the door for me to pursue a PhD in the spring. The irony, mystery, and sense of humor God has is surly amazing.

        9. @lilykreitinger @MattMcWilliams2 @Bret @Jon @ChrisLoCurto Intentional and do something with it??? As @Aaron Nelson said so eloquently earlier “DOH!!”

    2.  @MattMcWilliams2 Yay! I love this story, thanks for sharing. It may be part of my inspiration when my enthusiasm starts to flag.  🙂

  7. I love this idea, and I love the closing Tweetable you left us: “The more intentional you are, the more productive you will be in the long run.” You gotta be intentional. Totally. I think you need to know 1. How much you will give away. (You must know when to stop.) 2. You must know what you want to accomplish with your give away. 3. You must have something of value to give away. 
    We’re working hard to do some intentional give aways over the summer in order to generate more leads and interest in what we do. Hope it works like crazy!

    1. @Aaron Nelson Hold on Aaron, are you saying I have to have a PLAN!!! I didn’t sign up for this!! I just wanted to make a million, not have to think (maybe there’s a reality show opening somewhere 🙂 )

      1.  @Skropp  @Aaron LOL ha – that was burnt rice for me too man.  Plan? What plan? Totally one of those Homer Simpson “DOH” moments. (Sorry for dragging Homer in on this….)

    2.  @Aaron Nelson Let me know! I’m trying to build some things for my blog along those lines — but I’m also trying to build a bigger product that will form the core of my new business. That’s what I’m really hoping to get rolling by giving it to my first few customers, then letting them help me gain some paying customers and rolling from there.

  8. I think it’s a great idea. But I’d say be careful not to make it seem like its just a lure. What I mean by that is as in your example Chris, offering a 6 week course but only providing materials if you sign up after the first week. Or the fine print is its only 6 weeks IF you sign up.
    I think sometimes people offer “free” products but not really. If pure gonna offer something for free, make it FREE. No strings, no fine print and AWESOME value!
    Bottom line, be so confident in your product that you KNOW they’ll be back, so you don’t feel the need to “trick” them!
    Anyways, that’s my two bits. For what it’s worth (or not worth)!

    1.  @Skropp ‘Here, here!’ I think that’s what @Jon Henry was also commenting on. Free should = awesome value.  No strings or hidden little jabs to get your money for something vital that the provider didn’t provide to make the experience worth while. I HATE THAT. 

      1. @Aaron Nelson @Jon Henry it is certainly what Jon said. I commented on his and told him if I’d read his first I wouldn’t have had to write mine!!

      2.  @Aaron Nelson  @Skropp I’d like to amend my answer. The world needs less free crap. The internet and digital publishing make it too easy to push junk on people and bash people with meaningless messages. Which in turn makes it harder for legitimate people to share something important.
        I propose that instead of promulgating free crap, people need to share more bacon. One, because bacon is good. And two, because bacon adds value.

        1.  @Jon Henry  @Skropp Luvvv the bacon. And you’re so right: there MUST be real value in what you give away – or you’re shooting yourself in the foot. (And that’s just dumb.)  Hmm…I’m hungry. 

        2. @Jon Henry @Aaron Nelson I like bacon. I make no qualms about more bacon, and pig farmers wont either 😉 but you’re right. It does place a bigger responsibility on us to provide MORE value and distinguish ourselves more. I think that’s where Michael Hyatt’s book is soooo valuable at this time!! ThAnks for amending your comment Jon do I didn’t feel like I was copying you 😉

        3.  @Bret  @Jon Henry  @Aaron Nelson  @Skropp I wonder how many have the “BACN” folder thanks to Michael Hyatt?  I have one and am loving it.  It helps to like bacon also!

        4.  @tbric1  @Jon Henry  @Aaron Nelson  @Skropp Have you tried the bacon sundae at Burger King yet? I’m tempted but haven’t been brave enough….

        5. @tbric1 @Bret @Jon Henry @Aaron Nelson Is there more to this “bacon” convo than the delish breakfast food we’re all so fond of?? B/c I can’t imagine putting THAT sort of bacon in a folder! Would be a little greasy I would think!!

        6. @Bret @tbric1 @Jon Henry @Aaron Nelson I like bacon as much as the next guy, but I think a bacon shake may be going a little too far…. 🙂

        7.  @Skropp  Check out Michael Hyatt’s blog.  He writes how to clean up your inbox and has a folder named BACN for all the stuff you subscribe to but don’t need to read right away.  Very helpful to keep you on task.

      3.  @Aaron Nelson  @Skropp  @Jon Henry Don’t be like the “free” apps for kids on the iPad. You get them excited about reading a great book and half way through it freezes up and invites you to buy the “full version”. Hate that!

        1.  @lilykreitinger  @Aaron Nelson  @Skropp  @Jon Henry If you’re clear up front that you’re previewing the first chapter, fine. If you’re not, then it’s deceptive and your customers are going to be disappointed instead of wanting more. Agreed.

  9. Great discussion today. I think there’s definitely something to be said for intentionally giving something of value to get the business going. Or at least a discount so people know the value of your work.
    I have a friend who does faux finishing but is relatively new to the area. He will sometimes give a small discount on a first project if that customer will agree to recommend his work to his neighbors and write a couple on online reviews. Seems to be working well – he’s not out a lot of money on the discounts, and is gaining some influence and new customers, plus the online reviews help with SEO. Win win.

    1.  @CarolDublin I hadn’t thought about SEO wins too! And heck, you can build the discounts into your pricing structure. I’ve seen plenty of operations that basically give discounts if you sneeze, so I don’t know of anyone who’s paying the posted price. Seems a little dis-authentic to me, but what do I know?

      1.  @CarolDublin I don’t mean your friend’s being disauthentic, just the discount-everyone tactic. Sorry if that wasn’t clear!

      2. @Bret @CarolDublin Great point Carol! I think hen ou give discounts to start you can just straight up tell people you’re doing it to get your name out and show the value!
        Bret: ya, I know some businesses that go overboard on the discounts so you NEVER pay the full price, so really the full price is just an illusion to make you FEEL like you’re getting a great deal! Haha. A bit disingenuous I think too.

        1.  @Skropp  @Bret  My friend actually does discount the price – and explains how he arrived at the price and what the discount will be and why. I agree it’s totally disingenuous if the price is always discounted. Guess it’s a delicate balance.

  10. The product I’m considering giving away is twofold:
    1. There’s a software component, a kind of CRM product (Customer Relationship Management) which helps the customer manage their lobby experience. For each incoming guest with an appointment, it will help identify the guest, provide some personal details gleaned during previous visits, and help the greeter connect with that guest in as genuine a fashion as possible.
    2.  Training. Software won’t get you anywhere without the right people and the right skills to make it work. Your greeter has to be able to project an authentic air and be genuinely interested in your guests, which means you’ve got to hire the right person and train them properly. You also have to make sure you’ve got follow-through once that guest leaves your lobby and continues into your business proper.
    So for my first few clients, I’m planning to target a specific type of business (this will help me tailor the software a bit and ensure it works for that business specifically) and provide some training and ongoing support & consulting after the software is in place. Throughout the process, I hope to gain enough feedback to put more polish on the training program and the software both.
    Once these first few clients are in place, I might do another client in a new line of work at a reduced rate, but my plan would be once I’ve got 2 or 3 satisfied customers, I’d start charging for the package. Software and training as one. Software not available separately because I think the training is that critical to its success.
    Phase two then becomes moving past lobbies and into other areas of company operations, but I digress.
    And the funny thing about the reference to Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” in Chris’s post above is that that’s the book (the EntreLeadership podcast interview, actually) where I first got the idea for this. So I may well end up owing Chris & Michael a cut of future earnings!

    1. @Bret I’m sure Chris will be more than happy to accept any royalty checks… I love that idea of including the training!! Like you said, best product with no training is useless!!

    2.  @Bret Sounds like a great idea! I would let them know that the giveaway period will be limited to a few select new clients and let them know what the value of it would be if they paid for it.  It puts your product and the training into perspective.

        1. @lilykreitinger @Bret Don’t listen to her Bret!!! The the frequent recipient (or victim??) of Lily’s comments that was SO a smarty-pants comment!!! Haha.

    3.  @Bret I thought that idea sounded familiar! I think it would be awesome – what a great customer service experience  to be greeted like that. Truly over the top. And you are right – it will take the right people and intensive training to make it work. Sounds like a good plan IMHO.

  11. I totally believe in the power of the case study. If you get a well respected company with great connections, then the “free” product will be less than the cost of traditional marketing. Make a plan and go for it!

  12. Giving away stuff is a killer way to get going in a business. If it’s good, people will rave about it and tell their friends. So it better be good. You can also get them to do testimonials in exchange for the free product. No better way to build up that testimonial column!

    1.  @Joseph Lalonde There’s certainly a temptation to use this time to “trial run” the product. I think if that’s the approach, then that customer isn’t necessarily the one you want to get a testimonial from. That’s the one who’s getting free product in return for … well, troubleshooting it for you.

  13. @chrislocurto – WOW, what great timing on this blog! We are launching our new website tomorrow (at 4:48am to be exact – huge @48daysteam fan!) and we were debating about doing a free ebook give away of my first book or not.
    In the end we decided to go for it as provided people with an awesome book, it got my name and story out to others who may not have read it, and gave someone a great incentive for signing up on our email list for future promotions. Plus it gave me incentive for people that have read the book to promote it to their friends as it is a pretty dang awesome book. (:
    This was something that Dan Miller influenced me a lot on sharing things. People who read the ebook may also end up purchasing the book – surprising, but true.
    Lastly, we are running it the free promotion for a limited time and will replace it with something else that is free rather than just have a “sign up for my newsletter” button.
    Anxious to listen to the interview!
    Live Beyond Awesome!
    Twitter: @TheJenMcDonough

  14. I am a preacher, and so don’t “run a business,” so let me speak from the consumer side. I think that giving things away is all about the attitude.

    There is a certain way that people give things away that seems genuine, while others come across and just trying to bait you in. Obviously, give-away’s are a way to draw customers in, but I am thankful for those who can give things away without it seeming like the first step in a never-ending sales cycle.

    Also, with so much free (and legal) stuff online, businesses have to learn to give some things away just to stay relevant!

  15.  @JenMcDonough  @chrislocurto  @48daysteam  @TheJenMcDonough I gave your web site a quick look just now — it looks fantastic! I’ll dig in deeper this weekend but for now, congratulations on your launch! 

  16.  @JenMcDonough  @chrislocurto  @48daysteam  @TheJenMcDonough I gave your web site a quick look just now — it looks fantastic! I’ll dig in deeper this weekend but for now, congratulations on your launch! 

  17. I love the idea of “giving it away”!  For the month of July, in honor of Independence Month, my team and I have been “giving away” $1,000 to every military client who applied with us – or closed – in the month of July.  $1,000!  We planned, prepared and promoted it!  We wanted to do something BIG – and we did it!  A huge month for us (which is one reason I have been absent from this site for a while).  Mortgage rates are good – and VA loans are the BEST!  So, yes, love giving it away.  Especially to those who deserve every penny of it – our military!

  18. This month – many of the employees of my company – who have been contributing to the Boot Campaign  as their charity of choice – GAVE AWAY a mortgage free home to a wounded warrior.  Yes, employees of a MORTGAGE COMPANY gave away a mortgage free home!  Secretaries pledge $25.00 while branch managers pledged $2,500 per month.  So, giving it away is awesome!

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