Here’s a quick pop quiz for you: Of these three phrases (all amounting to the same offer), which would you choose?

  1. Half Price
  2. Buy One, Get One Free
  3. 50 Percent Off!

Studies show that the second option gets the most buyers, by a long shot! Nothing draws a crowd like getting something for nothing. In the psychology of pricing, “free” is clearly a winner!

Free Wins

Even though all outcomes are equal, the free option consistently sells better. Why? The common justification people use is that half price or 50% off are both a discount for a single item. They are still getting one item, albeit for less money. But the buy one, get one free doubles the quantity of what they are getting. It simply feels like they are getting more for their money.

If you feel the same way, don’t worry – you are not alone. Time and again, research shows that people opt for the product that has our favorite four-letter “F” word attached to it (“free,” that is).

Featuring the word “free” as part of your offer gets people’s attention. They are immediately interested, because it hints at getting more stuff with very low risk. So, if nothing else, they are at least willing to see what you have to offer.

Favorable Usage

There are some businesses where making a free offer will make more sense than others. Not everyone has a product or business that is appropriate to offer for free. But there are times when using a “free” marketing tactic to attract customers makes sense.

Here are some of those times:

  • You have a business where you can offer a free sample of your product, so that people can try it and then come back and purchase more.
  • You offer a product that you can market as a “buy one, get one free” or as a “buy two, get one free.” The customer is still purchasing your product, but the idea of getting a free one will entice them more.
  • You have a service that provides consulting, and you can provide a set amount of free advice or consulting time. This gives consumers a chance to see whether what you have to offer makes it worthwhile for them to pay for more.
  • You offer a product that comes out weekly or monthly, and you are offering a free trial version of it, which is like giving a sample. Magazines and newspapers do this all the time!

The “Free” Downside

Be careful, there can actually be a downside to the “free” route of marketing. This is, in large part, because so many people have tried to take advantage of using the word in their marketing, when they were not sincere about actually giving something for free. So, essentially, it has given the word “free” a bit of a bad rap. It often makes people a little suspicious when they see something advertised as being “for free,” and they automatically try to figure out what the “catch” is.

In order to reap a successful return by using a “free” marketing promotion, you need to make sure you really are giving something for free. Otherwise, your message – and possibly your company – will be discredited. Keep in mind that, if it sounds too good to be true, people will turn and head in the other direction.

Freely Moving Forward

Here’s the dealio: if you have a product or service that fits the “free” marketing model, give it a shot. Just make sure that you know your costs so that you can do it and still make a profit, and that you give the clients something that is of value to them (whether advice or a product). Because in the end, whether it was a fabulous free find or you took them on a free ride, they will share their story with others!

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