Have you ever tried something new or, as a business owner, tried to offer a new product or service? It can be difficult to head in a new direction especially if you are charging people money while heading in that new direction. The question that comes up during this time centers around how to get people to trust that you know what you are doing. One way that business owners overcome this is to give away some free value to the public in exchange for getting the word out about their products or services.
The web has given everyone the ability to offer free value because of the fact that it is cheaper for people to do business via the web than ever before. Chris Anderson from Wired magazine even wrote a book this year on the subject suggesting that free is the new economic model for today. Whether you agree with that or not, you can't argue with the fact that a growing tactic that virtually all marketers use today is the giveaway or the free offer.
These offers aren't completely free as there are times where you need to give your name and e-mail address to receive the bonus offer so you are giving something to them in exchange for their product. The reason why businesses do this is simple, they are so convinced that you will enjoy their product or service that they are willing to let you test it out as they are confident that you will enjoy it. Some people worry about giving away their content for fear that people wont buy but typically if people love what you are doing and it creates value for them, they will pay you.
I had this experience awhile back with Market Samurai which is a SEO keyword research tool. I was looking for a good keyword research tool and someone suggested that I check it out. To try it for a period of time, all I had to do was give them my name and e-mail. After I signed up, they made it really easy to use their tools by sending a series of videos that explained why their tool was different and how to maximize my efforts. Their training efforts got me up to speed much quicker and allowed me to really appreciate the tool for what it could do. In the end, I liked the product so much that I bought it when my trial was over. This is in large part due to the fact that they created so much value for me during the free trial process.
The great part about this technique is that you can use it online or offline and achieve similar results. I have worked with several businesses who have given their consulting away free to a limited amount of people to get them talking about the experience and the value that was created for them. This can be a great way to show people what you can do and build the trust for your business that you are looking for.
Some words of caution about giving away free services. Just because you are giving them away doesn't mean that you can diminish the level of service that you are giving that person. Have you ever had a coach tell you that you play how you practice? I was a ballroom dancer in college and would sometimes fall victim to the myth that I could always mark the routines in practice and then somehow magically turn it on when it was time for a performance. The reality was that my performance always suffered when I fell victim to this line of thinking.
You must treat every client as if they were a paying client regardless if they are paying or not.
If you don't do this, you run the risk of ruining the very reputation that you are trying to build. I have seen way too many businesses fall victim to the mentality that if a client is not a paying client then they don't care as much as a paying client does. This is simply not true.
Free value is a great way to show people what you can do. If you are having trouble getting people to trust that you can deliver in your area of expertise, stop telling them that you can do it, offer to show them. In the end, if you are as good as you say you are then you will be well on your way to improving your reputation in your field and who knows you may even get some paying clients out of it.