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Did that headline get your attention?  It certainly got mine!  But what if we changed the headline to read:

“Free Mercedes SLK 350 Brochure, Just Drop By.”

No, that one doesn’t really get me excited.  Does it you?  What’s the difference?

Free offers are one of the best ways to get your company or product or service noticed. They can create instant buzz for little cost.  But they have to be done the right way; otherwise you’ll see your efforts backfire.

Here are 7 No Fail Rules of Running a Successful Free Offer

1.      The Rule of Dollar Value. The offer has to be something that that has a dollar valued attached to it.  Case in point,   Denny’s recently ran a campaign for free Grand Slam breakfast for everyone in America.  The value of a Grand Slam is approximately $5.99.  Millions of people waited in line at Denny’s Restaurants all over the country to take them up on their offer.   Denny’s said their promotion was a huge success. According to one of the Denny’s managers, Free freaks people out; they call and say, ‘What’s the catch?'” And Denny’s thinks that by “freaking people out” in a good way, it will keep them coming back for more.

2.      The Rule of Desire. It has to be something that customers want, and wouldn’t be able to get unless they paid for it themselves.   Good examples include free Kindle books for Kindle owners at   or free MP3 downloads from

3.    The Rule of Relevance. One way to make sure that your offer is something that people want is that it has relevance to what’s going on right now or what’s popular.  Dunkin’ Donuts gave away free iced coffee in May and experienced great success.  Would they have done so if they would have given away hot chocolate instead?  The question to ask yourself is what is relevant in the market right now?  What are people talking about?  Then tailor your free offer to address that.

4.      The Rule of No Strings Attached. For free to work, it has to be 100% absolutely free.  As customers, we are weary and cynical.  We don’t know who you are yet, and we don’t trust you yet either.  Give us a chance to trust you by giving something away that won’t require us to sign up or opt in.  If you’ve followed all of the other tips above, it’s highly likely we’ll tell others and we’ll come back to see what else you have.  David Meerman Scott, Author of the “Word Wide Rave,” gives away a free eBook on his website WebInkNow.  It’s definitely worked for him as his new book, “World Wide Rave” is one of the top sellers on  Scott believes that the purpose of free is not to generate sales leads but to create positive buzz about you, your product, or service.

5.      The Rule of Taste: The freebie should only be a taste of what you have to offer, not necessarily the whole meal.  Costco is very successful with this sampling strategy.  In fact people will go to Costco on Saturdays just to get the free samples, which are so plentiful they can easily score a “free lunch!” Costco doesn’t seem to mind.  You know why?  Because it works!  How many times have you tried a new food at Costco and ended up purchasing a whole package?

6.      The Rule of Limited Time: Customers who go to Costco know that the free samples are only given out on weekends.  They make sure they are there to get them or they will miss out.   Denny’s free Grand Slam was only good for one day.  Having an expiration date or a limited supply will create urgency that creates buzz and also will motivate people to take action right away.

7.   The Rule of the Right People: Have you ever noticed how much free stuff celebrities get even though they can easily afford to buy the stuff themselves?  That’s because they are influential.  Other people see what they are wearing or using and want to follow suit.  If a celebrity likes something, they may also spread the word.  Oprah ‘s Book Club is a case in point.

According to Andy Sernovitz, in his book “Word of Mouth Marketing”  you’ve got to identify the “Talkers,” that is those people who by nature enjoy spreading the word and will spread the word about you.  So who are talkers?  Talkers are people that naturally use your product or service.  A celebrity may not be the best talker for your business.  For example, if you own a retail store that specializes in organic clothing, a talker might be a well known blogger or journalist who specializes in that area.

Many business owners miss out on the buzz they can create, or even create negative buzz by doing free offers the wrong way.  Don’t let this be you, by following the 7 No Fail Rules of Running a Free Offer, you’ll be well on your way to creating buzz for your business!

Photo by:  Jiazi