How many times have you walked through a shopping mall and been offered taste tests of bread, hand cream and the like? Even cosmetic counters offer ‘free makeovers’.
There’s a reason retailers have built this into their margins.
In the world of online, this age-old practice of ‘try for free before you buy’ needs to be adopted if you want to leverage the trillion-dollar online economy. Free things help people move from not knowing anything about you and your company at all, through to them trusting you, which is when they buy.
There are five stages that you want to move our audience through in order for you to be able to monetise your social media and digital efforts.
1. You are unknown to them
If your audience doesn’t know who you are, you’re going to find it challenging to get them to buy from you the first time they come across you. People need and want to be able to trust the people that they come across online, and let’s face it, there are a lot of companies out there that people simply don’t trust at all.
You need to help move customers through to phase two, where they can get to know you without a long-term or financial commitment.
2. They get to know you
Giving away something for free that solves a problem your audience has is ideal.
This could be a free sample (like the bread or cosmetic counter example above) or even a five-step guide that solves a problem for them. This allows your audience to experience your company and your advice without sharing anything more than an email address (and a name ideally) with you. It’s a low-level commitment. It also demonstrates that your company is trustworthy, reputable and that you’re able to solve problems for your audience before they spend a cent with you.
For example, if you’re a book editor you could give away a ‘five-step guide to self-editing your book’, or if you’re a family law firm you could share ‘the seven questions you must ask a prospective family lawyer before you hire’.
3. They learn to like you
It may seem obvious when it’s pointed out that people buy more and more often from people that they like. Think about your favourite coffee shop. The one where you walk in and your favourite barista says: ‘Hi [name]. The usual?’ It makes you feel a bit, well, special!
At this point, you have offered them something for free, however, you need to remain in communication with them, building a relationship. You can email them regularly with value-based content, hints, tips and advice. You will also need to post regularly on social media, with similar value-based content. This will help them increasingly like you, and with consistency, they will move into phase four.
4. They trust you
It’s not until a person trusts you and your company that they’ll buy from you. Your job using digital platforms is to focus on building that trust by sharing free content, with the knowledge that this will lead people naturally into the purchase. This trust building process can happen over the space of 10 minutes through to years, depending on your business and your products or offers.
For example, if you’re an automobile dealer, you could do car reviews, you can talk about how to maximise that new car smell, you can share your expert opinion on why you would choose one car over another. Then suggest people come in to talk to you, obligation free.
5. They buy from you and become a customer
You have another happy customer, who is likely to repurchase from your company, recommend you to others and continue to follow you.