No Charge? No Thanks! – Why It Can Be Hard To Give Stuff Away

We all like a ‘freebie’ and something for nothing can sometimes be very appealing but it’s not always straightforward to give things away as my recent experiment on this blog has proved.

The purpose of starting a new Business Guides series was to highlight a variety of business publications, e books, whitepapers and magazines, which are available to download free. There have been plenty of visitors to the posts but the take up of the offers has been less than overwhelming (ie –  almost non existent!) and this has led me to give some thought as to why this has been the case.

I think there are a few reasons why giving stuff away can be harder than you would imagine, here’s my thoughts and lessons learned – what do you think?

Offers not targeted to the right market

A more general blog like this one, as opposed to one operating in a particular niche, has readers from many areas with a wide variety of interests. Although I generally view this as a good thing, in the case of the offer it has been a disadvantage as the majority of visitors aren’t from the active B2B community.

I have tried to overcome this by connecting and engaging with members of that community but without the authority and reputation of those who are already operating in that area the offer can look a bit lightweight.

Lesson – An offer to visitors to your blog, whether free or paid must be well targeted to your audience or it’s doomed to failure. Build a reputation and trust with a community before going further.

The information offered might be of little value

This is something that I’ve thought about at length both before and after posting the articles in this category. It’s stating the obvious that if the download doesn’t appear to be of any value people won’t want it but my own view is that the offers do have value – but only to the right people. Maybe I’m wrong on that one or maybe the format I am using doesn’t clearly highlight the benefits.

Lesson – Make sure what you are offering is of value and will appeal to readers. Stress the benefits of the content.

Too much registration information required

Some details need to be entered, as shown below, before a download can be made and many people might find that this is more information about themselves than they would want to disclose.

tips on offering free stuff

But this again comes down to the first point in that I feel that people might be more willing to enter their business details rather than their personal contact details. Perhaps more explanation as to who the publication is aimed at and the pre-download details required in the post would have been helpful to try to reduce this barrier.

Lesson – Be clear about who it’s for and the steps required to download the offer.

What’s the catch?

We are all (or should be) naturally suspicious of anything that looks to good to be true. We all know at heart that ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ and in the case of my free offer, which is fully disclosed as an affiliate offer, the ‘catch’ might be considered to be that you are asked to enter some details about your business which may well result in a further marketing approach in the future.

Full disclosure is vital and I would never try to hide anything so, as with the first two points it’s all about targeting the right people. The business person who would value access to the information on offer would be much more likely to see the benefits and to be aware of any pitfalls and download with their eyes open.

Lesson – Be open about what’s required, explain any potential consequences and any opt outs, above all disclose and be transparent.

Not enough personal input

I have thought that the posts themselves may be too impersonal, that is that there is very little input and personality from me. I like to think that many people return to the blog as they like the way that I write and I need to put more of that into each post.

The downside to that is that I don’t necessarily have any expertise in the business area being offered and it’s very important to me to be seen as honest and trustworthy and not just copying and pasting other peoples material. Maybe the author of the paper could be invited to inject their own personality.

Lesson – Offer a subject I know well so I can inject my own personality or have some input from the author.

The main lesson seems to me to build a reputation with your target audience before you try to promote any product, free or paid. If that part isn’t right then the rest won’t work however many of the other lessons you apply.

Have you tried to offer free stuff to your readers and if so what success have you had and have there been any lessons you have learned that you would like to share? I would love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Many thanks for visiting today, I hope to see you again soon. If you have enjoyed this post I hope you will share it using the buttons below and if you would like to see more like this you can subscribe and connect by way of the options in the sidebar.

*Image credits

Green Free Button – Image courtesy of nuttakit /

Target Market – Image courtesy of jscreationzs /

  • Ellie

    Great Post Tony. It’s a problem to ponder for You, if as I saw in Ann Tran’s Blog piece; You want to take Your Blog to the next level, and offer writing services to others. That would certainly be buoyed by using video, links, and free merch. and services! SWAG so to speak! LOL And, Your online presence /existing relationships are pretty strong already I believe! Look….I was waiting patiently for You to re-enter the Blogging arena again. And I am sure, so were others. In fact, just before I read Ann’s piece; I said to Misty and Marty during a G+ hangout; how pleased I was to see You back, and going strong!

    Oh…..and Yes, I have tried to give away some things on My Blog too…..Information, Goodwill, and of course; LOTS of (((HUGS))) Sometimes there’s takers….sometimes not!

    • Tony Hastings

      Thanks ever so much, as always, for leaving your kind comment Ellie. It certainly is good to be back and after experimenting with different things I plan to get back to writing more of my own stuff next year.

      I like the kind of stuff you give away, there’s always room for more (((HUGS))) in the world :-)

      Thanks for all the shares as well, the social media world would indeed be a barren place for us all without good people like you!