“Offer Service” (For Free?)

The concept of giving away something valuable for free, to gain business attention, has been ongoing grist for argument, within internet marketing circles for a while. The obvious point of contention is that giving away something free, to get your product or service into the hands of potential paying customers (who would not otherwise know or care about you), does not make money.

Of course, the point of “why” one is giving away anything for free is completely missed if one is not also selling a product or service.

Low Cost Advertising

The notion of giving something away “free” as a low-cost advertising media to garner attention for your product or service has been so heightened via the internet, that it’s now an expectation for many web users that they should be able to find any information they are seeking for no cost.

Regardless of whether one can find “any” information for free, or not, the notion of “free” is certainly not new. And I’m sure anyone who would argue “against” the merits of giving away freebies could also cite examples of when they, themselves, received free product samples, or free consultations, or free trial offers before they ever used the internet. (Well, I guess that would depend upon one’s age….)

Scientific Advertising, by Claude Hopkins

Regardless, the point of this article is to simply draw some attention to “how long” freebies have been in existence. Although I would bet free samples and free trial services goes back to the beginning of commercial enterprise, what I can cite as a reference goes back to 1923, in the book Scientific Advertising, by Claude Hopkins.

Chapter 3, “Offer Service,” is all about offering something for free. In fact, in the first sentence of the second paragraph Mr. Hopkins states, “The best ads ask no one to buy.” He further goes on to say, “The ads are based entirely on service.” He offers real-world examples of giving away hair brushes, coffee, cigars and sewing machine trials, and refers to a consumer “…anxious to reciprocate the gift. So the salesman gets an order.”

Of course not every free gift or free service will result in a sale for one’s paid product or service, but the opportunity to make sales based on giving something away can be easier (and more economical) than repetitiously telling people, who don’t know you, to buy from you.