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5 Ways to Use “Free” to Write Better Copy

September 30, 2014

Free offers in direct mail

“Free” is one of the most powerful words in marketing. When used well, it can make your direct marketing offer appeal to an audience that otherwise wouldn’t respond, massively improving your results.

When used poorly, however, free offers can be a disaster. From people that claim your free offer yet have no interest in your product or service to deceptive offers that alienate potential customers, using “free” poorly can hurt your campaign.

In this guide, we’ll cover five ways that you can use free samples, buy-one-get-one-free promotions and other free giveaways in your copy to attract interested people and avoid the potential downsides of a poorly designed free offer.


Offer a free sample to generate leads

Free offers tend to work best for expensive products or recurring offers. Since your target audience needs to spend a large amount of money to claim your offer, a free sample can give them a taste of what you have to offer before they commit.

Make your free offer work for you by turning it into a lead generating asset for your business. Whenever you give something away for free, ask prospects to provide the information you need to bring them into your long-term sales funnel.


Focus on benefits before offering freebies

Imagine you open your mailbox and receive two direct marketing postcards, both of which advertise a fantastic new health supplement. One has the headline “Lose Up to 10lbs in the Next 30 Days!” while the other is “Get Our Latest Supplement for FREE!”

While the second headline will certainly generate a higher response rate, the quality of the leads it generates will be far lower than the first headline. This is because the first headline focuses on the offer’s benefits, while the second focuses on the freebie.

If you’re giving something away for free, it’s tempting to draw attention to it to raise your response rate. However, your lead quality will be significantly higher if you talk about your freebie late in your copy once readers are familiar with your offer.


Make sure your free offer isn’t deceptive

Many people are naturally suspicious of free offers. Years of Columbia House-style negative option billing offers have made a great deal of people suspicious that your free offer could come with a nasty surprise hidden somewhere in the fine print.

The best way to combat people’s natural suspicion of freebies is by emphasizing the transparency of your offer. Be straightforward and honest and tell people that they truly do get your free offer free of charge – no strings or surprise fees attached.

If your free offer involves negative option billing (and many legitimate offers do) it’s important that you’re transparent about your billing process. Create trust with your audience by giving them clear information on how and when they can cancel.


Offer free bonuses instead of free giveaways

In almost all cases, a free bonus is a better offer than a free giveaway. Why? Because free giveaways often attract people who are only interested in your free offer, while free bonuses attract people who are genuinely interested in your product or service.

Instead of offering a free sample to potentially disinterested people, try sweetening the deal for people who are already interested in your offer. From free accessories to buy-one-get-one-free offers, “free” works best when it’s part of a purchase.

Another great way to offer a free giveaway without attracting people only interested in your freebie is by offering a gift voucher for your product. This way, you’ll attract people with a genuine interest in your offer and sweeten the deal at the same time.


Make your free offer feel unique and personal

The more personalized your free offer feels, the more prospects will claim it. Instead of sending out a generic postcard or sales letter, personalize your offer by making it exclusively available to your target audience.

Which offer feels more personal: a 25% discount voucher for every single person on your mailing list, or a 25% discount for people in a certain region? By personalizing your free offer, you create a closer bond between your target audience and you.

Everyone loves getting a good deal, especially when the deal feels exclusive. Think of different ways to personalize your free offer – region is a good one, as is the size of a business in B2B – and use them to make your offer feel more special for prospects.