What Does a “Free” Offer In Advertising Really Cost?

Free advertising and sales offer

3 tips on how to use the free offer in advertising and sales.


FREE is the most powerful word in advertising, and sales people will constantly use that word to enhance the deal.  However, using the word wrongly in a sales and marketing strategy can really work against you.

Here are some examples of what works and what could cause you to lose the sale as a result of FREE.

1.   Make sure the terms of FREE are very clear.

To your customers there is nothing more maddening than a FREE offer that really isn’t, and this will cause you to lose their trust if the terms are not clearly defined. The most recent offer I’ve seen is “pay no taxes this weekend.”  The danger here is that people may not really believe that is possible (did you make a special deal with the state?).

Even worse is when you go to pay and see taxes on the transaction because the business is required to charge them.

These types of situations that have to be explained after the fact, cause businesses to lose all credibility. Companies such as Amazon indicate FREE shipping for their Prime members, and it is true regardless of how much the item costs. Office Depot clearly indicates FREE shipping with a minimum $50 charge, and no other hidden agenda.

The goal is to be transparent with your FREE offers, and not lose the trust of the customer.

2.   It should have extremely high value or make life easier.

When choosing the item you are going to give away, make sure it has a high perceived value to your consumers. If you are offering something that is substandard or does not make the client’s life easier, there is no point in making the offer.

Often sales people or ad campaigns will offer something they already do not charge for. Again this causes the FREE offer to lose credibility and cause a drop in trust from the consumer.

3.   Who cares if it’s FREE? I don’t want it anyway.

When choosing to give something away for FREE as part of an offer in the deal or advertising, you want to make sure the item or service is something that the customer wants.

The goal of the offer is to entice a customer to do business with you or to help them make a decision on a purchase. Therefore the item must be something they would care to have.

A FREE mug, t-shirt or pen is not often the difference maker.

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