7 strategies for offering free products or services (without ‘buying’ loyalty)
When it comes to offering consumers gifts of appreciation, there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Something that many marketing professionals might not think about during their planning phase is how gifts can negatively influence how a customer sees a business. If the company is too aggressive with its offering approach, the consumer might consider them desperate. This look isn't a good one for a business trying to cultivate a consumer base that respects their brand.
If you're offering a gift or loyalty program, it's essential to be genuine about giving back to the consumer. Businesses that engage in such loyalty programs risk alienating their customers who may interpret the gesture as an attempt to "buy" their loyalty. Nothing drives customers away faster than discovering that a business is trying to manipulate them. So how does a business approach long-term loyalty in a way that won't turn off consumers?
These seven experts from Ad Age Collective have spent a lot of time examining user behaviors and have offered their insight into how a company can build long-term brand loyalty with offerings without alienating their customers.
1. Ensure your customers are receiving value.
The right way is to ensure that your customers are receiving value and a reward for buying from you. A loyalty program is one such example, where a customer gets a free product or service after making X amount of purchases. This incentivizes them to stay with you for those rewards since they have to participate to receive them. - Duran Inci, Optimum7
2. Offer customers gifts, not free services.
There is a big difference between free and a gift. The word "free" may diminish the perceived value and may come across as trying too hard. Show your excitement by offering a gift to try the new product -- it will be a no-risk way of experiencing it firsthand. "Free" may move the business short term, but it can erode brand value long term. "Free" also may set expectations for more free services in the future. - Arjun Sen, ZenMango
3. Consider building a ‘win-back’ strategy.
Consider building a “win-back” strategy by offering a free product or service to former customers that have not recently engaged with your brand as a way to remind them of the value they once sought from your brand. This rewards their former loyalty and can show new customers that your brand does value the relationships it forms with customers. - Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute
4. Aim to surprise, delight and create fandom.
Too many freemium plays are about the marketer's desire for line extension, and not about creating or fulfilling an emotional need or delighting a person. So a lot of stuff you get seems immediately landfill-bound, and that just makes people feel guilt as the primary emotion of the transaction. Everything about that transaction needs to be about surprise, delight, news and creating fandom. - Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)
5. Give them a complete solution or experience.
Your free product or service needs to be a complete, satisfying solution in and of itself. It can be narrowly defined (e.g. one taste, one use, limited functionality) or a defined time period, but the user experience has to be a good one. Don't try to get too cute with your giveaway by requiring a purchase to have a positive experience. Provide a positive experience, and purchases will follow. - Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)
6. Offer them a complementary tool.
The choice of gift or service you offer for long-term loyalty is what matters. You don't have to show appreciation with a product upgrade or free services, at least not one that's directly from your business. You could offer a complementary tool to what they use. Or give your customers an "experience." I know that recognizing a work-related anniversary would make me very happy. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
7. Keep it personal and unexpected.
Keep it personal and unexpected. The best gift I received from a vendor was a succulent -- this showed care as I wasn't expecting to receive it and because they'd taken the time to research plants that would thrive in the dry LA climate where I live. By being understated, they demonstrated they cared about my business but weren't overly dramatic with the gesture. That approach is always appreciated. - Patrick Ward, Rootstrap