What’s the Best Word for Small Business?

I have a pal who sells advertising on golf courses. You have probably seen those ads, most of us have – real estate agents pitching their services on placards on the tee box, bench ads for restaurants, the little boxy coupons in the score sheet.

I have always wondered if they work, thinking they probably didn’t.

So I recently asked my friend that very question and, not surprisingly, he begged to differ. He pointed out that first of all, there are a lot of ads on the golf course and that they must be there for a reason. I couldn’t argue with that.

Then I asked him if he gets a lot of repeat clients and he said that he did – because the ads were so inexpensive, all a business needs is a few hits a year.

Then he gave me an example: He told me about a repeat client of his with a great ad. The realtor in question was so smart. Her ad promised “a new driver – free!” to anyone from the course who used her for a real estate deal. Yes, she only got about two clients a year from the ad, but those two clients made her about $8,000 a year, and all it cost her, aside from an inexpensive tee box ad, were two $400 drivers.

And she made that money because 1) She had an ad that specifically targeted her audience, but more importantly because 2) She used the magic word, the most powerful word in all advertising and marketing, the word almost guaranteed to get the phone to ring – “free.” (The other important word, running a close second, is “sale.”)

People love free. They love to get stuff that doesn’t cost anything and they love to save money. They love a bargain and they love feeling like a smart shopper. Even better: Free generates inquiries and enables people to try your service with no obligation. Free fosters trust.

This idea – that free stuff is the secret sauce – is used by the best salespeople out there. Think about timeshare condo sales for a moment. How do they get people to come to a boring 90 minute hard sell? By offering a free vacation, of course. Why do restaurants, bars and cafes increasingly advertise “free Wi-Fi”? Same reason. It’s like bees to honey.

There are plenty of ways to use the power of free in your own business:

  • Have a free drawing
  • Give customers a freebie for a referral
  • Have a free trial period
  • Give away a free hour of your time or service

However you do it, do it. Free, especially in this economy, is a hole in one.

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