Eighteen months since the birth of TribeBoost, there have been a number of challenges and lessons learned.
One that I had little experience with was the lesson of giving away your product for free.
It seems so counter-intuitive. Work for free? That is only for suckers or desperate people!
Smart business people know better.
Don’t hesitate to give away your product for free.
This one was hard for me to do, as I was raised by a German World War II refugee. My mom still prefers shopping at Goodwill, even though she could afford to shop anywhere she wants.
She also likes to horde sweets; as she never had access to them as a child — but that is another story.
Giving away your product or service for free is something everyone should do, especially during the early stage of your business.
I did this a lot in the first year of TribeBoost. Let’s look at some specific instances.
The first free account I thought would be great from my perspective, as the person seemed to have some great connections in the social media space.
This lady had a popular blog, lots of fans, and was about to come out with a hot new book in the Dummies series.
We delivered amazing results doubling her Twitter audience within a month — and just in time for the new book too.
We were given several promises about positive mentions to her huge audience; blog posts about us, and maybe even a lengthy review!
Awesome! We really could use this help to get the word out as a new business.
Only it never happened. As far as we could tell, she never told anyone about us.
Probably not even any relatives!
It was like she wanted to keep us all to herself as her little secret. At least this is how it felt to us.
Oh well…strike one I guess.
This was another very well connected person, with a huge blog, and connections to some media big shots in New York City.
This one stung even more, as our technology at the time was not getting the job done well enough, we had to scrap away at some terribly time consuming things to do a great job for her and keep the growth pouring in.
So not only are we losing out on time, but spending real money to do work for her. This was just feeling stupid.
But looking back on it, it was totally worth it. Working with this client made very clear that we had still had some holes in our technology.
Those flaws were not evident before in working with other clients.
Sure we would have discovered them sooner or later. But it is always better to discover them sooner!
So this was a huge gain for us in terms of experience and making our offering better — even though it was a negative in terms of cash flow.
She also sent a high-end referral our way. It never panned out. But darn it, that was almost even a bigger hit for us in both experience and revenue.
A few months later, I talked to a new client who was unbelievably honest.
Here is a social media manager who bluntly told me “I am just checking you guys out and am not going to stay on after the trial period. I just want to see how your service works.”
At first those old thoughts come creeping back to me. Great…we get to work for free the next two weeks with no chance of any revenue.
But I just had a feeling that this was a good person to get to know better. Someone maybe to bounce ideas off of, learn from and get feedback from (and over the past several months that has been the case on many situations.)
After two weeks, I told him he could stay on for free. He loved the service and was very appreciative.
The great thing is that he started frequently posting about us on social media. All about how great the results he was getting were.
This was great. Free publicity about how much TribeBoost rocks!
Our paying clients were not posting things like this.
They would tell us privately how happy they are, but not many public exclamations about the awesomeness of TribeBoost.
After being on free for a few months, he mentions that he may have some business for me. Can we swing a deal if he signs up TEN accounts?
And yes, that deal did come through. This individual now is one of our biggest customers.
A complete home run!
One thing is for sure, if you are giving great value and help for FREE — usually people will not hesitate to help you when they can.
This help may come in the form of referrals, advice, friendship, partnership, and more.
It may not always come back to you, or it may not come back right away, but eventually some of that love is going to flow back your way.
So don’t just focus on your desire to grow your revenue base, you can actually make money from giving away your product or service for free.
Sometimes you get what you give.