At least in most Western nations, setting up and running your own business has never been easier. Registering a company is a fairly painless process in most of Europe and North America. In fact, in the United Kingdom, forming a limited company with the nation’s regulator costs little more than a fancy coffee and about as much time as it would take to finish said drink.
Even for those living in countries where doing business is a little more restrictive, Estonia’s e-residency service can provide a way for entrepreneurs and business owners from all over the world to begin trading in Europe in a relatively unrestricted market.
Sites like eBay, Upwork, and Etsy have also made it easier for individuals to do business with people right around the world.
However, these low barriers to entry that make it easy for you to start trading also make it easy for your potential competitors. So in many industries and markets, making your business stand out from the crowd can be a little tricky. Even when you’re established, your business will always be under threat from new entrants. This is something Twitter’s management is well aware of, having recently held talks about buying the social media app, Clubhouse.
So for business owners, finding ways to stand out from the crowd is crucial in building a customer base. There are many approaches you can take to achieve this, such as competing on price, offering a personal service, or creating an innovative product that can’t be found elsewhere.
Another way that you can do it, is by giving away stuff for free. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, especially since businesses are usually set up to make a profit, but offering things to your customers for free can help grab the attention of potential customers and show your value.
Free trials come in all shapes and sizes, but can be an incredibly effective way of bringing customers through the door. They’re great for when you want to show the value of your product or service to a potential customer.
They’re used in just about every industry, from marketing through to gaming, and work best with services. For example, the online casino industry is incredibly competitive, meaning players have a lot of choice. To help entice these potential customers to sign up, some companies offer free spins to let players try out their range of slot games before deciding whether to make a deposit.
The casinos are confident that players will enjoy the slots while they use up their free spins and, therefore, expect many to convert into paying customers.
Although it’s a very different industry, we can see the same approach taken by many companies that offer CRM software. They offer both free trials of their paid plans and feature-limited free options. Again, they’re confident in the quality of their software and believe that the free trial can show potential customers that it offers value to their business.
While free trials work well for services, they’re not as appropriate for products. They work best for products that a customer is going to buy over and over again, such as food, cosmetics, or consumable products like office supplies or car cleaning solutions. This is why you see so many free samples in stores like Costco.
Many of the things we buy, such as electrical devices, home furnishings and DIY tools, wouldn’t be suitable to give away as a free sample as they’re often only purchased once every few years.
Free samples will work best if you’re confident in the quality of your product. If not, you may not get many customers returning afterwards.
Almost every business has trade secrets, special recipes, and useful knowledge that sets them apart from their competition or at least lets them do their job better than anyone new to the industry.
So for centuries, businesses have guarded this information very closely in the hopes of preventing others from learning their secrets and cutting them out.
However, in more recent years, many businesses have learnt that there can be a lot of value in giving some of their knowledge away for free.
They do this because it allows them to demonstrate their expertise on a particular subject or show how they would be able to help a customer. For example, Never Paint Again is a painting and decorating company in the UK that has published a comprehensive guide on how to paint your own house. Using the traditional way of thinking, you may be concerned that they’ve just taught potential customers how to do the job themselves, removing any need to hire them.
However, they understand that some people would always want to do it themselves regardless. But by publishing this guide they’ve proven how knowledgeable they are and are on hand to anyone that has been put off doing it themselves.