Although my day job is working for design agency The Studio 4 I also have a secret pastime: I’m a ‘freebie-man’ i.e someone who attempts to get products for free. The two may not seem linked but there’s no reason every webmaster can’t get something for free. This article explains how:
First of all, shed your preconceptions; Companies do want you to have free stuff. Whether it be to increase brand loyalty, get closer to key decision makers or simply to one-up the competition. The trick is making them realise that you, and your site, offer something viable that makes it worth their while, and that key to doing that is your unique offer.
Mastering Your Unique Offer
Each webmaster has something about their site that they can offer a company simply by having a voice online. The simplest form of this is to run product reviews about anything you have an interest in. Make sure the content is honest to keep your readers loyal, but at the same time write about products that you currently use and enjoy to get you started. Then you can approach similar manufacturers for a free product.
Become a Source of News
If reviews aren’t your thing you can always go down the much easier option of reporting on news in the sector you want to get freebies from. Ask a few companies for press releases, run each piece with a few edits of your own and before you know it you will have key contacts with companies in your target market. After this, work your way in to any press screenings or events they have, meet the key people in person and you’ll be fixed in their mind.
After that it’s a simple case of deciding on a feature you wish to run “Top five MP3 players, new beauty products for 2009” etc and asking if they have anything you can try for the feature.
Use the Media
Likewise companies are desperate to try and understand new media options such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. So if you can find a way to leverage these tools as promotional outlets for your website, you then have the potential to encourage companies to send products for you to expose in this format. Run a video blog? Offer to showcase new products. Got a lot of Facebook friends? Set up a group praising a type of product. Like Flickr? Photograph products in unique settings.
Dr Pepper’s Cherry Chocolate Rain and Blendtecs’ ‘Will it Blend’ series are just two examples of the type of brand exposure you can carry out.
Become a Reporter
Anyone with a website is only seconds away from becoming a journalist. You don’t need a special qualification just the balls to brand yourself with such a title, and a website to write about products. Once you realise this you can talk to companies in a different way. Ring them up, brag about the stats on your website/ the products you’ve featured by their competitors and what you can offer them if they send you something. A product being featured on a website is no different to a newspaper so you should be able to command the same authority.
For an even quicker option use Peter Shankman’s HARO, an email list that connects journalists to sources, and market your site as a product portal. In doing this I received 23 product for free by simply writing a 50 word pitch.
The last option is to establish yourself as an authority on a particular subject, and the best way to do this is to become a niche site. Look for gaps in the market and make a site focusing there. There’s a million video game review sites but none for ironing board covers. Set one up, and suddenly you have the authority to attract companies that need such an outlet.
With these ideas in mind you should now feel comfortable to leverage your site. Although there’s no such thing as “something for nothing”, if you are willing to give products a little bit of time on your site you can expect plenty in return.