Chapter 14: How to Get Freebies Part 2: The Unique Offer
It was around this point that I began to realise my quest was doomed unless I
came up with a more convincing argument for people to send me something
for nothing. Begging wasn’t working, marketing people were getting wiser
and even being a nice guy and kissing ass was doing nothing for my freebie total
(or self esteem for that matter).
Likewise people were beginning to ask me for my tips on how to get freebies
and with recent articles focusing on nuts, crackers and a free perfume sample,
I wasn’t exactly feeling like the hero they were making me out to be. Before
advising anyone on how to get freebies I would first need to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes a person appealing enough to warrant a free gift.
So like a wayward teenager who isn’t sure what to do with their life I
entered my ‘experimental’ phase. I began to try new methods of getting
something for nothing. This involved a lot of failure, but only by being
rejected was I able to find the method that worked best for me. The biggest
error I found was simply walking in to a shop or restaurant and asking for a
free item. It simply doesn’t work. Sure in the right situation you can haggle
someone down on price or even get something free with your main purchase
but getting something for free from a store? No chance.
Well ok, that’s no technically true, it is possible to get something free
from a store. However it sure as heck won’t happen by walking in through the
front door, stumbling up to the first shop assistant you see and asking politely.
If you’ve ever worked in a shop you’ll be all to aware of the bizarre
customers that come in through the door and how when you’re in the middle
of a 10 hour shift, all you can really think of is how much your feet hurt. So
when someone comes in through the door asking for something for nothing
you have every inclination to think they’re a nutcase. Even if you did give
them something for free you’d likewise get fired for doing so.
Really there are only three possible scenarios; The first is that if you’re lucky you’ll get taken to see the manager, they’ll assume you’re an
irate customer who has something against the firm and maybe get a 10% off
card. The second is that you’ll bore the shop assistant, they’ll walk away and
you’ll feel like a mug. The third option involves security guards, handcuffs
and a cell if they get any inclination that the reason you want free stuff is
because you are some sort of master thief.
You may be thinking at this point none of this will matter, as you’ve
tried out your persona, got some good responses from friends and you feel
ready to take to the streets. Well unless you have somehow attached Z list
celebrity status to your persona by appearing on a reality TV show, going
door to door in shops is a tricky business indeed.
Much better results will be gained by emailing / talking to
corporations directly. Alternatively if you worked really hard on the outfit for
your persona then visit trade shows/ conferences or local businesses.
In all of these scenarios one thing remains constant, you will have a
very short amount of time to explain who you are and why you deserve
something for nothing. Fail and you’ll hear a symphony of slammed doors
and slammed phones.
To get your key points across in a short time you need to use what I
have coined a ‘unique offer’. Think of this as when you read an advert for a
product and there is a short sharp slogan, which really delivers home what the
product does and tells you straight away if you should buy it. ‘The best for
smooth and silky hair’, ‘The number one choice for minty fresh breath.’
‘Better than a kick in the nuts’ etc etc.
So what are your strengths as a person? What is it about you that may
want a company to give you something for free? Is there anything you can
offer that someone else can’t? Or an inventive way you can use something in
a new way?
For example, promising to tell all of your friends about a product is a
common tactic. It is also one that is well known in freebie grabbing circles so
its effect has been somewhat eroded over time. Therefore I propose an update
for the 21st century in the form of social networking tools.
For those unaware, these tools let you communicate with friends in inventive ways such as through video, audio or even text updates describing what you are doing for
your daily life. As such they’re perfect ways for you to name-drop products
and items you have been given for free. I’ve detailed below some examples
for a few popular tools, however it’s important to maintain your credibility. If
a product turns out to be crap, return it and walk away, or go out there and tell
people it’s useless. After all the last thing the world needs are more lies about
one useless product after another.
Facebook/ Myspace/ Bebo: These sites are the natural extension of “if you
give me product X I’ll tell 100 friends”. They let you easily and effortlessly
you can say the exact number of friends you have on your network. You can
even take a screenshot of the mail you sent out as proof you held your end of
the bargain. I’d advise the product name drop is placed in text about
something else. This way you look like less of a sell out, but it sure beats
another email that says “Read this or you will have back luck
Oh and if this is working well, why not team up with other like minded
souls and create a group for this sort of thing. You’ll swap stories of
products good and bad, make new friends and enjoy new things for free.
Can’t be bad!
YouTube: A video sharing website where anyone can upload a video of
themselves or anything else for that matter. If you want to push this as your
offer I suggest you link to a video you have done previously (to show you have the skills). Then let the company know how you plan to push their
product in this format.
If we take Relentless for example, the previous comments who said
they built a tower out of Relentless could very well film it and post it on
YouTube. I know I'd check it out (especially I they knocked it down at the
end). The video wouldn’t seem too commercial but there would be no
denying the push it gives the brand. This approach requires a little
imagination as you have to plan a video for each client but in this case you
could easily go to every soft drink manufacturer and ask for a crate of free
cans in return for building a tower.
Blogging: A quick and easy way to write your views online and share them
with more than just friends. I use blogger.com and for free you’ll get a site
template and a box to put your content in/ upload images too. There is
nothing else too it.
As you may have established by now for me blogging was the key,
and my unique offer had always been Mikeessex.co.uk. It gave me a platform
for reaching hundreds of people with product news and on my blog I could
pretty much write whatever I wanted. This got me in to trouble on a few
occasions. For example, when I wrote a bad review and a company
(incorrectly) assumed I was their corporate puppet, fit for only spouting good
positive reviews, it led to nothing but angry phone calls. Still I stood my
ground because you have to be honest in this medium or you’ll be dead in the
Sony found this out the hard way when they set up a blog designed
purely to promote their Playstation Portable device. The goal of the blog was
to show a few fanatical fans writing their views. People were meant to believe
that all this positive praise and goodwill was down to a few ordinary people
that loved the product so much they couldn’t help but write about it on a daily basis.
So they thought long and hard on how they could make the blog sound
authentic and a million miles away from a corporate tone. They decided to
speak in a language called 'yoof speak'. e.g: ‘Man this game is l33t, it rules!!
PSP is da ultimate’ and so on. (l33t meaning elite for those unequipped in this
form of language). They would have got away with it too but they pushed
things a little too hard by offering PSP Wallpapers and videos that were far
too professionally done to be made by two fans in their bedrooms.
To cut a long story short, people discovered the scam, Sony claimed it
was their PR firm’s fault, and gamers around the world were outraged.
Mainly down to lack of trust but also due to a fundamental misunderstanding
that all gamers talk in such a fashion and that they would be gullible enough
to fall for such a trick. The PR firm offered Sony a casual route to market and
what they delivered was a biased, unrealistic jumble. The moral here is that
lies can destroy a blog overnight, so be honest and don’t over promise.
In my experimental phase I tried all number of inventive methods to
get my message across and I’ve popped them down below.
Ultimately the most successful one was also the shortest and most brief:
“I’m writing from Mikeessex.co.uk a UK site (obviously!) that reviews
everything from games to gadgets, toys to toiletries and food to fashion. In
fact we’ll review anything which we’re sent for free! We would love to
feature X on the site and wondered if you would be able to provide us with a
sample for review.”
“I was recently introduced to your brand through Show/Advert/Person and
thought I'd drop you an email as we’d love to review some of your products
on Mikeessex.co.uk. We review everything from games to gadgets, toys to toiletries and food to fashion. In fact at Mikeessex.co.uk we’ll review just
about anything we’re sent, which is great for products looking for a free way
to reach new visitors.”
“I just wanted to drop you an email to see if you’d be interested in a review of
any of your products on Mikeessex.co.uk. We review everything from games
to gadgets, toys to toiletries and food to fashion. In fact at Mikeessex.co.uk
we’ll review just about anything we’re sent at absolutely no cost to yourself,
which is great for products that don’t normally get exposure in specialist
media as well as those looking to reach an audience with truly varied
And the most recent example:
“Fancy a free product review? At Mikeessex.co.uk I review any product or
service that I’m given for free, whether that be gifts or gadgets, food or
fashion, toys or toiletries and wondered if you would like a review of any
product/ service you have.”
In all of these examples, I outline what I do, where I do it and whom I do it
for. I was asked by a children’s hospital how this could be put in to practice to
help them bring in new toys for their children. We came to the conclusion that
any toys that were donated to the hospital would gain publicity from their
kindness. They would then introduce children to new brands and ideas that
they may later buy in future life or introduce their own children too.
Thus the children were happy as they had new toys to play with, the
hospital was happy as they saw the look on the children’s faces when they got
new toys, and the companies were happy as they had a few hundred potential
future customers. Oh and I was happy too as I’d helped a good cause.
Just because blaggers like free stuff doesn’t mean we’re stingy…