The Power Of A Free Sample

This past February 6thwas a big day for me; it was the 15thanniversary of the day I met my wife.

Not only do I remember the exact day, I remember the exact moment. I was hosting a party at my apartment that night, and Linda showed up on the recommendation of a mutual friend. I clearly remember going downstairs to answer the doorbell, and wondering who the beautiful woman was waiting for me in the lobby.

I realize now, 15 years later, that one of the reasons our relationship got off to such a good start, was that Linda had the opportunity to check me out thoroughly very early on in the process.

Here’s what I mean. When you meet somebody by themselves and in a public place (the scenario of most first dates), you don’t have all that much to go on in figuring out what they’re all about. Sure, you can see what they look like and listen to them talk, but it’s not easy to get much beyond the basics in a single meeting.

In our case, it was the exact opposite. At our very first meeting, Linda got a chance to see where I lived, how I lived, and who I lived with. Not only that, but because it was my party, she even got to meet most of my friends. In terms of evaluating the match, she had more data in her possession after one night than most people manage to uncover in 10 conventional dates.

As importantly (pay attention now, this is the part that relates to your newsletter), she got to that point without having to reveal – or even decide on – her level of interest in me. She was in effect, given a free sample: A chance to look deep into my life with zero commitment on her part. If she saw something she didn’t like that night, all she had to do was go home, and with no strings attached.

Your E-Newsletter offers that same opportunity to a prospective client. Provided that it truly reveals the personality, expertise and point of view of your company, you give the outside world (i.e. future clients) the chance to “anonymously walk around your apartment and meet your friends.”

This opportunity is unbelievably valuable from the point of view of the prospect, who typically wants to learn about you before revealing who he or she is.

Which is why I’m amazed when I see how much information most companies ask for and even require before allowing interested people to receive their information.

If you ask me, this is insane. You spend all this time, money and effort to get the attention of strangers, in the hope that some of them might ultimately hire your firm. When one of them finally wanders into your lobby (i.e. your web site) to learn more, you make them jump through hoops for the privilege of hearing from you!

Do you think Linda would have come up to my party, had I asked her to provide her name, address, job title and income level as a condition of entrance? At that early stage in our relationship, having yet to see anything of value from me — other than my face, which between you and me never closed any deals during my career as a single man — it would have been just as easy for her to walk on by.

Here’s the bottom line. Your newsletter provides a window into your company. It’s an opportunity for people to learn about you before hiring you, which from the buyer’s perspective lowers the perceived risk significantly. Like Linda, many of your potential clients wish to remain anonymous until they have a chance to check you out, and the more you ask and require of them up front, the more people you’ll scare away.

Believe me, as a recovering marketer myself, I know how much you want to know everything about everybody who subscribes to your newsletter. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily want to tell you up front. Your job therefore, is to put your newsletter into the hands of as many people as are willing to receive it, and anything you do to make that process less efficient or less anonymous –from the perspective of the new subscriber– is counterproductive.

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