Selling Stuff by Giving Stuff Away

We're all familiar with the concept of free samples.  Go to the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon and you'll find nice aproned ladies handing out tiny meatballs on toothpicks, or little cups of ice cream with equally small plastic spoons.  At the duty-free shop at Boston's Logan Airport recently there was a man handing out small plastic glasses of Jameson.  Sweet!

The concept of a free sample must go back to the very first merchants in far off lands.  It's not new.  But the idea of giving away the entire product in hopes of making a sale is relatively new.  One of the leaders in this movement (if that's what you want to call it) is our pal Seth Godin.  Seth always seems to be giving things away and it must work because he's very successful.

Mr. Godin's most recent freebie is the audio book version of his new book "Tribes".  Go to and you can download a 3/12 hour audio version absolutely free.  You do have to go through a not particularly consumer friendly sign-up process.  You also have to download a small piece of software, but once you get through all that, you have a brand-new, bright and shiny audio book that you can play on your iPod or other mp3 player.

So why would Seth give away his hard work?  What's in it for him?  Here are just a few reasons for being so generous:

  1. Audio books are a great time saver, but if you want to make notes, or highlight key passages, that's hard to do on an iPod.  Listening to the free audio book could drive you to purchase the print version.
  2. You may be so impressed with the work that you decide to buy copies of either the audio book or the print version to give as gifts.
  3. Maybe you're not familiar with Seth's work.  Listening to this free sample could send you off to your local book store to pick up some of his other books and audio.
  4. Since you have to sign up with to get the free book, I'm sure they have a stake in this as well which translates into some income for Seth.
  5. Maybe Seth's just a good guy who wants to share his ideas with others.

So, the purpose of this post is twofold.  First, go to and download the audio book.  Did I mention it's free?  I've not finished listening to it yet, but so far it seems to be excellent stuff.

Second, start thinking about this whole idea of giving things away.  How can you apply it to your business?  What can you give away?  Obviously, if you're in a high-ticket business, a free sample could be a little too costly.  But what about accessories?  What about gift certificates?  Give it some thought. 

If you come up with a good idea, please share it with your fellow readers by commenting below.


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