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Is “giving away” work a good idea?

April 9th, 2014

freeI’ve been nurturing a relationship with a particular sales prospect for a little while now and he recently asked me to give him my comments on a press release he had written.  I reviewed it, rewrote some of it… and I did not charge him for my time.

There are many who say to NEVER give away any work – that doing so diminishes the value of what you do.

I’m in the other camp… I believe that there are times (not all the time, of course) when building some good will by giving away a small project might lead to bigger things down the road.  Here’s my rationale…

I’m a big believer in ‘content marketing’ – just look around our website: 100+ blog posts, dozens of articles and a series of downloadable eBooks.  “Giving away” good, useful information is a proven way to showcase your knowledge and expertise… to show your potential clients that you know what you’re talking about… to provide a little ‘proof’ to help your prospects with their buying decision.

‘Giving it away’ doesn’t have to end with information, though.  By actually doing a little [gratis] work for your prospective client, you not only provide the same kind of credibility that sharing content provides… actually doing work shows you really can do what you say you can do.  It’s the ultimate “proof source.”

I’m not suggesting you do a full-blown, complete project… but something on a smaller scale that will still give your prospect a sense of the quality of your work and what you’re like to work with.

This work could take the shape of a little free consulting, maybe an audit of their existing research program, perhaps some work for a non-profit that’s near-&-dear to them or maybe even a little mini-project (or a piece of a bigger project) to get your foot in the door of a really large company.

Why give it away?

Two big things happen when you and the prospect agree to go down this road…

  • It builds and strengthens a relationship – going through the work process together accelerates your relationship from “I need to get to know you” to “I trust you.”
  • It creates a sense of ‘obligation’ in them – compelling them to want to repay the favor in some way; this commonly manifests itself in:
    • The creation of an ‘internal champion’ – they become your biggest cheerleader
    • Word-of-mouth support… as source of referrals
    • Future projects with them (the ultimate goal)

When you’re selling to a new prospect, you are asking them to take a HUGE risk… to abandon their current, proven supplier (that’s probably going a pretty good job) and “take a chance” with you.  Giving away a little work on the front end will give your prospects the confidence that you can deliver on your promises – reducing their stress and increasing their comfort level that they’ll be making a good decision when they bring you on board.

What do you think… is doing a little free work a good strategy for gaining new clients?

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