One of the best early examples of building a business by giving something away is Hotmail. Hotmail gave away free email services and email addresses free to anyone who signed up for one, and a lot of people did (and still do).
Today millions of users have Hotmail addresses. What made hotmail successful was one of the early successes of viral traffic building on the internet.
At the bottom of every email that was sent through one of the free Hotmail accounts was a message telling others how they could get a free Hotmail account. Every time Hotmail users sent a message, they were helping spread the name of Hotmail.
How did Hotmail make any money off of free accounts?
They did it by offering premium services to their customers such as additional storage space, and the ability to send emails without any advertising attached. Hotmail became successful enough that in 1997, less than 2 years after it was created, it boasted over 8 million users and was purchased by Microsoft.
It is still one of the top web based email services in the world.
While you may not be able to achieve the same amount of buzz that Hotmail was able to generate, it does demonstrate the power of getting your message out be attaching it to something that people are willing to share with their friends, family, and co-workers.
Do not discount the fact that people love to get things for free. If it looks interesting, and it is free, people are more than happy to give it a try.
While it is easy to get them to try your offer initially, it is a different challenge to get them to continue using it once the novelty has worn off. 19 Repeated use is critical for your success because multiple exposures will cement your companies name in your customer‟s minds.
People are more likely to buy something from a company they have heard of than from one they have not heard of. They might not even know how or why they know the name, but that sense of familiarity will make them more susceptible to your message.
What ever you are offering has to be functional, easy to use, and add value to the user.
You customers have to feel that it is worth their time and effort to pass the information along.
Then, and only then, will they be willing to tell their friends and family what they have found.