PPM Article: The Power of Free

power of free in marketing

This is XOXX’s Guy Blaskey’s article on The Power of Free published in the May issue of the leading trade journal, Pet Product Marketing.

Unleash the power of FREE on your business.

Following on from his talks at PATS on what independent pet stores can do when faced with competition from bigger chain pet stores, Pooch & Mutt’s owner, Guy Blaskey explains the power of “free”.

The mobile phone company O2 has announced that they are offering free WIFI internet access, starting in all of their stores, then rolled out to a selection of locations across the UK. This is not just for O2 customers, but for anyone who wants to use it. Why are they doing this? Won’t it cost them a fortune? Why give a free service to people on other networks like Vodafone?

There are a few minor reasons why O2 is doing this, such as lessening the load on their mobile networks caused by data-heavy smartphones, but the real reason is marketing. Firstly the free WIFI will drive people to O2 stores, where they will see messages about all O2’s products from phones and tablets to in-home WIFI. Secondly, you will have to sign up to use the service, at that point O2 will be able to collect your data, then market directly to you about services that you are most likely to be interested in. This could be anything from the launch of the iPhone 5 to tickets to see The Rolling Stones at The O2 Dome… they will know what you are interested in, so can get the message right and not waste your time and their money sending you things you don’t want.

It ‘s not just O2 who are offering things for free. Many website, apps or games operate on a “freemium” basis, where you get to use the basic functionality of the website or app, or get access to a few free levels of a game. Then you can pay to use additional functionality, or to access more levels of a game. Vimeo – a video sharing site, like youtube –  lets you upload one high res video per week for free, but if you want to add more you pay, and once you get hooked you want to add more.

The music industry (unwillingly) is offering music for free, via illegal file sharing sites. Many record labels are trying to stop this, as they are the ones who make money selling CD’s, but the rest of the industry is booming. More people are listening to more music than ever before. This music may be “free” (illegally downloaded), but has lead to increased demand for concert tickets, merchandise, products endorsed by musicians and much more. The concert promoter Live Nation has a turnover of over £2bn and research has shown that people who get music for “free” spend on average £30 more per year on music related purchases.

So how does this relate to the pet industry?

As pet store owners you could be asking yourselves what you could do for free and how that could make you money. Here are a few of examples:

1) You could have grooming equipment in your store that is free to use. This would get customers coming to your store. People may just come to use your equipment for free, but it is more likely that they will buy their dog’s food at the same time, or at least pick up some treats or a toy. They may decide that they like your grooming scissors and might buy a set for themselves. When they are there you also have the chance to talk to them about new products that you have in store and get them to try them.

2) You could offer your store as a free meet-up point for dog walking groups, or even start your own dog-walking group based around your store. This would give you time to get to know your customers better, to speak to them about new products that you have in store and to hear from them about what products they would want. It would make your store a central focus in the local canine community and give potential customers a reason to regularly visit your store.

3) You could do free-to-attend talks at your store about subjects that would be interesting to your customers, or you could get your suppliers to come in and do talks. This would get people into your store, and bringing friends to your store. If you are getting a supplier to do a talk they could do special offers on their products.

Another important aspect of doing things like this is that people will talk to other people about what you are doing. We now live in a socially connected world where recommendations from friends either face-to-face or online are far more important to people than traditional marketing messages.

Getting your customers to post on facebook or talk to their friends about what they have done at your store is probably the best way that you can promote your store…. and doing things like this will get your customers marketing your store for you, for FREE.

You can easily imagine someone saying to their friend “I just went to XXXXX store, you can use all their grooming stuff free”. This will send another potential customer to your store. Or you can imagine someone putting as their Facebook status “Meeting at XXXXX store to take Fido for a walk with his doggy friends”. This both promotes your store and potentially drives other people their… again, for FREE.

These are just 3 ideas, there are many more ways of unleashing the power or free for your business. What will you do?