FREEWhile it isn’t big news that customers like to get things for free, sales pros take note: a new survey conducted by MagicFreebiesUK has found that 60% of consumers purchase a product after they’ve sampled it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a product or service, a free trial can be a significant source of sales.

A psychological component cultivated by most Western societies, called the norm of reciprocation, stipulates that if someone does something for you, you feel compelled to return the favor. When you offer something for free, you initiate the norm of reciprocation and the recipient of the freebie is more likely to buy from you in the future than had you approached him or her with nothing but a promise and a bill.

While freebies come in shapes and prices, one consistent factor remains true for all freebies: the more time that elapses between the giveaway and the purchase event, the lower the likelihood that the reciprocation norm will activate. Therefore, it is important to time your “gift” to allow for adequate sales follow up no later than a week after the free event.

Up to a certain point, the power of the freebie compounds. The more freebies you give out, the more the norm of reciprocity will affect your prospective client. This means that giving out a free email newsletter or a weekly blog post that offers some actionable advice can build up the emotional component that drives sales. A high volume of freebies is ideal, as long as you don’t give away big ticket items. Once you cross the threshold into giving away the products and services that comprise your revenue, you risk sabotaging your sale. If your prospect can string you along until you give them your offering for free, why would they ever commit to buy?

Managing the freebie is the key to its success. When you develop your marketing plan, space out your freebies in the following manner:

The first freebie should be something highly valuable, such as a 30 day trial or a full-sized sample product. If you aim to grow your brand awareness and following, you won’t capture new leads with insignificant offers. If you’re worried that freebies will anger existing customers, put a time stamp on them and limit them to newbies. Don’t forget to offer them a chance to opt in to a newsletter or email campaign to receive more freebies down the road.

The next freebies, which you’ll likely hand out to prospects whose business you’d like to win, should be a series of freebies, rather than just one. The theory of content marketing is built entirely around the concept of freebies; marketers give content away in hopes of drawing in and engaging leads. Use a newsletter to push free content to your prospects, and offer up coupons and helpful tips. If you don’t have a content marketing system in place, you can promote other peoples’ content. Find a content powerhouse that pertains to your customers’ interests and push their content out. Send it personally to the prospects with whom you’re working. We’re all inundated with content these days, and if you can provide something that actually helps your prospects, you’ll earn points in their eyes. And hopefully those points will transform into dollars. At the very least, if your content doesn’t push prospects away, it will get your brand in front of them on a regular basis.

The final freebies, the ones that go to existing customers, should relate directly to your product. Free training, free usage tips, free help guides – anything you can send to your customers to help them find greater success with the products and services you sell to them – will significantly improve your brand image in their eyes, and if your content is good, they’ll get the most out of your products.

The norm of reciprocity is huge in sales, and as MagicFreebiesUK found out, it can have substantial results when used correctly.