Selling can be a hard nut to crack sometimes.
When it gets really tough, begging customers (sending them apologetic follow-ups) can seem like the only viable escape. The truth, however, is that begging can easily make prospects think other people are not buying from you because you haven’t been providing enough value that attracts customers.
But come to think of it, do businesses really beg customers? You’d be surprised. Many businesses do beg customers. Only that they mostly don’t realize it.
What it typically means to beg customers
Marketing guru Ian Altman shared a typical “begging” illustration in a post on Forbes:
“Kelly runs a business services company. They provide exceptional service for their clients across industries. After initial meetings, Kelly and her team noticed that their potential customers would often stop returning phone calls or emails. Kelly commented that their follow-up seemed to sound like begging. They send a note or leave a message that says “Just checking in to see if you’ve made a decision yet. Kelly asked me what they could do to stop begging for business. ”
This is typically what it means to beg. It’s not until you say “please”, or go down on your knees begging people to buy your stuff. Once you are getting few to no results from your hundreds of cold calls and follow-ups, you just might be in a “begging situation”.
And I’ve had my own fair share of this, too.
When I started out as an online entrepreneur (a freelance writer), I knew the types of clients I wanted to attract. So I simply reached out to them. I sent out a whole lot of pitches and got, well, a few replies.
But here was the problem: I felt like I was begging. Heck, I could tell. These clients would take days to reply my emails. And when they do, it’s either they are telling me my they’re not interested at the moment, have in-house writers or they need me to write a sample for free. Which was really frustrating.
And all this wouldn’t have been happening if I didn’t reach out to them in the first place. Does this means that reaching out to customers is wrong? Definitely not. But where it does go wrong is when you literally have to follow-up all the time and often get few to no replies. If you’re in this situation, you may want rethink your approach to dealing with customers. How? Well, keep reading.
Back to my story, I figured there has to be something that established writers do to get clients. I knew they couldn’t be going through what I was experiencing at the time. So I changed my approach. I found a better strategy than begging customers for work:
Giving value away for free
I started writing content for various publications for free. The more I did this, the more I got clients hiring me to write their content after they read my free articles on those publications.
And this is what a lot successful businesses are doing to remain at the top in their various industries, too. Instead of cold pitching customers, sending follow-ups that never get replies, etc. they are giving value away for free and earning significant results.
How this works is mostly something you already know: giving away free stuff (usually a version of your product) gives customers the chance to get a feel of your work before buying from you. And from experience, it’s pretty mcuh like the more you give value away for free, the more customers you get.
Take a look at these companies, for example (and I’m not affiliated with any of them):
MailChimp: MailChimp allows users to use their services for free until they get 2,000 email subscribers. And there’s virtually no other email marketing service that allows their users this much freedom. Yet, Mailchimp is more popular than most of them. They have more than 15 million users.
Google: If you’re reading this article on the Internet, Google needs no further introduction to you. They’re one of the most generous companies in the world today.
In fact you’ll agree with me that most people found Google because of the free search engine they provide–and that’s just one of their many freebies. They give out a big chunk of their products (Gmail, Keywords Planner, Google Docs, etc) for free. And, guess what? While it feels like too much giving would make them poor, Google’s founders are actually one of the few billionaires we have on this planet.
Hunter (a tool that finds emails): As of the time of this writing, Hunter is the most generous email finder around today. They allow users to search up to 150 emails per month for free. Like Mailchimp, they’re also the most popular amongst their rivals. And they also are arguably the most generous in their field.
So how has Hunter been faring since they’re this generous? They have over 400,000 companies as users including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Shopify, etc.
Canva (a graphic design software): Users are allowed to freely use this tool to edit pictures, get images for free, and so on. With over 10 million users around the world, Canva is currently one of the most popular tool for graphic designing.
Hence, it’s quite safe to say that giving value away for free is a better option than begging.
However, besides giving parts of their products out for free, these companies also give out some other valuables like:
i. Free content: Of course this goes without saying. When you publish free content that informs your prospects about solutions to problems they are struggling with, they begin to notice and pay attention to your brand.
In marketing, we hear of businesses who get people reading their content and deciding to become customers almost immediately. And as I mentioned earlier, many of my clients come directly from the content I write freely for various publications over time–almost immediately they get published. There are different types of content you can share with your prospects. You can share ebooks, reports, infographics, etc. But blogging is often a good place to start. I recently wrote a piece on starting a business blog. You can access it in my author bio below.
ii. Start a contest
Contests can be a huge way to give something of value and attract a lot of prospects to your business. Ben Pickering, CEO at Strutta, shared on Mashable that he’s seen clients go from “…50 to 1,000 and from 15,000 to 30,000 likes in a matter of days or weeks when running a contest.” And when done right, these thousands of social likes often lead to more brand awareness and customers.
iii. Free trials: Apparently, many people have built great businesses and got a great number of trusted buyers by allowing users get free versions of their product.
Again, MailChimp is one of the companies doing this really well. Another good example here would be SumoMe; they allow users use a few basic features of their software. In the end they’ve grown in leaps and bounds.
In a nutshell: start giving
That’s the only remaining valuable tip at this point. When you start giving value away for free, customers begin to notice you. You mostly won’t have to beg them; they’ll be getting the chance to use whatever you are giving away and come to you by themselves. As promised earlier, my piece about starting your blog can be accessed in my author bio below.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.