Give More to Get More: Three Simple Ways To Turn Casual Visitors into Raving Customers

  • January 5, 2011 by Guest Writer
  • 34 Comments

Guest post by Barron Cuadro

I’m a firm believer in the idea that the more you give away, the more you receive. It makes perfect karmic sense, and it is especially true in the online world.

If you look at businesses that over-deliver on their promises, you’ll notice the overwhelming magnitude of their success. That’s because these businesses that are so open to give are often paid back many times over through referrals, customer loyalty, and brand evangelization.

If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger, or small business owner, you can replicate these simple ideas in your own business, and then email me in a couple months to let me know how your growth has progressed by leaps and bounds.

On the surface, these might seem like basic ideas. However, if you take the time to implement them, they will have a positive, lasting effect and will forever change how your audience perceives your business.

What to give?

Let me preface this list by saying that most of these suggestions won’t cost you money. It may take time and extra attention, but like I pointed out earlier, the potential reward for spending the extra time will only snowball the more regularly you put these into action.

1) Pay Extra Attention

Awesome customer service is like icing on the cake. Consumers always seem to brace themselves for an awful experience, but when met with smiles or an emphatic human on the other end of the line (or computer), they are pleasantly surprised.

This is where you can hook ‘em! Kill them with kindness and empathy. If they’re heated, apologize profusely, even if you think the customer is completely off base. If your business sells a tangible product, do everything you can to satisfy your customer; replace their product at no charge or grant them a refund if necessary. If you’re a blogger with an eBook or a paid course, offer several methods of getting in contact along with a no-questions-asked, money back guarantee. This will ensure trust and puts the customer at ease when making that monetary commitment.

Companies like DreamHost, PageLines, and Chase Bank do great things online by offering prompt customer service and quick responses. DreamHost, a web hosting service, has a status hub that customers can visit if they’re experiencing server hiccups. They’re also very responsive through email and Twitter. Same goes for PageLines, who responds to customers from their Twitter account all the time. These companies know the importance of acknowledging their customers’ concerns in the specific places they hang outChase Bank has a secure email system set up that allows you to quickly send messages to customer service. It’s a little clunky for my taste, but the upside: I have never waited more than 24 hours for a response, which still seems to surprise me.

I can already hear some of you who are so ready to point out the bad experiences you’ve had with these and other similar companies, but you should understand that’s the nature of working with a large pool of customers. Some will have relatively-nightmarish stories that are beyond a company’s control, and others will have nothing but glowing reviews.

What’s the takeaway?

As a small business owner, do the best you can for your audience, no matter how small. Give them the extra attention they deserve but may not expect; they will remember and appreciate it.

The next time they need to buy a product or hear of someone who could use your service, they won’t hesitate to talk about their positive experiences with you.

2) Free information, free services

The freemium model is brilliant, and completely changes the customer experience. You can witness this model in companies like Evernote, MailChimp, and many others, where customers can use a free, feature-packed version of their products. For the ultimate experience and complete functionality, however, you’ll have to buy or subscribe.

Why does this work?

For a certain segment of your audience, the free version works just fine. The remainder will want the full-blown version… yet everyone’s entry point will begin at the free version. If you give them a great experience at the free level, and shine when it comes to support and response times, your customers will fall in love with you and in time, will become your paying customer. At the very least, they will spread the word about your awesome product, and someone in their circle could become your paying customer.

Popular writers and marketers give away free information daily! How many of you have started building your side hustle solely through the tips you read in successful marketers’ blogs and eBooks? Maybe you’ve found infinite inspiration through sites like sethgodin.com or zenhabits.net. Depending on your niche, you can consume a wealth of information and gain enough knowledge to confidently get started doing what you’ve set out to do… all for free.

How does giving away free information = more sales?

When your business gives away valuable information for free and you’re receptive to the customers’ needs, customers subconsciously put more trust in you. They feel at ease and appreciate your help… and for good reason; you’ve given them so much great info, how could they not love you?

The customer reasons that since your free information is of such high caliber, your paid information must be even more valuable. Topping that with excellent customer service and a money back guarantee makes your offer even more irresistible. They have nothing to lose! If you’re honest and you over-deliver in every way imaginable, they’ll have no reason to ask for their money back.

Just remember this

When you gain the love and trust of your audience, you gain loyal customers. The key is to be honest and upfront with who you are as a person, and the quality of the information you offer. These things combined with great customer service is what makes consumers of your free products lifelong customers of your paid products.

The same goes for freemium services. I haven’t yet reached the point of monthly subscription fees for MailChimp, but I’ve been using them to build my list for the past year and have been completely satisfied with their service and product. When it’s time to get a paid membership, you think I’m gonna waste my time looking elsewhere? Hell no.

3) Go beyond expectations

In most retail situations, customers are used to paying money for shipping. I guess we consider it a premium for the convenience of having things delivered to our homes, or a price paid for getting exactly what we want if we couldn’t find it anywhere nearby. Then Amazon comes in and offers standard shipping for around $3.99, way cheaper than what is normally charged. Not only that, but customers can subscribe to Amazon Prime (their upgraded service for $70 a year) and get UNLIMITED FREE TWO-DAY shipping.

Well now, Amazon, you’re really spoiling me. I will gladly pay $70 a year for the opportunity to receive a product two freaking days after I order it, and for free. This gives me the incentive to shop Amazon first, before any other online retailer. Additionally, Amazon Prime users can include three others in their family under that same $70 payment. What? Crazy.

Amazon seems to set the standard in this arena, and I’m hard-pressed to find a company who can match their consistency, great deals, and outstanding customer service. Another example would be Zappos, who guarantees a 365-day return policy (one whole year!) and free shipping both ways. Zappos is a great company to emulate, and if more businesses observed their model and adapted part of it to their own, customers would be very, very pleased.

What it comes down to

Make it a goal in 2011 to pay extra attention, offer free information and services, and go beyond your customers’ expectations.

There’s nothing more valuable than a raving customer. Do everything in your power to cultivate, serve, and communicate honestly with these customers, and you’ll have them for life. Oh, and make room, because they’ll be telling everyone they know about you.

photo by Brandon Christopher Warren

Barron Cuadro is a designer and entrepreneur helping other small business owners build sites that inspire their audiences and engage them to action. He blogs regularly at barroncuadro.com. Follow Barron on Twitter.


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Sarah Russell January 5, 2011 at 6:14 am

Great post, Barron!

I have to agree – I’ve always found that overdelivering and killing your customers with kindness ends up better than doing the bare minimum.

I used to work as a secretary, where you have the choice of being the happy, helpful secretary or the mean, grouchy, go-away-I’m-filing-my-nails secretary. People usually respond better to people who are nice to them first (happy, helpful secretaries get more free food!), and I’ve found that to be true in my internet businesses as well.

Barron January 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Thanks Sarah. You’re right, and I think people are conditioned to just expect the bare minimum. Going above and beyond—such a simple concept—can get you very far when working with others.

Azzam January 5, 2011 at 6:27 am

I followed this ethos when I originally created a social bookmarking plugin for Joomla 1.0v.

It cost me $12 to build and I released it for free and gained about 10,000 downloads. A stream of feature request came and I decided to build a premium version and sell it for $10 [2006] it was an instant hit.

Consequently I started to build other plugins and all of them followed the same strategy, create a free version and then with feature requests created a premium version.

In total I created about 10 plugins, some of them were not popular and just became obsolete; but that is the price you pay to give the audience what they eventually want or need.

Thanks for the boost up in the post and I intend to reapply this again soon as I am getting into android development now and see that the mobile marketing is a good place to apply this in.

Barron January 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Hey Azzam,

It’s great you have the talent to create products that people need, especially in the plugin space. The same fundamentals will apply no matter the market… just listen to what they want, and once you find an audience, really nurture them and over-deliver on their expectations. You’ll create raving fans of your products, for sure.

Thanks for reading!

TrafficColeman January 5, 2011 at 7:07 am

Free this and free that will bring in the people, but you being an awesome listener will keep them coming back and possibly buy something.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Barron January 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Hey Antonio,

You’re right, and I guess that’s where going beyond expectations comes in. Just now, I wrote a short note to Pat over at smartpassiveincome.com, totally not expecting to hear back for a couple days at least, considering how busy he must be. He got back to me within minutes! Little things like that (listening, responding, taking the time to answer an email) can make a huge difference in how you’re perceived.

Tom Meitner January 5, 2011 at 7:29 am

Barron, this is great. The whole point here is to think of the customer first, not the sale. Instead of trying to figure out a way to get their money, think about making them happy first. Oh, how I wish certain companies would work on this!

Barron January 5, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Hey thanks Tom. You pretty much summed up my long ass article in one sentence: Think of the customer first, not the sale. :) You’d think that would be common sense, you know? Thanks for reading.

Sherryl Perry January 5, 2011 at 9:00 am

Barron,
Great examples of successful companies that use email and Twitter to respond to their customers. As someone who uses a lot of free versions of software and online solutions, I couldn’t agree more with you that it’s a brilliant business model. They’re helping us by providing the opportunity to test and use products and services that we probably could not afford to buy or license. In exchange, when our businesses become successful, they’re already in the forefront of our minds as the vendor of choice. It’s an extremely effective way to build top of mind awareness.

Barron January 5, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Hi Sherryl,

I’m the same way. I use a bunch of these services to build my business and enhance my productivity, and when I’m ready, I always end up buying from the company whose product I’ve been using the whole time. I think some companies are just scared to do that, especially when they can’t / don’t see the benefits of the strategy.

Brian Driggs January 5, 2011 at 9:20 am

“How does giving away free information = more sales?” Simple numbers, really. If you typically convert 10% of your visitors to customers, giving away valuable free information stands to generate higher numbers of visitors. 10% is 10 out of 100. It’s also 100, out of 1,000. Providing exceptional customer service is a means to increase conversion rates.

Still, I think it’s a bit hypocritical to talk about taking care of your customers so they will buy something from you. Why not take care of your customers because they are people just like you? Why go the extra mile to serve your fellow man because it’s the right thing to do?

Are you trying to increase traffic so you can monetize digital real estate or are you trying to increase traffic so you can make a difference in the lives of others?

Barron January 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Hey Brian,

Great points. Hopefully this article didn’t come across as “do good for people so they eventually buy from you”, as that wasn’t my intention at all. Tom from a few comments up said it best: think of the customer first, not the sale, and I totally agree.

Admittedly, though, I’m not in business to just give away free info and help the world and not think about how I’m going to earn an income. I’m happy to help as many people as I can, but the whole point of being in business is to generate an income, so it has to be a consideration.

So to answer your last question (assuming you’re asking me personally), I’d say both. In that way, it’s a win-win.

Matt Gartland January 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

“Kill them with kindness and empathy.” Well said Barron!

Wonderful article overall. These are bedrock points that many tend to glance over in their rush for the last trick to overnight success.

The “beyond expectations” bit is particularly essential. Find unique (to you; personality-wise) ways to show that you care and show that they matter. The good news is that traditional behavior systems have become marred with less-then-possible expectations. So going “beyond expectations” isn’t actually hard.

Cheers!
Matt

Barron January 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Hey Matt! I think it makes our jobs easier, as folks who really want to go above and beyond for our clients, because like you said, they expect much less since they’re conditioned to get less. It’s nice catching them by surprise. :)

Ryan Biddulph January 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Hi Barron,

Wonderful post here buddy.

I also firmly believe in karma. You get what you give, and when you give freely receiving generously is the natural results. This means going above and beyond what the normal person would do as far as offering of themselves.

I’ve written 7 free eBooks covering my home based opportunity from several. Some have accused me of giving away too much free stuff but I know that the cosmic bank is always taking deposits 24-7, 365. My job is to plant seeds by giving of myself. I let the universe take care of the rest.

Be patient, give of yourself freely and be an excellent listener. In time you will need to turn away raving customers.

Thanks for sharing your insight Barron.

RB

Barron January 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Hey Ryan,

Thanks for reading. It’s never a bad thing to be blamed for giving away too much. All the successful marketers, bloggers, and business people I know give WAY too much away for free. I think they all have the same mindset as yourself: good karma always comes back to you, and when you help as many people as possible, you will be helped in return.

Bill Dorman January 6, 2011 at 5:50 am

Be on time; do what you say you are going to do; do it on time (if not sooner); and say please and thank you.

It is much better to under-promise and exceed expectations so you can create a ‘Wow’ experience.

Pay attention to the little things.

Barron January 7, 2011 at 12:11 am

Hi Bill,

I know this project manager that loves to emphasize under-promising and over-delivering. Works every time!

Martina Iring January 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Great post Barron!
I loved your “Kill them with kindness and empathy” point. This is really challenging when you are faced with an irate customer that is off their rocker and is taking everything out on you. But this is simply a reality of dealing with people. By delivering top notch customer service in these situations and not stooping to their level (no matter how much you want to scream right back at them :) ), you will get that karma back at ya. In my mind, there is nothing more important in a business than the way that customers are treated.

Barron January 7, 2011 at 12:14 am

Hi Martina,

It’s a lot easier dealing with irate clients / customers if you’re able to separate yourself from the crazy emotion of the moment, and put yourself in his or her shoes. A simple perspective change usually helps, and maybe suspending your own frustration will help you see things from his or her perspective. Usually it has to do with a misunderstanding, or something not being up to expectations, or off-base expectations all together… sometimes listening is the best thing you can do :) Thanks for your comment.

wilson usman January 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Those 3 points are pretty awesome Barron,

One thing we should remember that we won’t always satisfy all our customers. As the saying goes:

I can’t give you the formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everyone all the time. Herbert Bayard Swope

But as long as you’re doing these three I think the people that love your products will smile from eye to eye.

Great post I like the blog BTW

Thanks,
Wilson

Barron January 7, 2011 at 12:17 am

Hi Wilson,

Thanks for reading, and also for visiting the site. I do agree that you can’t please everyone, but if we as business owners do our best to serve each client as best we can, then that’s all that really matters.

Ryan Renfrew @LifestyleDesign January 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

Hey Barron,

Man that was so refreshing to read. I think a good motto for 2011- and the future should be “he who cares wins”. With so much consumer choice availiable these days the small things really do matter.

bLAZE yOUR tRAIL

Barron January 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Hey Ryan,

Thanks for reading. Yeah, it’s funny how something as basic as ‘caring for your customer’ helps you stand out in a sea of people offering similar products or services.

Dave Doolin January 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Barron, what you write is true from my experience. People are sick of being ripped off, and they don’t want to risk spending money when they feel they might be ripped off.

It’s telling that my brokest client is the one who always pays retail, never asks for a break, and never gives me a rash about anything. I appreciate that a lot, enough that I happened by one of her websites this evening, so I logged in and took care of a few maintenance chores for her. It’s something I would normally charge an hour’s time for, but it’s my pleasure to help her out.

Barron January 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Hi Dave,

Reciprocity definitely goes both ways, and I feel the same way about my clients who put their trust in me and who are overall easy to deal with. Makes me want to go the extra mile for them and help them out when I can, no charge.

Susan January 7, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Yay, Baron! I’m a huge proponent of empathy. I rarely buy from anyone who I don’t feel can empathize with me on some level. If ever buying from a big corporation, that might mean they have a stellar return policy. Like REI.

So enjoying getting to know your work better.

Barron January 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm

It’s such a big equalizer, and as a business owner, I found that it’s easiest getting and retaining clients when they can relate to me on some level, or at the very least make them comfortable when talking or working with me. Awesome return policies help too. haha.

Thanks for reading :)

Victory Unlimited Show January 9, 2011 at 11:57 am

Another thing to keep in mind is this:

In this Internet Age where access to FREE information is the norm, and is expected by most people, I think it’s crucial to REMIND people of the value that you’re offering them at no cost.

What I mean by that is that many of us who are “one man or one woman” operations, and we’re GOOD at what we do, we tend to give the impression that we’re a much bigger business than we actually are. Some of us produce blog posts, give a free items, or put out kick-ass audio/video shows that tend to leave our visitors with the impression that we have ALL the support that we need.

I feel like this can be a mistake. I recently started having special guest announcers come on and remind the people that my “free” broadcast is brought to them by those listeners who choose to “financially” support my cause by downloading my products.

The jury is out as to whether or not this reminder will continue to boost my product downloads, but I think it’s a step in the right direct.

TIME will tell…

Victory Unlimited

Barron January 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm

That’s a great point. I have no problem asking for what I want (people to subscribe to my blog, for example) if I know I’m providing something of value to them. It’s definitely a give and take. And I don’t see anything wrong in reminding people about the value I’m providing to them for free, assuming I’m not assholey or annoying about it. Keep doing what you’re doing, I like your method.

YOHAMI January 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Agreed. Having a business model is important before giving away though. I see many musicians just giving away, but being generous is sort of pointless unless you have a way of collecting the returns.

Barron January 18, 2011 at 12:59 am

I can see that, but I guess it also depends on the amount you’re giving away. Giving away everything for free all the time isn’t the smartest move, but done strategically, can really benefit both parties. Helping and giving should never be solely about what you get in return, of course, but it’s an important thing to consider in your overall plan. Thanks for the comment.

Marco Lee January 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Free is good, but we must also see the distinction of a not so free good to the ones that is entirely free.

Content can be free. It is still one of the easiest ways to gather audience.

Now with a more Premium and Limited Content. With a more added value unto it; We must out just get it out there for free. A little fee could also be considered. For example a dollar a month is not a big deal. Thus this is the business model for most membership sites or membership newsletters.

Barron’s example for seth godin is good. Even though that most of Seth’s ebooks or content are free and is easily downloadable, there are versions of it were people can purchase.

Oh, I just realized that giving the costumer’s the choice on whether they want the service for free or not is a win win situation for the seller. If they are satisfied with the free what more for the other services that has a tag.

Good read Barron ;)

Barron January 18, 2011 at 1:02 am

Hey Marco, definitely a good idea to have premium content on top of what you already offer for free. I think once people discover you and your awesome free content, they can’t help but be curious about your premium stuff, and naturally, some will love you enough to do business with you, solely based off what you’ve given for free and the knowledge you provide.

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