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6 lessons we learned from freebie sites

Posted by Tom on

Yesterday, we announced our sticker sample kits were ready to ship. Little did we know of the Internet freebie world. Within 2 hours of posting the 1st freebie site caught us and at 2am the requests came pouring in. I thought maybe they'd stop around the 100 - 200 mark and we'd be safe. 24 hours later and we're at 1,000+ requests.

This was a frustrating experience, but the best thing about being under pressure is it forces you to learn. Here's what we learned from our encounter with the world of freebies.

Lesson #1: Be careful with the word “free”

Marketers love the word “free”. It attracts attention. What they neglect to realize is that it attracts attention from people that don't want to pay for your product. In retrospect, we could have just said "sticker sample kits are available" and omitted the f-word.

Lesson #2: Automate creating sample kits

Up until today I was hand-packing sample kits at night. That process was scrapped. Instead we took 10 of our coolest stickers, fit them on 1 sheet of material and printed 1000 sheets in a row. As we're cutting the 1000 sheets we're packing the kits; it's a much better process. The downside is, we're no longer able to browse Google Reader while the cutter is running.

Lesson #3: Bulk mail

Shipping 1000 sample kits 1 at a time isn't going to be fun. Luckily we can bulk mail and get them out fast and at a lower cost. This wasn't high on our list of priorities, but this experience forced us to learn how to do that fast. It was something we needed to learn anyway so it's good to have it down.

Lesson #4: Wufoo is amazing.

Wufoo was a lifesaver throughout this process. I was continually tweaking the sample request form and eventually added a $1.00 fee. Without Wufoo this would have been a nightmare. They made it effortless to integrate PayPal and all of our data is nicely formatted so we can easily download it. We already started work on a sample management app that integrates with Wufoo too.

Lesson #5: Charge, even if it's a small amount

After request 1,397 we finally decided to charge $1.00 for a sample kit and instantly people started actually paying us. The volume of requests went down and quality went up. By the way, our samples are awesome too. Many of our customers spend $500+ on stickers. $1.00 isn't much in the scheme of things.

Lesson #6: Look for the upside in everything

At first we were frustrated that 1000+ freebie requests might be drowning out our customers. We wanted to let our genuine customers to know that they could ask for samples, but the volume of requests was overwhelming. It's just not feasible for us to ship 1000 samples every day; not to mention it's expensive.

There was a temptation to just delete any mention of sample packs from our web site, but we didn't want to cave. Instead we used the chaos to learn. We're faster, more efficient and showed 1000+ people that we're decent people too.

In a sense, "look for the good in everything" is becoming the modus operandi for Sticker Mule. It's worked well so far and we don't plan to break that formula.

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