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Article Title:
When Giving A Free Sample Is Worse Than Political Anarchy

Article Description:
It seems like an obvious maneuver: give something away for free 
to draw more customers in. I see my favorite grocery store do it, 
and it works incredibly well- the store is mobbed, especially on 
Saturdays, when the samples are outrageous. But, whether it's 
samples of instant oatmeal, or 'sample' coaching sessions, I've 
seen small business owners bomb over and over again with this 

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889 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
Distribution Date and Time: Wed May  3 17:12:02 EDT 2006

Written By:     Mark Silver
Copyright:      2006
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When Giving A Free Sample Is Worse Than Political Anarchy
Copyright © 2006 Mark Silver
Heart Of Business

It seems like an obvious maneuver: give something away for free 
to draw more customers in. I see my favorite grocery store do it, 
and it works incredibly well- the store is mobbed, especially on 
Saturdays, when the samples are outrageous.

But, I've seen vendors in the store giving away free samples, but 
gain negligible results from it. Whether it's samples of instant 
oatmeal, or 'sample' coaching sessions, I've seen small business 
owners bomb over and over again with this tactic.

Yet, I use it myself, and it's one of the most powerful 
strategies I have, and it feels incredibly good to be generous. 
Why does free sometimes work and sometimes doesn't?

Lessons from Anarchy

Years ago, when I had been very interested in Anarchism as a 
political structure (or lack of one) I read a study done on two 
different groups that had their housing for free.

The study compared residents of a public housing project that 
were given housing, maintenance, and other services and support, 
versus a group of "squatters"- folks who would've been homeless, 
except they took over an abandoned apartment complex.

Which ones fared better? The squatters did. Their apartments went 
from completely neglected and destroyed, to real beauty, and the 
sense of community and connection between residents was very 

Conversely, the residents of the public housing project fared as 
many public housing projects do: things became neglected and fell 
apart, the crime rate rose, and disputes between residents were 

The difference is that one of them wasn't really free.

It's been my experience that the human heart is happiest and most 
fulfilled when it's in service. I'm guessing that although you 
probably love to receive gifts, you probably enjoy giving them 
even more. And, probably even more than giving gifts, you enjoy 
feeling useful in some way.

A spiritual secret from the Sufis is this quote, attributed to 
the Divine: "I love those of My servants most, who are of most 
use to My creation." Put simply, in every day language, that our 
hearts are filled with the most important thing in the world, 
Love, when we're being of use and helping out.

The 'free' public housing, the study found, that people felt 
discouraged, as if they couldn't meaningfully contribute to their 
own or other's lives. The squatters, however, had no one to rely 
upon, and in the process, everyone pitched in with what skills 
they had, and it began to work well.

Am I against helping people who need help? Absolutely not! 
However, in the giving, it's important to also pay attention to 
the legitimate and overarching need each person has to be useful 
and valuable, to contribute, and to feel love for that 

Many businesses, in giving away free samples, are unwittingly 
disempowering their customers, and creating neglect and 
disillusion with those they contact in the market place. But, 
there is a way to use free in a powerful way, that feels good to 
your customers, and builds your business. How?

Keys to Free

* Small samples that don't use you up, or overwhelm your 
prospect, are appropriate.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes: if someone else were 
giving away what you want to give away, would it make you raise 
your eyebrows? Would it ask a big commitment? Does it make you 
wonder 'what's wrong'? If so, you are probably giving away too 

If the intention is to create trust and safety, then an excerpt 
of a book, or an article, a bite or two, an audio excerpt, a 
single gulp, all of these are appropriate amounts. And, ask for 
something in return: to add their names to your list. You show up 
a little bit, they show up a little bit. It evens out.

* Remember that giving more is asking for more.

For example, many coaches are astounded that people don't take 
them up on 'sample' coaching sessions. The truth is, coaching 
demands a tremendous amount of vulnerability in the client. It's 
kind of the same with giving away a whole meal. Someone has to be 
hungry enough, and then, if they do take it, they have to 
struggle with the feeling: "Do I look selfish for taking this 

After someone has taken a sample from you, if they want more, 
they are going to want to give something. Whether it's money, 
more information, filling out a questionnaire, whatever. If you 
don't make space for them to give, they probably won't take. And, 
the ones who do take without wanting to give, you've probably 
found that they aren't people who are going to become your 
customers anyway.

* Look to see where you might be hooked.

Often free can be a tactic of a person who is feeling a little 
desperate, rather than an integrated and generous strategy for 
your business. Is your unconscious message: 'Okay, mister, you 
took me up on my free offer, you better buy from me now, or 
else!'? If so, make space for your neediness, but fill it in 
your heart, not through trying to hook customers.

Although free is one of the most attention-grabbing words in 
English, don't forget that what people are really wanting, and 
hoping to get freely, is the opportunity to feel as if they 
matter. Ask for them to show up, and they will. 

Mark Silver is the author of Unveiling the Heart of Your 
Business: How Money, Marketing and Sales can Deepen Your 
Heart, Heal the World, and Still Add to Your Bottom Line. 
He has helped hundreds of small business owners around 
the globe, by integrating 1500 years of spiritual wisdom 
with down-to-earth business practices. Get three free 
chapters of the book online:



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