In today’s market, FREE is a powerful word. It can achieve a higher open-rate in email marketing, it can spark interest in a disengaged customer, and it can pull clients from a competing brand. Even a customer who is loyal to one brand or service will find it hard to ignore something that is FREE.
This is Caroline, Curtis’ Millennial marketing manager, and I just got sucked in by something FREE.
It was a free oil change, and though I knew that Valvoline, where I normally go for this service, does a fast, clean, cheap job, I decided to go with a competitor service station because I had a FREE coupon.
The car service shop I went to may think they won a new customer by giving me something FREE. It got me into their shop, it got me to test their services — I was a potential gold mine for all future oil changes.
But this car service shop didn’t think of what their FREE oil change cost me:
It cost me an hour of my time, while a Valvoline oil change normally costs me just 20 minutes
It cost me the hassle of having to make an appointment, while at Valvoline, I can pull up any time and get service almost immediately
It cost me extra stress, due to the fact that they ignored my appointment time and proceed to serve other customers who had not reserved that time slot. This error, according to the store manager, was because the young woman who had put my reservation on the calendar, “Doesn’t really know what she’s doing.” (To which I have to ask: Then why did you hire her, and why haven’t you invested in training her properly?)
Maybe I just caught this shop on a bad afternoon, when they were abnormally busy and understaffed. But the experience got me thinking about how important it is to use the word FREE with care.
If you’re going to give away something for FREE, you are paying to get new customers in the door. Those FREE products or services had better be high-quality products and services that you’re proud of, not just the rejects off the factory line that you can’t sell anyways. If you give away FREE junk, your new customers will think that all you sell is junk.
And even more important: if you’re going to say it’s FREE, your product or service had better really be FREE — and I don’t just mean in the monetary sense. Wasted time, inconvenience, added stress — these are all costs to your customer.
In 3,000 miles, I bet you can guess where this Millennial won’t be getting her oil changed.