I was walking in the food court at the mall. I planned to get my lunch from one of the fast-food franchises, where I knew exactly what I could expect. But an employee from a place where I’d never eaten was passing out free samples of their entree of the day. I tried it and loved it. In the two years since then, I’ve spent a lot of money on lunches there. Plus, I’ve referred half a dozen other people who now also eat there regularly.

There’s no doubt about it – giving away free samples is a powerful marketing tool.

The obvious benefit of a free sample is that it allows the customer to confirm the quality of a product before they spend any money on it. Free samples of all sorts of things are given away regularly – ice cream, vitamins, cosmetics, shampoo. But you can also take advantage of this strategy for attracting new customers by giving away free information.

You’ve read lots of articles in ETR about why giving away free information is so effective. For example, if you pack your free e-zine full of useful advice, you build a loyal group of subscribers who often turn into loyal customers for other informational products you’re selling.

And the Internet has made it so easy – and cheap – to produce those products, the ones you’re selling as well as the samples you’re giving away. All your customer needs to do is download your e-zine, e-book, etc. to his computer.

This applies to videos, too.

One of the businesses I run markets instructional and specialty videos. And I’ve written before about how easy and profitable this business can be. I’ve been in it for over a decade, and it’s been pulling in over $250,000 each year. My videos go for $29 to $50 apiece, and I’ve been able to amp up sales by giving away samples so my prospective customers can see that a particular video is exactly what they’re looking for before they open their checkbook.

One way I give away video samples is by posting clips on YouTube and other free video-sharing sites. While I don’t generate huge quantities of orders from those postings, I do pick up a few.

But an even better and more profitable way to provide free video samples is on your own website. The reason this works so well is because the people who view a clip on your site are highly targeted prospects who are already interested in your product. They found you by doing a Google search for the type of video they were looking for or clicking on one of your online ads. Now, it’s up to you to sell them on making a purchase.

Here are the steps to take to put this marketing technique to work:

1. Choose where to host your video clip.

You can choose between hosting the video on the same server where your website is located, or you can use a video-hosting website such as YouTube or Google Video. I would consider the second alternative, since uploading videos to your server can take up the storage space that the hosting company gives to your website. This means less space for new Web pages, documents, images, and other information you might need to upload later.

2. Post a video clip to your website.

Whether you choose to use a video-hosting company or host the video on your own server, you need to upload it first.

This is easier than you may think. Video files used to be so big, it was a pain to post them online. But these days, it’s no problem to post a small clip that people can click on and watch.

If you can create your own website, then you can post the video yourself too. If not, just give your programmer the video clip file.  He should be able to do it for you very inexpensively.

To upload the video with a video-hosting company, simply go to their website (such as YouTube.com) and create an account. Follow the steps to upload your video, keeping in mind that YouTube and most other video-hosting companies have limits for length and file sizes.

After uploading the video, the video-hosting company system will automatically provide you with html code that you can insert into your website so users can play the video clip directly from your Web page.  Doing this does have a downside. Your video clip will have a link to the hosting company’s website. And once you send a prospect to the video-hosting website, there’s a chance that they will start watching other people’s videos when they’re done with yours, instead of clicking back to your website to finish reading your sales copy.

If you decide to host the video on your own server, simply create a folder on your website, name it something like “videos,” and upload the video as a regular file. (I recommend using an FTP program to do the uploading.)

After uploading the video to your website, test it. Type the address to the folder where you upload the video (e.g., www.mysite.com/videos/myvideo.avi). After testing the video, your link is ready to be used. Remember that since you don’t have a video player program on your website (such as the one that YouTube provides you with), the link will redirect the prospect to a new page on which there will be nothing but the video playing.

Make sure your video or the link to your video is placed in a spot that is easy to see but doesn’t interrupt the flow of your sales copy for the full video. I have found that putting it at the top of the website, before my sales copy really starts rolling, is best.

3. Choose a section of your video to use as a sample. 

I recommend a clip between 30 seconds and two minutes. That’s long enough to whet your prospects’ appetite.  If you give them too much, they’ll feel “full” and won’t want to order.  But if you give them just a tease, they’ll want to see more.

You want to entice your prospects and give them an idea of how good the full video will be. So choose your clip carefully. And keep in mind that people tend to be attracted to such things as attractive faces and physiques, swift action, catchy music, and anything unusual or unexpected. That’s why, for a cardio-exercise video that I market, I don’t show a clip of the fitness trainer doing an arm stretch where she hardly moves.  I show a clip of her doing a cardio exercise that most people have never seen before.

4. Come up with a good caption for the link.

Your caption should say something like, “For a free sample, click here.” Then make sure you also have an order link right below that – something like, “To get your copy of the full video, click here now.”

You say you don’t have any instructional videos to market? Well, you can use this technique to help sell just about anything. If, for example, you’re promoting a conference, you could post a clip from last year’s event. If you sell some sort of gadget, you could show a clip of someone using it. And if you provide a service, you could show a clip of yourself working with a client.

Posting a clip on your website that provides a significant amount of quality information is an excellent way to get people to “taste” the product or service you’re selling.

Put a few samples up on your site, and watch your sales increase.

[Ed. Note: Marketing skills like the one Paul just taught you come in handy only if you have a business to apply them to. You can start your own business within a week for under $100.

And if you’re interested in making instructional videos, Paul can show you the ropes. Discover how he turned a hobby into a $250,000 side business.]

Paul Lawrence

Paul Lawrence is an entrepreneur who has made his living starting and running a series of profitable businesses. One day while cleaning his mother’s pool for a few extra bucks, it dawned on Paul that he could perhaps start his own pool cleaning business. He carefully employed all the marketing techniques that he had learned in school and designed his first flyer. Immediately the business took off and within a week, Paul had his own little business. He quickly expanded, hired employees and then eventually sold it some relatives who made well over $250,000 in the next year before they eventually sold it for a six figure profit.
After finishing college, Paul did a brief stint in a management program for a national rental company, but he quickly realized that he was much happier running his own show. Paul left the rental company and launched one of the most financially successful independent ballroom dance instruction companies in the state of Florida where he received quite a bit of media attention for his revolutionary business practices that included front page features in the Life Style section of the Sun Sentinel, features in the Miami Herald, Boca News, Center Stage Entertainment and many others. With that business running profitably, Paul started several other businesses either individually or as partnerships that included a million dollar video production company, a mortgage brokerage, a home maintenance business, several mail order companies, a business consulting service among others.With a love of movies, Paul began to work at breaking into Hollywood as a screenwriter where he’s beaten the odds by becoming a produced writer. He is a credited writer for the film CRUEL WORLD, starring Jaime Presley and Eddie Furlong and has signed a development deal for a national television series with one of the world’s largest producers of television and films among his half a dozen sales and options of movie scripts he wrote. Paul is the creator of the Quick & Easy Microbusiness program.