Sunday, June 5, 2011

Free Products - Doorway to Your Store

SoS on TpT is pleased to welcome guest blogger Margaret Whisnant. Margaret is one of TpT's top sellers and has been selling on TpT for years. She also author's a newsletter specifically for TpT sellers (another benefit of signing up to sell!). This post about the importance of creating free products comes directly from her last newsletter installment.  

Stop selling. Start helping.
Zig Ziglar

Even in a cyber-world populated with blogs, Facebook, and other linking social media, the free downloads we offer on TeachersPayTeachers are still our best sales reps.  Nothing can match their ability to give potential customers such a clear view of our authorship skills and the quality of our products.  Our electronic sales staff leaves the site every day to speak for us in classrooms around the world. Each one represents an individual seller and, at the same time, mirrors the whole of TpT.  Super merchant Laura Candler summarized it well on a forum discussion chain:  “It hurts us all when people post poor quality items, even free ones. . . Does an ice cream shop give free samples of bad-tasting ice cream and say you have to pay if you want something better?"

Great analogy!   A TpT newcomer on a fact-finding mission is not likely to return after downloading a “ bad-tasting” freebie or two.  Furthermore, no customer is going to hand over hard-earned cash for a seller’s products when the free item offers no assurance that quality will be part of the exchange.  Posting a mediocre sample of one’s work just doesn’t make sense. Right now, our collection runs the gamut from great freebies, to lackluster, to pugh!   With a few do’s and don’ts and some effort, we can eliminate the poor reps and build a stronger, “tastier” staff.

Clearly, our free items should be constructed around the same framework of excellence as our commercial products.  They should be genuinely helpful in a classroom setting and carry enough pizzazz to leave no doubt as to what our full-sized products can do. 

Use the following ideas to lay the groundwork and then add the unique flourishes that make your samples your own:

·   Avoid passive lists (vocabulary words, titles, resources, etc.) If, however, you can create a short, but complete lesson that puts the list to good use, then do it and offer the two as a working duo. Remember that adding action to a product is our specialty.  Our free items should certainly illustrate this quality.  
·   Offering a complimentary sample from a larger work is a great idea, but only if it can function independently as a complete activity.  Imagine a shopper downloading a free item for a topic of interest only to find a useless snippet and directions for purchasing the parent work. Someone just spooned out a glob of Laura’s aforementioned bad-tasting ice cream!  Additional writing and reformatting might be necessary to create your representative mini-lesson, but the extra effort will certainly spark a heightened interest in the priced item.
·     Expect scant, if any, results from a brief lesson idea coupled with an advertising blitz for your store and your products.  Let the free item do the selling.  It will always do a better job than a list of links.
·     What would you think if you found a single free item separated and posted as two downloads?  We actually have a collection of these TpT splits!  Get your ice cream sample here. Go elsewhere for the toppings.  This would lead a shopper to wonder how many purchases would be required to get a seller’s full product.  Let’s get rid of the splits right away!
·     Answer keys! Answer keys! Answer keys!  If your freebie has questions, puzzles, math problems, etc., provide answer keys.  Never skip this component. 
·     What’s wrong with this picture?  A free download about following directions with no directions.  We have one!   Making one’s product free does not negate one’s obligation to explain how to use it!  Like answer keys, instructions for use are a must for all products, and they should be attached to the item itself, rather than presented as part of the product description.
·     Dress up your free handout with its own colorful cover page that will, in turn, do double duty as an eye-catching thumbnail.
·     Give your free item as much general appeal as possible. Create a lesson that will be helpful to any teacher who needs materials for your freebie’s particular topic.
·     Remember that teachers are always on the lookout for sponge activities, puzzles, games, and classroom management materials.  Some of our most popular free downloads are these types of resources.
·     Mark your free items with appropriate grade-level(s) rather than presenting them as K-12 adaptable.    
·     Ask someone to proofread your free item.  Ask a second person to read it.  Then post it.

What could be better than having a top-notch sales rep working for you 24/7?  A whole fleet of them, that’s what!  Why not create a variety of free downloads to reflect your particular skills and the assortment of products in your store? Send several of your favorites into the field via the weekly 10 Free Downloads.  If you have filled their sample cases with useful tidbits, the results will be sweet.  Guaranteed!

Margaret's TpT Store

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