The most powerful internet marketing tactic that I know (and I am an admitted lover of affiliate marketing, search engine marketing, and email marketing) is to disrupt the marketplace by giving away something that is valuable. Preferrably, something that your leading competitor is selling. Something that is selling well.
In 1996 when several companies were selling the Social Security Death Index on CD-ROM for about $39.95, and probably tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of copies had been sold, Dan Taggart and I decided to give it away for free online. (We didn’t even require registration to access it).
In June 1996, we launched the 50-million record SSDI database on Ancestry.com. We followed this valuable give-away up with many other free databases and even free online genealogy software and eventually free downloadable genealogy software. These free offerings resulted in millions of visitors to our web site, and eventually many of them became paying customers for our other services.
But Ancestry.com’s “give-something-away” approach was not new. Many of the most successful internet companies of all time used this same approach:
- Blue Mountain Arts offered free e-greeting cards
- Hotmail offered free email
- Yahoo offered the first free web directory
- Lifeminders grew to 14 million registered users by offer free email reminder services
- Freeservers.com offered free web hosting (and generated millions of customers)
- Netzero offered free ISP access
During the bubble, some companies got carried away by offering free computers with internet access, hoping to “monetize” the (cheap) customer base through advertising and e-commerce. Didn’t work.
But the overall strategy continues to prove successful in the online world (and offline–ever heard of Gillette?).
Our latest company to launch a give-away strategy is LDSAudio.com, which just announced it’s goal to give away 100,000 audio copies of the Book of Mormon by the end of this year. I’m guessing that several hundred thousand audio cassettes and CDs containing the 24 hours of audio in the Book of Mormon have been sold in the last few decades. More than 120 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been printed since it was first published in 1830. Doubleday will be the first commercial publisher to print the book later this year.
Since only about 2% of the US population is LDS (“Latter-day Saint”) and there are only about 12 million Mormons worldwide, chances are you are not one, and you may not be interested in downloading this audio book. But if you want to see what Mormons believe, why not listen to the audio Book of Mormon in your car sometime? I have studied the Koran and many religious texts from other religions in an effort to understand what others believe. I just finished “Back to Jerusalem” and am working on “Heavenly Man” right now–two excellent books about the Christian missionary movement developing in China. House church leaders in China want to send 100,000 or more missionaries from China to take Christianity to the 2.2 billion people west of China where there is virtually no Christianity–to the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim nations west of China. Fascinating books.
I think the world would be a better and more peaceful place if we would seek understanding of each others’ faiths, don’t you?
If you are LDS and want to help promote this free offer, please copy this link and place it on your web site:
And feel free to email your friends and family.