*But that doesn’t mean you should use it.

Recently we had a massive spike in traffic to ion Leap’s website. During the next weeks, the flood continued. I knew almost instantly what was driving the sudden interest – an offer for a free t-shirt.

NJ Content Marketing Firm tests radical ideas

Ever Been Attacked by Piranhas?

content marketing statisticsThe best way I can characterize this experience is a horror movie I saw which took place on the Amazon River. Every time someone fell into the water, their bones were stripped clean by a swarm of carnivorous fish.

Over the course of six days, every form on our site was filled out and used to beg for the free shirt. Average time on site was surprisingly high at 01:09 given their goals. The number of pages per visit was relatively low compared to our normal visitors at 2.03.  The bounce rate was below average (which is good) because they were scanning for any scrap of meat…er… free stuff.

The number of new sessions was interesting. Roughly 8% were repeat visitors over the coming few days. They kept scanning, thinking they had missed some other free discovery.

NJ content marketing

Is This a Valid Content Marketing Technique?

If you’re in a retail category at lower price points, then this very well might be a great marketing tool.  I can’t think of any other business categories that would benefit from such an approach. So let’s focus on the retail category and create a brief for such a “campaign.”

Client: A retail shopping site with price points below $2.00.

Visible Offer: Get a free $2.00 gizmo.

Actual Offer: Look at all the other low-cost things you’re going to see on your journey to the free t-shirt. This is an important point. Force those looking for the free shirt offer to earn it by going past many pages and learning that your website offers low-cost goods. This might at least force them to find something they want to buy.


  1. Force them to earn it. A certain percentage of free-seekers will jump through a lot of hoops for a free offer. The free stuff websites they frequent which announce you, always coach the free-seekers on getting your free stuff.  And almost none of them jump though all the hoops.
  2. Force them through a ton of pages of your products / services. Make them go through up to 5 or 6 pages before they complete the journey. Have them fill out one more form field on every page. And offer them something new on every page – a free newsletter, a weekly email, a catalogue in exchange for their address, etc. The goal is to make them see tons of SKUs.
  3. Make the free-seekers click a check-box to opt in for your regular company newsletter. Most of them will do it. They just can’t resist a free t-shirt. But  I suspect a huge percentage of them will opt out after the first newsletter shows up.

If your website is offering something free, they will find you.

Freebie websites encourage their readers to alert them about any free offers they find. Before they get to your website, they crawl through websites like FreebieSelect.com, where they get coached on shortcuts to getting the free offer. Here’s their notice about our offer:

content marketing experiment

Study their tips, which help freebie addicts quickly submit the requirements. What you can’t see (because I took it down) is the extensive list of rules I dictated to get the shirt:

  1. A 200+ word description of your best content marketing success
  2. Full details on place of employment
  3. No Gmail or Yahoo emails
  4. Linkedin address

Not a single submission followed all the rules. None submitted a description of their content marketing success, because none were in marketing. The Linkedin address requirement was completely clear, yet 99% of those submissions were fake or simply a link to Linkedin.com’s main page.

Will you survive a piranha strike?

Recently, one of our clients – a medical device company – went through this and a significant number of the freebie seekers were speech language pathologists (SLP). The client was offering a free poster. They invested the time to isolate the SLPs and sent them the actual poster at a cost of approximately $2.00 for printing and shipping. The rest received a free PDF of the poster.

We didn’t take that approach. We scanned all the responses to see if they were actually in a marketing position – in other words, a qualified prospect. None were. So we ignored them. We watched social media to see if they would flame us for not responding, but nothing happened.

Share →