When I was first starting out, I gave away a lot of stuff to people in the name of “exposure”, because I kept hearing from other business owners how important it is to “get your stuff out there.” What they really meant, though, was “get your stuff out to your target market.”
Two days ago a random Etsy member asked me to donate 100 items to supply her wedding guests’ gift bags. In return, she promised to “get your product out there to a large group of people of varying ages, most of which have never even HEARD of Etsy.” (**For those who don’t know, Etsy.com is an online marketplace for handmade goods.)
This may sound appealing (poor grammar notwithstanding), but when you think about it, it’s as effective a marketing strategy as standing on a random street corner and giving away 100 of your products for free. “People of varying ages, most of which have never even HEARD of Etsy” are NOT my target market. They’re no one’s target market. Even if they think your product is cool, Great Uncle Fred and 12-year-old Simon are not going to shop your online store. Why waste your time and budget on them?
My advice is to only give away freebies at events where at least 80% of the participants would be likely to shop from you. If you’re a crafter, gift bags at well-attended craft fairs are generally fine, especially if it gets you a spot in promotional materials or the fair is so big customers don’t make it to every booth.
Product-specific events are also good. Do you sell mainly to affluent pet owners? Then donating stuff to an animal rescue benefit is appropriate. Giving away freebies at the launch of a new fashion magazine is not. Yes, some of those fashionistas will also be affluent pet owners, but is it worth 100 wasted products to get just one new sale?
I’m not saying that those who ask for free stuff are bad people, but they are ultimately looking out for their own event/organization, and not for your business. It’s up to you to do that and to separate targeted, effective promotion from untargeted ineffective promotion.