A client of ours recently produced a useful free wallchart which it wanted to use as an awareness-raising exercise. The company linked to the offer on the home page of its website, which it knew was primarily only visited by people who were interested in its technology, and who were located in the UK, its sales territory.
Unfortunately, once something is out there like that, you’ve lost control. There are actually services which scour the web for free things and publish them online. Our client started getting dozens of requests for the wallchart, particularly from places like Russia, and was even suspicious that some of the requests were automated. Of course, the company couldn’t fulfil the requests, but they were irritating nevertheless.
The key to running offers like this is to keep them out of Google (which is straightforward) and to link to them directly from your own promotions. These could even include Google AdWords advertising, especially as that can be tightly targeted geographically, and an accurate return on investment calculated. Let’s say you decided that getting a promotional item into the hands of someone you didn’t previously know (and collecting their details) was worth £10, because you thought that buying in 100 names and getting yourself in front of them for £1000 was a decent-enough investment. If the item and postage cost £3, then getting AdWords clicks to your offer at £2 a time with a 30% conversion rate would put you well inside your RoI target.