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Is It Time to Test a Freemium? (815 words)

April 1998 By Dick Goldsmith
They shouldn't do this to me! My mother did it to me when I was little. I'm grown-up now. It shouldn't still be happening. And yet, they still make me feel guilty. Who? The direct marketers, that's who. I didn't ask for all those cards and labels, but I keep using them. So I have to keep sending them money.

A freemium is a little something extra in a direct mail package. Its purpose, of course, is to lift response. It does this by involving the reader or giving the reader guilt. It gets its name from the fact that it's free (in other words, it's a front end premium).

Who among us has not received a mailing from a non-profit institution with greeting cards enclosed? "Keep the cards" and send us some money. Does it work? As Denny Hatch says, if it didn't, you wouldn't keep seeing it. Fund raisers are the biggest users of freemiums, but some for-profit mailers also have found including a freebie to be an effective response booster.

More popular than greeting cards are personalized return address labels. How they work: If you keep and use them, you feel guilty if you didn't send a contribution. They used to always come as a little pad, sometimes two or three pads in a mailing package. Now they also come on a pressure sensitive sheet.

There are other freemiums as well. Covenant House and Agora Publishing (not a nonprofit) both send out books. Agora has found that it is better not to even mention the book in the package because it reduces response by drawing the reader's attention away from the offer.

Don't confuse freemiums with other free things you get in the mail. Those disks from AOL are part of the product being sold. Video tapes from mutual fund or travel companies are really brochures.

Refrigerator magnets are a good freemium because they can be machine inserted and won't stop your package from getting automation discounts in the mail. The magnets can be printed with any kind of message: reminders like the local pizza parlor phone number or emergency medical and help information. These are therefore used as profit and nonprofit freemiums.

Stickers and stamps are a great freemium in offers to children and are used by Highlights and Kids Discover.

Also consider a magnetic postcard, which can convey your entire message, and can be printed in four color, laser personalized and sent through the mail like any other piece. The magnet is a keeper that usually contains a phone number needed to order the advertised product.


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