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

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.

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