The Email Strategy That Made $47K+ By Giving Away Free Stuff

The free + shipping campaign is dead.

At least, that’s what people keep telling me. Apparently, the rise of Facebook ads have destroyed the utility of free + shipping campaigns.

The thing is, few businesses are able to reach the full potential of this strategy, or the full potential of other surprising tactics such as giveaways or challenges.

One of our clients realized this recently. They came to us wanting to run this style of campaign. But they wanted to run it with their existing email list.

Well, we’ll test anything once, and we’ll let the numbers to the talking. But how can you make money by giving away free stuff?

We earned over $47K in revenue for them by using this strategy. Needless to say, it works.

But you can’t just start shipping out free stuff to your email list. That’s not going to get you sales. It’s going to get you a headache. Instead, you need to approach this campaign the right way.

The Free + Shipping Campaign Explained


There’s no denying the power of the free + shipping campaign when it comes to getting new new customers. The fact is, people love free stuff. The persuasion principles behind this strategy haven’t changed over the years, only the delivery has.

It’s why so many companies have simply priced shipping into their items and then claimed ‘free shipping.

This idea fuelled our free + shipping campaign. We offered a small item to our client’s email list for free, with the condition that they pay for it to be shipped. For most people, the cost of shipping is a pittance if they’re getting the item for free.

Imagine that you sell a small item in your ecommerce store for $5, and it costs $3 to ship it to customers. You can run a free + shipping campaign, and simply raise the cost of shipping to $10. It seems like a small change, but the psychological desire for free stuff fuels incredibly successful sales campaigns.

Take a look at these stats from a single email campaign:


Open rates, click rates, and sales for a free + shipping campaign

These four emails are all part of the same campaign and were sent to different segments on the same day. That’s a total of $5,205, with an average order value of $26.8. But wait…the free + shipping deal only costs $9.45.

Why was the average order value so high?

Free + shipping is wildly successful because people love free stuff. It gets their attention, and gets them to click through and buy. And because they’re already paying shipping, why not pick something else up as well?

The average order value for these campaigns is always higher than the price of shipping. Setting up a free + shipping campaign triggers the right psychological reactions to get sales, but it also encourages people to get multiple items with each order since they’re already paying for ‘shipping.’.

How to Create a Successful Free + Shipping Campaign


The first step to writing a successful free + shipping campaign (or any email marketing campaign) is knowing your audience.

Our first few free + shipping campaigns were successful. They raked in hundreds of sales and thousands in total dollars. We thought we hit a gold mine. Something that would sell itself.

Turns out it’s not that simple.

After our initial success with this campaign, we figured it was easy. We picked the next item at random and thought we’d make a killing by using with another free + shipping campaign. Here were the results:

An example of a less successful free + shipping campaign

We got a few sales here and there. But it wasn’t as good as we’d hoped. That meant going back to the drawing board.

So what did we do wrong?

This campaign flopped because we made a big mistake. We didn’t research our products. Nathan Olson explains that choosing your products comes down to understanding your audience and the perceived value of those products. The results of our research and the campaigns we ran led us to a few conclusions.

Testing is important. Not all products will be winners. But if you test, you can minimize the losers. Finding winners is all about looking for a few important factors.

  • Products should have a high perceived value relative to the price. Just because something is free doesn’t mean people are going to go for it.
  • These products must also be cheap for you to purchase. Being able to buy these items for a fraction of the market price lets you keep higher profit margins.
  • They also should be cheap to ship. The markups you place on the shipping cost are where you’re going to make your profits, so having cheap shipping for you is important.
  • Test your products with your audience. It’s the only way to know what they like and what they want.

But we started testing, and we found another product that people wanted. The campaigns with those products exploded, and it’s what led to us making over $47K for our client. The first step was understanding our audience.

Once we started testing our products, the emails started looking like this:

An example of what product testing can do for your Free + Shipping campaigns

The open rates don’t differ much, but the sales do. They make a huge difference, and they compound together to create a steady source of income for any business.

Once you understand your audience, you can find the right products that will encourage them to buy. This can even be done through segmented lists, if you have that as part of your ecommerce store (which we highly recommend).

After you figure that out, it’s time to create your campaign. The copy should focus on urgency and highlight that the customer is getting their product for free. Give them a time limit to cash in on the deal, and send reminder emails to people who don’t open the initial offer

Pro tip: Don’t forget to mention in your campaign that the customer has to pay for shipping. You don’t want them to get all the way to checkout page, only to back out when they see the shipping fee. Let them know ahead of time.

If you like to make money and get sales (who doesn’t?) you absolutely have to try out this strategy. With a bit of testing and tweaking, you’ll get:

  • A huge influx of cash.
  • More customers and repeat customers.
  • A great ROI.

If you don’t have the time to tinker, we can help you out. Get in touch for a discovery call to see how we can help your ecom business boom.

Heads Up: Discovery sessions aren’t useful for everyone… we specialize in helping 6, 7 and 8 figure ecommerce businesses build a community of adoring fans, while making bank with their email marketing.

If you don’t care about your customers, or if you don’t like testing new things, you can keep on moving.

If you want to elevate your email marketing game, but your brand brings in less than $50k/month get in touch – I’m working on something special for you.

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