Sales Lessons: The Power of Freebies, Customer Bonuses and Incentives

Do you want customers to come back for more? If so, unlock the power of customer bonuses.

“Everybody likes something extra, for nothing.” – William Wrigley, Jr.

Why did Frederick and Louis Rueckheim, along with their partner Henry Eckstein, start putting small toy prizes in their boxes of Cracker Jack back in 1912? Perhaps it was the same reason Kelloggs started including various pin-back buttons in boxes of their Pep cereal in the 1940s or why McDonalds starting placing small toys in their Happy Meals in the 1970s?

It is because we all love a bonus — a fun surprise — or something extra we didn’t have to pay for. Successful marketers often package small giveaways with already popular products to increase the likelihood that customers will buy from them, rather than from their competitor.


The Power of Customer Bonuses

William Wrigley Jr., the founder of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, may have been a marketer ahead of his times — as he quickly realized the power of customer bonuses. In the 1890s Wrigley arrived in Chicago with $32 and needed to start making money.

He started by selling the soap his father’s company manufactured. In order to entice businesses and individuals to buy their soap from him he also offered customers free baking powder with each purchase. Customers loved the offer and kept coming back to Wrigley for their soap (and free baking powder).

Something curious happened though. Customers loved the baking powder so much that they started offering to buy even more of it from him. The free amount they received just wasn’t enough anymore.

Now, long before he crowned himself “King Of The Free Sample”, Wrigley realized that a free giveaway seemed to be just the incentive customers needed to make a purchase. Being an entrepreneur at heart, Wrigley saw another business opportunity and started his own baking powder company.


Boost Customer Demand with Free Samples

Pulling from the lessons he had learned from selling soap, Wrigley applied his customer bonus program to his new baking powder business. This time he gave away 2 free packs of chewing gum to each customer who purchased his baking powder.

Can you guess what happened again?

Now customer demand for chewing gum went wild and yet another new business was born for Wrigley. In 1892, he started selling gum under his own name and launched the Juicy Fruit brand name. Today, the Wrigley company sells chewing gum in more than 180 countries.

On April 28, 2008, Mars, Inc., announced it would spend approximately $23 billion to acquire the Wrigley company, which was generating over $5 billion in revenue each year. How much goodwill and additional business could you build by offering your customers a bonus for buying from you rather than your competitor down the road?

What could that investment be worth to your small business someday?


Mike Bowman is the publisher of The Quarter Roll Financial Entertainment Magazine. Mike’s goal is to first take the confusion and fear out of managing money and then make it fun and even entertaining through the stories printed in the magazine. Connect with Mike on Twitter.


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