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5 Ideas for Creating Ethical Bribes

Written by Brittanie Byron, editor of the DCS Journal

Time and time again, free offers, or ethical bribes, have been proven to get people’s attention faster than about any other marketing method you could use.

I highly recommend a book called “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (its author, Chris Cooper has made the audio version available free through Itunes). In its prologue, the author shares an amusing story that illustrates the power of free. It’s about the famous Monty Python acting group during a time when digital piracy was most rampant. Instead of raising their prices, suing for copyright infringement and placing more protections on their videos, they posted the following to their YouTube channel:

“For three years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It’s time for us to take matters into our own hands.

“We know who you are, we know where you live and we could come after you in ways too horrible to tell. But being the extraordinarily nice chaps we are, we’ve figured a better way to get our own back: We’ve launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube.

“No more of those crap quality videos you’ve been posting. We’re giving you the real thing – high quality videos delivered straight from our vault. What’s more, we’re taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new high quality versions. And what’s even more, we’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

“But we want something in return.

“None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.”

You’ll have to check out the book to find out the results of this post, but I can guarantee you’ll be surprised.

There are two important lessons this story reinforces. First, you can make money giving stuff away for free, and second, it’s imperative that your customers understand what you want them to do for you in return for your bribe.

I’ve had the exciting opportunity to help create and source many of the ethical bribes we have given away at I would like to share a few ideas you can use to create free give aways that will entice more qualified prospects to take action.

What You Can Give Away

The best part about making ethical bribes is that they have always worked, and always will. This is true no matter what kind of business you run.

When deciding what you want to give away, your options are only limited by your creativity. Here are a few ideas:

  • Coupons or Discounts: Coupons are something that almost any business can give away and they have an incredible psychological power on prospects. People love to get an exclusive deal. I recently bought a couple packages of diapers at a local pharmacy and received a $3 coupon for anything in the store on my next visit, plus an extra $2 coupon for diapers. While it’s not a huge freebie, you can bet I’ll be going back in the near future to use them.
  • Product Samples or Trial Offers: Whether you’re giving away samples of food, cosmetics or a portion of your ebook, samples are a great way to get people hooked on your products. Get creative when you give away samples and try to find a way to give prospects more than your competitors are offering. For example, I have a friend who owns a lawn care business and offers a free initial lawn mowing. This offer really stands out next to other lawn mowing services that only give away free estimates.
  • Free Information: Again, you need to be creative. Free reports and newsletters have been used forever, so you need to do something that provides an immediate benefit to your prospect. At, Russell had a great idea to give away over four hours of Micro-Continuity training free on preloaded MP3 players when customers paid shipping and handling. The content alone was a great deal, but putting it on an MP3 player made the offer a no brainer! We ended up mailing out over 10,000.

Ethical Bribe ideas

  • Entry Into a Sweepstakes: This can be a fun way to get your customers excited about your company. You can give away a prize package of your own products, or fun items most people want like electronics or vacations.
  • SWAG: You can source inexpensive giveaways like pens, silicone bracelets, t-shirts and bags at companies like and have them branded with your company logo.

What You Get In Return

These bribes can be given away in exchange for a number of things that will bring more value to you as a business owner. Some ideas are:

  • Signing Up For Your Email List: Online, this is the goal we focus on most. Building an email list has benefits for almost every kind of business. It gives you the flexibility of sending follow up marketing when and how you want, all for the cost of an autoresponder subscription. Plus, it’s easy to build relationships when prospects are opening your emails every day.
  • Liking You On Facebook: People are spending more and more time on Facebook every day. Each time someone “likes” your business, all their friends will see your company too. This can add up to some powerful social proof. In the example below, the Benjamin Moore paint company gave away coupons for free paint samples for every person who “liked” them on Facebook.

Ethical Bribe ideas

  • Joining Your Text List: Since text advertising is still relatively new, there’s a lot less clutter. This can make it easier to get your message read.
  • Calling Your Company: If you have a product that is best sold over the phone or through a personal consultation, bribe prospects to contact you. On page 39 of this issue, you can see a portion of a direct mail piece we ran for a long time at Take a look at the portion below and you’ll see why we affectionately refer to it as the “toilet letter.” The purpose of this sales letter was to get customers to call our company so our sales team could pitch them on our higher end packages. Unfortunately, most people won’t spontaneously call your company. So, we offered them a free package with our company’s Action Checklists and CD in exchange for the few minutes of their time it would take to call. This letter was a huge success – at its peak, the company averaged about $500 in sales for every lead who called in.

Ethical Bribe ideas

  • Showing Customer Loyalty: Find ways to give customers incentive to do business with you again and again, as well as send you more business through a referral rewards program.
  • Making a Higher End Purchase: Incentivise your customers to spend more with you by giving them something in return. My favorite example of this is Target’s “Spend $50 and get free shipping.” Offers like this are a great way to get larger transactions from customers who planned to make small purchases.

Ethical Bribe ideas

Can you think of any other times that you have been bribed to do something for a company? Ethical bribes are all around us. Pay attention to the offers that get you to take action and see if you can adjust them for your own marketing.

Just remember that your free giveaway needs to be something of value to your target market. And the more you ask them to give you, the more value your giveaway needs to provide. So if you’re asking prospects to make a phone call and spend 15 minutes talking to you, you’ll need to give them more than if you’re just asking them for their email address and first name.

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