It’s not exactly unusual to find free offers. They’re everywhere – TV, direct mail, e-mail, and all around the Internet.
Usually it’s clear or least understood that anything "free" comes with some sort of sacrifice. You’re likely to spend your time, money or both BEFORE you get ANYTHING for free.
There are many examples of free offers in the coin dealer and collector market. Some are good giveaways, some are absolutely terrible and, worse, some are very misleading.
The pros of free coin offers
In the coin dealer world, it’s not uncommon to offer a free or bonus coin to first time customers. Or, offer a free bonus coin after a certain amount of money is spent on other coins.
I like these types of promotions. When coin shopping, if I buy coins at the prices I want, receive the service I expect and the coins are delivered at their advertised grade, I’m already happy! Receiving a freebie coin on top of it all just makes my experience all the better.
Frankly, that coin dealer has a better chance at my repeat business. Do I know that’s what they want or that the free coin offer was an extra lure? Sure! It’s the full disclosure that helps make such coin giveaways really work. There’s nothing hidden. They’re above board. They give the collector a positive experience.
The cons of bad giveaways and promotions
HOWEVER, what I do dislike – and most people feel the same – are disguised marketing gimmicks!
Anything offered to get me in the door to spend money had better be relayed up front and as forthrightly as possible. Or I’m gone! That seems like common sense. Right? Not always so…
Sometimes even sound, trusted businesses go amok unintentionally with missteps. They make a marketing mistake through inexperience or their staffs or consultants are given too much freedom.
Before they realize it, some marketing flyer or other effort goes out the door that hurts their bottom line instead of helping it. Worse, their hard earned reputation can take a beating that may take them months or years to recover.
An example of a bad "free coin" offer is a company giving the impression something is completely free without indicating – until you spend valuable time – that there are costs. (A specific example of this very thing is given toward the bottom of this article.)
Free offer and promotional considerations – for Coin Dealers and Collectors
Good marketing highlights and then advertises the best things a coin dealer has to offer. With it they’ll grow in size and in customer base. Bad marketing can rip a company apart and consumers beware… How can you tell the difference between the good and bad?
Where there are levels of good and bad! The bottom line is that it’s always best to be open and make an effort to consistently think that way. If you’re considering a free offer or other promotion – whether dealer or collector:
- Are all the conditions or requirements known and shown? If not, be wary. Warning bells should be going off.
- Watch out for too much "small print". Legal protection is one thing, but trying to hide something important or giving that impression is something completely different.
- Is the free offer fair to both the dealer and collector? Don’t forget to ask this basic question and think of it from both sides – if you’re the seller, think of it from the buyer’s perspective and vice versa. If both parties get something reasonable in exchange for the offer, it’s a sound promotion that’ll do well for each.
Should Collectors shy away from Coin Dealers who make marketing mistakes?
That’s the thing of it… The answer to that question is subjective and based on how any one person feels about the mistake – how large it is for them.
It’s also the risk of doing something wrong in marketing. It’s that "fear to market" that keeps some great coin dealers from enlisting marketing resources to help them grow as a company and offer even more to their customers.
On a good note, many coin collectors whom had positive experiences and built a relationship with a coin dealer can forgive a mistake.
They WILL pay extra attention going forward and if those mistakes keep happening, they’ll move elsewhere. One mistake, unless outrageously stupid, can be forgiven by long time customers.
But note this… new customers will likely and should run away. With all the coin collecting resources out there, why take any further potential risk?
An example of a "free offer" exploding
Just today, a story broke out through ABC7/KGO-TV in California. It was about the San Francisco Chronicle having a a full page advertisement placed by World Reserve Monetary Exchange, a marketing company in Ohio.
Apparently the full page ad didn’t look much like an advertisement but more like a news article.
To at least one consumer, the ad seemed and read like a story about the Federal Reserve trying to dump free Presidential $1 Coins onto the public because they were overstocked.
The person called the 800 number in the ad and discovered there was a price to pay for the "free" presidential dollar – $8 for the coin case and $4 for shipping and handling.
In watching the news video, the ad seemed to look more news article vs. advertising related. Worse, there was only a very tiny print area indicating it was indeed an advertisement.
Sure, these were uncirculated Presidential $1 Coins and they were housed in a nice case. There’s value to that – even the U.S. Mint charges a pretty hefty premium for the same coins in bags or simple rolls ($35.95 for a roll of 25, plus shipping and handling).
But to say each coin was free while not disclosing what it would really cost to really get one…
It would have been much wiser to promote the coins and their "real" cost in a well done advertisement. Instead World Reserve Monetary Exchange chose a method that now comes across to most people as a terribly-overpriced gimmick that gives a very bad taste in the mouth.
In my opinion, that was STUPID!