The VAR Guy Blog

The Wisdom of 'Free' for VARs

We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch. When someone offers you something for free, you might question the person's motives and/or decline the offer because you’re convinced there’s a catch, right? And sometimes there is one, but it’s usually apparent up front.

In today’s business environment, however, increasing number of companies are offering free tools as a way to introduce solutions to prospects and the masses, give back to their customers and followers and, of course, market themselves and their wares. This is good business practice — a win-win for the vendor, the end user/customer/prospect and, in this case, the partner.

The benefit to end users is obvious – a free tool to meet one of their business or personal needs. But how does this affect and benefit VARs? Free tools can serve to increase a vendor’s brand awareness, and when that occurs, the vendor's partners have an easier time introducing these products to their customers.

Instead of relying on vendors to create free tool programs, VARs can emulate the free-tool model to create brand awareness and goodwill in their markets.

Offer Tools to Home Users

One tactic is to offer free tools to those outside your market. More and more B2Bs now offer a free product for home users. For example, Sophos offers a free Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition. Because Mac malware is becoming a growing concern tools such as this have become valuable to Mac users. Not only does this improve Sophos’ brand awareness, but offering a free tool that helps improve IT security promotes goodwill between Sophos and the IT community. As these same Mac owners begin looking for security tools for their business, there’s a good chance they’re already familiar and comfortable with Sophos and more likely to consider the company for a business solution -- to the benefit of the vendor and their partners.

Provide Tools that Complement Your Product Offerings

While the majority of free tools offered by B2Bs are designed for consumers, there are a few organizations that offer tools for businesses — an interesting tactic to entice bigger-ticket prospects. Sophos recently released an IT Dos and Don’ts toolkit for businesses, which provides information to help educate employees about Internet threats and is complementary to Sophos’ business product offerings.

To replicate or develop a similar strategy, VARs should look at what they already offer their customers and create a free “offer” related to those products or services. VARs can utilize their vendors’ partner marketing teams as they embark on these initiatives, which can lead to more awareness, better sentiment and, ideally, more revenue.

Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship. Read all of Sophos' guest blogs here.

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