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Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Step 16: The Importance of Freebies in a Free Market

I can hear you now. "Wait a minute. I thought the whole idea of having a storefront and creating resources was to make money. I've been reading this series to learn how to MAKE MONEY, not toss it away! And now you're telling me to GIVE THINGS AWAY FOR FREE? What are you, crazy or something?"

Obviously. I teach Middle School. Being crazy is a requirement and a defense mechanism. That said, there is a valid reason for GIVING PRODUCTS AWAY from time to time.

Why You Should ALWAYS Give Away Some Milk - but Not the Whole Cow

I want you to do me quick favor. Follow this link to Amped Up Learning's customer store front. This is the General Store foyer, or the Mall of the Americas Atrium, if you will. On the left you will see a drop down selection. Click on "Teacher Contributor Stores", then select "All Content Teachers", and THEN select one at random. Obviously, I have no idea what store you selected. Once there, you can select from a drop down to show you products by ascending price. HOPEFULLY they have at least ONE RESOURCE that is free. Why? Well, there is a VERY HIGH PROBABILITY that you do not know this particular Teacher-Author personally, or, if you truly did this at random, even by reputation. So, that FREE RESOURCE that pops up at the first position after you click on ascending price is the product that you will PROBABLY look at to decide if you want to spend your money on their resources. If this is how you determine who you will buy from, doesn't it stand to reason your customers will as well?

Here's the good news for your store. You have a fantastic opportunity to really "wow" a customer with a fast, but effective, resource! Our first resource, Editing with CUPS, was free. We started on TpT, and they require your first product/resource be free because the folks at TpT KNOW customers want to get a taste of your capability to produce outstanding resources for THEIR classroom. That simple one-sheeter that we offer for free has been VIEWED by potential customers over 850 times! CUSTOMERS have downloaded it over 430 times! And that is ONLY our TpT stats! Why is it important that this "simple one-sheeter" was perfect? Only 3 of the people who downloaded it KNOW WE CREATED IT! Instead of 3 customers using it in their classrooms with, let's say an average of 130 kids per teacher, 390 students per year, or 780 to date, we have the potential to have our "simple one-sheeter" being used by more than 111,800 students around the world! SO FAR. Now, imagine if it were...less than acceptable?

Here's the bad news. Let's say you just "throw sumpin' together", don't bother with a cover, and the description says something like, "Have your students edit with this," and post it as a mandatory freebie. And it gets viewed. A LOT. If it was less than stellar, do you think it matters how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that year's worth of curriculum you designed is? Spoiler alert. It won't be looked at for the most part.

So the first reason to give away a quart of milk is to show your potential customers how sweet your dairy herd produces.

To keep enticing your customers to return, about every 11th to 20 resource should be free. Between 5 and 10%.

If you want to REALLY entice them, do what Suzanne and I did. Bundle a bunch of your freebies. Why? Because we make a LOT more than just checklists! And we want to show off a lot of different items! The bundle includes not only our checklists for editing and revising, but also some free crosswords puzzles, motivational posters for your classroom decor, a set of vocabulary flashcards, and two sets of novel-specific bookmarks. All for free so that customers can make an educated decision about purchasing our other the novel study guides that go with the bookmarks and are NOT free. Our customers get a real value this way - some have even said it would be worth at least twice the price!

Occasionally, You Will Want to Cull the Herd, and Give Away a Cow...or 10...Just No Bull

Let's talk about reviews for just a moment. One of the dirty little secrets that we have to deal with is that all search engines used by sites for selling products/resources use ratings to determine positioning in search lists. Yes, they also use key word search engine optimization, but they still use reviews as well. Unfortunately, 99.5% of your customers will NOT return to leave a review - unless it is negative. So what is an entrepreneur to do? Throw a "FREE FOR FEEDBACK!" party! 

Before I go any further, let me make this perfectly clear. It is a violation of your agreement with TpT to do this with other TpT sellers, and if they find that you are doing so, you could be removed and barred from their site. 

So why am I talking about it, then? Because that is on TpT, not on other sites. Amped Up Learning, for example, allows contributors to do this, however, it is HIGHLY monitored, and feedback must be genuine. For example, as a middle school ELA teacher who helps to home school my Pre-K - 4th grade grandchildren, I can easily review products that I would A) use in my middle school ELA/ESL/Reading Intervention classroom; or B) use with my grandchildren. I can not, and will not, attempt to review a high school chemistry resource. I never took high school chemistry! I tried to test a resource for Suzanne's sister, Beth, owner of Chemistry Corner, the other day, and she really tried not to laugh as she was grading it. Now, Suzanne could review these, as she has a background in science, as well as being a math interventionist.

So how do these work? You find a group of teacher-author entrepreneurs who are on the same sales platform/site as you. You establish a PRIVATE GROUP on Facebook, such as Amped Up Contributors Page. You schedule with the group members a day and time when you will throw the party. Each "party goer" links a single product from their store to the party thread. At the predesignated time, everyone makes their selected product free on the store site, and downloads each of the other "party goers'" resources. At the prearranged time, everyone resets their prices. Then, over the course of the next week or two, you try out every one of the resources that you downloaded, and IF IT CAN HONESTLY BE USED BY YOU, you leave feedback on the product. If you are on Amped Up, then trust me, you will be reminded to leave feedback. There is an automatically sent invitation to leave feedback that goes out a week after your purchase! I LOVE IT! Now, please understand, and this is a big part of why TpT does not allow this, the review or feedback needs to be HONEST and MEANINGFUL. If I made some major mistakes (hey, it could happen. You may have even seen a typo or two here...), or even minor ones, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT! Preferably in an email with the opportunity to correct the problem, but hey, even if it's in feedback, I am good with it!

FEEDBACK: The Good, the Bad, and the Un-Explainable

I LOVE feedback. I REALLY LOVE feedback. I get as happy about feedback as I do about sales - well, almost. I really want to say that all feedback is good feedback, but that isn't true. If you receive 4 out of 5 stars, you should be pleased, but able to improve it. Truth is, usually when you receive a 4 out of 5 or 3 out of 4 star review, the comment is "Really great resource. Thank you." Or just, "Thank you." And you have no idea why, and when you ask why, they never respond. 

I love feedback that is honest. If my product is 5-Star, I want the world to know you think so! If you find that you couldn't get something to work quite right, so you are docking me a half star or a star, but you tell me what the problem is - THANK YOU! I CAN FIX THAT! If you never tell me why, I can't. Here is another secret about feedback. Customers look at not only what other customers said, but HOW YOU RESPOND. If you get a "typical" "SUPER 4 out of 5", and your response borders on the snark-astic, you will loose future customers. If, instead, you say, "Hey, Jill, thank you for taking the time to leave feedback! Your opinion matters! How could I have made this a 5 for you?", other customers will read that and say, "hey, this person cares." If they said what the problem was, and you tell them in your response that you looked, they were right, and you have updated the resource, then for all intents and purposes that 4 out of 5 just became a 6 out of 5 - especially if you responded the same day. I know. One of our assessments for A Long Walk to Water has a less than 5 review like that. I fixed the problem. Sold 6 more sets the next day. I have not requested that review be removed because it shows other customers that I LISTEN.

Final Thoughts

So, if you are a seller on Amped Up, or TheWheelEdu, or any other site than TpT (No slam on TpT, just don't want you to violate your agreement) that will, or may, allow a "free market exchange of resources for feedback", join the Facebook page for contributors to that platform. Then, participate! If you are with AUL, get a resource ready. We'll hold a party in the near future. If you aren't an Amped Up contributor but want to crash the party for free food (Gregg does a mean bar-b-que, according to Mat and Deb), you'll just have to keep dropping by our Mall of Miracles called and hope to be in the right place at the right time! And, just because you stopped by here, and are trying to crash the party - nudge, nudge - make use of this coupon when you come by! (Must be ELA in Middle School resources, expires June 30, 2020)

COUPON CODE TO USE AT CHECKOUT ON AMPED UP - JUNE2020 - for $2.00 your ELA in Middle School Purchase!


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