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How to Increase Your Shop Sales (Using The Strategic Giving Technique)

RetroSupply March 31, 2021 · 8 min read

This is the first post in an awesome new series by top-selling Creative Market shop owner Dustin Lee (RetroSupply Co.). In each post, Dustin will share with us some of his knowledge and expertise on how to be successful on Creative Market.

Grow Sales Through Giving

When I used the strategy I’m going to tell you about today, my sales went through the roof. And if you want to grow your sales on Creative Market, you’d be silly to ignore it.
Here’s why: Because this one strategy is the most inexpensive, easy, and effective ways I’ve found to make sales.
I can personally pinpoint a direct correlation between this strategy and my sales. I call it the “Strategic Giving” Technique and if you’re looking to boost your sales you need to read this.

What is Strategic Giving?

Strategic Giving is based on The Law of Reciprocity.
If you really want to geek out, here’s an article from the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
But this quote from the article sums it up:

“Reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model;”

In other words, people are more likely to buy from people that give them stuff.
Just this weekend someone used the law of reciprocity on me to great effect. I went to Costco to buy one of those gigantic jars of trail mix (a hot item at my house). On my way to the trail mix aisle, a lady at a sample booth handed me a piece of sweet and sour chicken on a toothpick.
As I ate it, she started telling me about why this sweet and sour chicken was the best.
Here’s the crazy part:
Even though I had zero interest in sweet and sour chicken (at first), I listened!
Long story short, I walked out of Costco with a 5 lbs box of sweet and sour chicken. Why?Because when she handed me that chicken, she activated the law of reciprocity. The sweet and sour chicken obligated me to listen.
Here’s the great part, this law doesn’t just help sell sweet and sour chicken. It also helps sell your design goods.
Here are 8 ways you can use “Strategic Giving”, aka The Law of Reciprocity, to boost your sales:

1. Give to Influencers

Every industry has influencers. Do a quick search of phrases related to your product. You’ll find a dozen or so names that show up again and again.
Send the author a related product you’ve created for free. Include a brief note describing the product and why you thought they might like it.
When I created my product RetroSupply, I sent a copy to Chris Spooner creator of the popular blog Spoon Graphics. Not in hopes of making sales, but because I genuinely like Chris and wanted to give something back to him.
This simple gesture resulted in him sharing my product with his audience. Which generated a LOT of sales.
Tip: Consider this an opportunity to meet new friends. Send your pack to people who you believe will benefit from it. Let them know how you found them and what you liked about their article.

2. Give On Social Networks

Social networks are a great place to offer a product sample. It makes it easy for others to share. Plus, it’s always fun to stumble across something useful for free.
By using an app like Buffer you can schedule posts throughout the day sharing samples of your goods. Be sure to make it easy for people scanning their social networks to spot the good by using the word “free” early in the message.
Here’s an example tweet:
Icon Freebie: Download 5 of my latest icons from my Summer Icon Pack here: [insert your link]
Be sure to include a link in the file to the location they can buy the pack.

3. Share Your Process

Make it a habit to document your process.
Here are some simple ways to share your work:

  • Take pictures of your sketches and post them to Instagram.
  • Create a screencast of your product in action. Share it on YouTube and Vimeo.
  • Share the inspiration for your latest product using Pinterest.
  • Write a blog post about a useful insight you discovered while creating your product.

At first glance, sharing your work might not seem like Strategic Giving. But isn’t sharing your design process with another designer giving them something of value?
show your work book cover
Want more inspiration for sharing you work? Check out Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work, it will inspire you to make a habit of sharing your process.

4. Show Your Audience How to Do It for Free

When you release a product, share exactly how they can do it on their own for free.
This might seem counterintuitive maybe a bit crazy. But if you do it right the rewards are huge. For example, let’s say Mike is selling his Super-Awesome Texture MegaBundle. He can create a tutorial showing others how they can make the same kinds of textures for free.
Some people will use Mike’s article to make their own textures. But others will want instant results and they’ll buy Mike’s MegaBundle.
Why? Because by giving people something (a helpful tutorial) he’s activated their desire to give back. And all things being equal, we buy from people we like.

5. Offer a Freebie to the First X Number of Buyers

When I release a new product I’ll often offer a product of the buyer’s choice for free.
Why? Because a free item is often the final push someone needs to decide to buy. So what do you offer for free? Anything you think your customers will love!
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Offer any one item from your shop of equal or lesser value.
  • Share a sample of another product (this might grab you another sale as well).
  • Release an exclusive freebie.

Note: Technically this isn’t The Law of Reciprocity, but it’s a great example of how giving can increase sales.

6. Give Away a Free Sample in Your Description

A potential buyer just clicked on your product. They’re reading your copy trying to decide if they want your product. But they’re on the fence.
Try putting an easy to spot link in your copy where potential buyers can download a sample of your product. Not only does this activate The Law of Reciprocity, but it also gives them a chance to kick the tires before they buy.
example freebie
Tip: What should you put in your free sample? Your best stuff. This is the place to blow customers away with the awesomeness of your product. If they don’t love the sample there’s no way they’re going to buy the rest.

7. Offer Freebies on Image-Based Social Networks

By nature, Creative Market goods are visual. And as it turns out, visual social networks tend to have higher conversion rates for ecommerce.
For example, users shared or interacted with posts on Instagram 4.21% as oppose to .07% on Facebook (read full article here).
Take advantage by sharing images on sites like Instagram, Behance, Dribbble and Pinterest.

8. Share It Via Free Goods on Creative Market

I’ll admit, when I first gave away a good on Creative Market it was a bit scary. Over 15,000 people downloaded my free good! That’s a lot of people that could have bought it!
Except it isn’t, because 98% of those people would have never purchased the good. So why give your good away on Creative Market?
Because by giving them something valuable you’re activating The Law of Reciprocity. Not to mention, once they see the quality of your products, they’ll feel much more comfortable purchasing.
free goods

None of This Works Unless You Do This…

As you’ll probably notice, none of these examples guarantee sales. None of these strategies work unless you have a great product.
What these strategies do is buy you some attention from potential customers. By giving them something, you’ve earned an opportunity to show them why your product is awesome. And if you use that opportunity wisely you earn more sales.
What do you think? Have you used The Law of Reciprocity in your shop?
Do me a favor and let me know how you plan to use this strategy in your own business in the comments below.

Dustin Lee is the owner of RetroSupply. He’s also launching a new site called GrainBureau, offering tutorials and free graphic design resources.
Header created using Monicons 1 by Tim Boelaars

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About the Author

RetroSupply makes brushes, textures, fonts, and templates for retro-loving illustrators and designers. Our products are made by a full-time team of creatives for use in Procreate, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Affinity.

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  • Great article Dustin. I plan on giving away free samples of everyone of my products on my new website at launch. That way it gives people a chance to test drive before purchasing, plus they get something free out of the deal. I've also used free gifts to help customers who have experienced issues with a product. It always seems to help calm them down and I've yet to get anyone who hasn't take me up on the offer. 8 years ago
  • Thanks @Dustin Lee - you just sold me on this concept! :) Wow, what a great article! I can't wait to read the subsequent installments in the series. Incidentally I was thinking about #5 for my latest product, and you've convinced me to do it. I think I just walked out of Cosco's with a 5lb box of sweet and sour chicken. :) Offering a free good for me was a HUGE benefit. I offered my Welcome Kit, which is a small sampling of all the products in my shop (which is updated when I release new products). Over 17,000 people downloaded it, and my sales were incredible that week, and really good for the rest of the month, generally improving since then. I'd say the Law of Reciprocity worked! 8 years ago
  • Great advice, @Dustin Lee. I'm going to start putting some of these tips into practice over the next few months. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 8 years ago
  • @Derek Stevenson Great idea! Definitely agree with giving away a product if a customer isn't happy with a product. When customers have a problem it's one of the best opportunities to really blow them away with generosity. @Beth Rufener Creating a Welcome Kit for a free download is a great idea! Thanks for the thoughtful comments! 8 years ago
  • This is a fantastic post. I've considered freebies and giving before, but never knew how to really implement it successfully. This makes it a lot clearer as to how it should be done. Really excited to start experimenting with these tricks. Thanks so much @Dustin Lee 8 years ago
  • Thanks for this wonderful post @Dustin Lee Gonna be applying these ideas in practice for sure. Hopefully I can share results near future on how these helped out. Bookmarking. 8 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I have always thought about the importance of the reciprocity, I´f all wins, you win. Great article! 8 years ago
  • Thank you @Dustin Lee! A great vendor and a great man :) You give us more enthusiasm for selling in the best way!!! 8 years ago
  • What an excellent post. Thank you so much for sharing! 8 years ago
  • Wow @Dustin Lee, you knocked this post out of the park! Awesome work :) 8 years ago
  • @FilterGrade Awesome. Looking forward to it. Your shop has been doing some really amazing work! @Sam Jones @Brian Hermelijn @Mia Charro @Pier Francesco Martini [@Feather & Sage Design Co](user:131816) @Kelley Johnson Thanks everyone! 8 years ago
  • Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing, some great ideas to put into practice. Really looking forward to the next instalment. 8 years ago
  • Great post @Dustin Lee, and could not agree more. Every time I gave stuff for free on Creative Market it boosted my sales for that month. Thanks for some good tips and an interesting perspective. Love you work! 8 years ago
  • Outstanding article! I'm currently experiencing number 8. 8 years ago
  • Thansk for sharing @Dustin Lee ! :) Excellent tips, really appreciate! 8 years ago
  • Wow, really valuable insight. Thanks for a great article, definitely lots to think about. Keep up the good work @Dustin Lee !! 8 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee Great Article! I already tried some of these ideas and it actually works in the beginning it feels like heavy work but it really payoff and feels good when u see the reactions of the customers :) thanks again for the share ;) 8 years ago
  • Such a helpful article, @Dustin Lee. Thank you for sharing! I wanted to add another strategic sales technique that can help to boost sales - allowing customers to determine the value and thus the price of the offering. I have been practicing this strategy - what I call Pay What It's Worth pricing - in my online shop and service business for 5 years now. In my practice with it, I have been very pleased with the currency of giving (or reciprocity) that is created by this model and the trust that is created between buyer and seller. 8 years ago
  • Thanks [@Studio 164a](user:95565) @Igor Ovsyannykov @Charles Perrault ! 8 years ago
  • @Ramy Wafaa Agreed, it definitely is extra work. I've found when I make it a habit it stops feeling like as much work (most of the time). : ) 8 years ago
  • @Tara Joyce Cool idea! How do you implement it? Can people just type in a price? 8 years ago
  • Great article Dustin. I would like to try them! Thanks for the share. 8 years ago
  • Amazing post @Dustin Lee , I just subscribed to the blog because of you :) These are such great tips, thanks for sharing! 8 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee I very useful article. Bravo. I have done the free gifting and free promotion in the past but I never looked at them from that perspective :) 8 years ago
  • I think that this sales increase strategy leads to lowing the cost of design work in more distant perspective. Say, 20% of your readers start giving stuff for free. From rare event, magic opportunity of getting valuable stuff for free it will become sort of common, regular thing. The perceptable value of such goods will go down. I already see it happening as part time freelance illustrator - due to dumping and discounting the same work is percepted (and priced) cheaper than a year before. Along with price reduction you get an increased flow of people who are new to computers, who can not even unzip the files they download. So while your approach is definitely a smart one and sure works for you, it might lead you to selling all of your items half price in a year or so, attracting a lot of unprofessional buyres. 8 years ago
  • Thanks so much for sharing these helpful tips, @Dustin Lee ! Lots to think about! It would be really nice, if Creative Market had some built in mechanics to more easily help turn your suggestions into action. For example the ability to generate promotional codes or to set the pricing at a reduced price for a specified time, it might be a "summer sale" or "introductory price", or a way to give back to previous customers. I also appreciate @vatesdesign 's cautionary comment about the possibility of dumping prices and value by constant sales. One way to counteract the devaluation of design work, might be to offer sales to customers as a reward for already having bought something? The way a coffee shop can give you a card that gives you every tenth cup of coffee for free? Or something like that... Anyways, thanks for all these good ideas! :) 8 years ago
  • We accept freebies on our design blog: Designrshub ( 8 years ago
  • Very useful article I also plan for freebies, great thanks 8 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee : Your article(s) are always very useful & awesome, thank you very much & Good luck with sales. @Manuel Garcia : Nice website, we have some resources to share it to your audience :) 8 years ago
  • Dustin Lee: awesome designer, awesome writer, awesome businessman. Thanks! Looking forward to your new site as well. 8 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Thanks for the insights Dustin. I've just started my shop and believe a lot in the idea of giving. Will launch my own website in a few weeks and find inspiration everywhere nowadays. One addition to your article: you brilliantly found an unique USP as well. Admire this a lot! 8 years ago
  • Amazing Post @Dustin Lee Helped me a lot! I will implement the The Law of Reciprocity in My shop. I cant thank you enough. Thanks for the app also! 8 years ago
  • @Ken Weaver I just read your comment on here! Thank you so much, man! I struggle with writing so the encouragement made my day : ) 8 years ago
  • @Marie Wagner Thanks! You're shop is fantastic! I love it! You're definitely right about the USP. I was lucky to find a profitable niche and approached it in a way others weren't. Although I have to admit, I didn't really plan this. I was just doing what I loved : ) Thanks @David Pastor it makes my day to hear that people find the content useful. I'm glad you like the app! 8 years ago
  • I hear you're coming into Pier 9 again soon. See ya then! 8 years ago
  • @Ken Weaver I am! Looking forward to it : ) 8 years ago
  • Awesome article! :)) Thanks for the great tips! 8 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Very useful for me 8 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee I actually used you, as my mime for some comments in a linked-in group. What I have seen you do, that is unique to you at every step of the way, (after your first big sales item) is how you attend to customers comments. You invoke excitement about your product. You actively listen to each and every comment, you refine your product at a moments notice and thank not only thank the customer, but tell them what a great idea they had and shared with you. imho, nothing you could do, would ever add to your success the way this does, because this creates the 'positive word of mouth' and however much the big-corps would like us to believe that social media equates to word of mouth, the fact is, It does not. So, your positively energetic interaction and dedicated willingness to actively listen to your customers, when feasible, modify your product to suite the needs of the customers right then and there and your follow-through to 'enable your customer to be successful in their endeavor" whether that's unzipping your product or building a smart-object. Is why I remember to look at your shop. (even if I do miss a product now and then.) :) Oh, the question I believe (on linked in I responded to was something like) Who is, and why have they been so successful in the last year. Out of the 50K or so folks I keep and ear/eye out for throughout the year, you came immediately to mind. Because imho, what you do, doesn't cost a dime, should be done by everyone and yet rarely is. including myself. 7 years ago
  • Thanks for this article @Dustin Lee! It was the first thing I read in the morning and it gave me thousand ideas how to do genuine marketing by giving people valuable resources and learning materials for free. Cheers! :) 7 years ago
  • Anonymous
    If I had to give a prime example of great quality content, this article would be one. It's well-written material that keeps your interest well. Please visit: 7 years ago
  • Thank you for being so generous with your time and sharing this info!! 7 years ago
  • Sharing is Caring =) 7 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee thanks for sharing such brilliant article! 6 years ago
  • Your writing helpful for use. Thanks 6 years ago
  • Thanks for the post! :) 6 years ago
  • Wow, thanks. So many good suggestions. You got me inspired to start the sample instructions on youtube once I complete a few more groups for the store. - Nicole 5 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee thank you for the great tips. We've started slowly but surely implementing some of these. Will hopefully start seeing the results soon, but good things take time :). Hope you have a wonderful day. 5 years ago
  • Thanks @Marigold Studios - I wrote this article a few years ago and I can tell you for certain it works. I've built my entire business largely on this and am still making a full-time living. 5 years ago
  • @Dustin Lee Just a small update: we recently released a free good, shared a free workbook on our site and added a few helpful tutorials - all and all we've cut our support time via the tutorials, increased our following for our shop, and sales for this month so far with the free good, and the workbook has gained us quite a bit of freelance work. Definitely a great strategy and we are seeing results :) Thank you! 5 years ago
  • Hello! I followed your advice and posted a free sample in each of my products. Let's see what happens)) 5 years ago