It may seem counterintuitive to increase your income by giving items away, but giveaways are an extremely effective form of relationship marketing. They produce a feeling of goodwill between you, your customers and even potential customers which has a direct correlation to how they perceive the brand.

People are way more likely to invest dollars and rave about a company that has previously given to them. However, there is a downside to this strategy. If not executed correctly, giveaways can manufacture a vapid social following or email list filled with people who never intended on purchasing from your business. You’ll see this occur frequently after tradeshows and expos where vendors ask for a person’s name and email address in exchange for a chance to win a prize. But if you focus giveaways on your ideal customer, you can increase the conversion rate and benefit your company greatly.

Four local entrepreneurs have offered up their advice to help you reframe your thinking about growth through giveaways. Which approach will you take in 2019?

Libby Perritt, Founder of @faithfullyfitarmy

You can use social media giveaways on platforms such as Instagram to invest in increasing your brand awareness. Many influencers have found success in collaborations to grow their followings by the thousands. Speaker, educator and coach Libby Perritt says, “The most effective giveaway I’ve done is a Louis Vitton purse or PayPal cash equivalent. Keep in mind my niche is women! This was done with 30 other influencers/small businesses in the same niche and was extremely successful.”

Online business owners are also finding success in giving away “lead magnets” in exchange for names and email addresses. Followers “opt-in” to their list to download the free resource and the entrepreneurs nurture the list through email marketing. Creating resources specific to their niche helps the influencers qualify their leads. “Giveaways ultimately give FFA [Faithfully Fit Army] the opportunity to gain awareness, nurture relationships and provide my niche audiences with the resources they need,” said Perritt.

Jenee Walsh, Owner of Something Else Boutique

The element of surprise is a great way bring joy to your business and your followers.

Something Else Boutique is a mobile and online boutique that offers children’s and women’s clothing 0-28. They grew from 3,000 followers to 15,000 followers in six months by offering giveaways 3 times a week. The most effective giveaway was the “Mystery Box.” According to shop owner Jenee Walsh, “Mystery giveaways are the best because people always want a surprise. I mean look at our kids. They spend hours watching people open up surprise bags and mystery bags. This approach is a great way to earn followers and increase your revenue. It’s also a good way for business owners to move last season inventory.”

AJ Richards, CEO & Owner of BS Grillin’

Many of us have seen the power of free samples through trips to the local Sam’s Club. Just a taste of the product can be enough to turn foot traffic into sales. One company takes that simple sales tactic and takes it to the next level. BS Grillin’, a gourmet barbeque and relishes company based in Lynchburg, has hit the shelves nationwide through this effective grassroots approach of leveraging giveaways. Sample BS Grillin’ at live events, plus receive free product for providing 5 names of local specialty stores they can call on in the next week. They’ve even played “I Spy BS” to help remind people where they can purchase their product locally. Take a selfie with BS Grillin’, tag the store and location to be entered in a monthly drawing for free product. Giveaways like this can be an extremely effective way of rewarding your customer base and mobilizing them to become loyal promoters.

Abe Loper, Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual & Member of the Rotary Club of Lynchburg-Morning

Many local businesses have incorporated giving into their marketing strategy through acts of service or supporting local charitable organizations. “Giving to local charities that make a significant impact in our community is a way to ensure that my business is more than just a job. I think we all should hope that in the hours we spend, Monday through Friday, we impact more than just our own situation,” says local serial entrepreneur and Rotarian Abe Loper. “I think that when people are considering who they want to work with, they tend to choose the person who is more involved in the community, more generous.”

Whether it’s a sponsored event like the Genworth Virginia 10 Miler, serving at Lynchburg Daily Bread or volunteering at your child’s school, giving not only has a positive impact on the recipient of the gift but also on the giver as well. Whatever approach you decide to take, pay it forward in 2019 and watch it change your business forever.