In one of the small business owner discussion forums in which I participate, another entrepreneur asked whether she should agree to give her main product away for free as a bonus to a more famous person's launch of their own product. This began a lively discussion about the pros and cons of whether to hook your own star to a bigger star and hope for what I call “coattail sales” or “teflon visibility.” I've been asked to do this in the past 4 or 5 years several times. So here's my take on whether offering up your own best product as a bonus to someone else's product launch is a good idea.
As with most decisions that small business owners have to make, there's no hard and fast answer. But the first thing I paid attention to in this particular case was that the person being asked to give away their best product as a bonus already was feeling like this wasn't quite right, or she would not have posted her request for advice in our forum. And since I have lately been teaching those I work with to pay attention to their own gut feel, becoming more of a visionary for themselves, my first piece of advice was to pay close attention to her gut reaction.
Internet launches of big new products isn't what it used to be even two years ago. The competition is fierce for attention, which wasn't the case when some of the big-name Internet marketers got their start. The whole idea of adding on bonus materials from other people came about as a way to offset the increased competition, and appeal to a broader target audience. For a while this “launch with bonus” idea worked, and it still can, but in my opinion not nearly as effectively as was. It is no longer special to have a “big bonus” type of launch – in fact, it's very common. So the “oh wow, I buy this and I also get that, that, and that” is old hat to prospects now. Couple that with many prospects who have a deep hesitancy to even sign up for the various bonuses because they do not want to get on additional e-mail lists, and you've got a not-so-great experience for the small business owner who just gave away for free their best product to someone else's launch.
Even if a buyer signed up for every single bonus that is being offered, the amount of materials she would have to wade through is staggering, and quite frankly, almost no one reads or listens to all those bonuses. So the increase in visibility you might gain is, in my opinion, negligible.
There can definitely be a benefit to “credibility by affiliation” which means that you, the smaller fish, gain instant visibility and credibilty because your name and your product is linked to the person of influence as one of their “bonus people” during their launch. There's probably more gain to be had by that than by giving away your best product. But still, unless the relationship is noted strongly by the person of influence it can be a very passing benefit. If there is nothing more than your picture and web link buried down in page two of the bonuses I don't see that you get that much benefit. If the person of influence actually makes a video with you, you two are discussing her launch and your product and how the two work together that's a much stronger credibility by affiliation. But in my experience that almost never happens.
Since it's harder than ever to gain traction in the Internet marketing world, why would you, the smaller business owner, want to give away for free your very best product? I agree with the advice I heard from Ali Brown several years ago. “Never give away as a bonus something you are already selling. Make it truly exclusive and unavailable elsewhere, not one of your regular products.” This is wise advice that I personally follow. The high-visibility people I am currently coaching with tell me that in today's market, the “mega bonus list” type of launch doesn't even much benefit the bottom line of the person of influence who is doing it, much less the smaller business who is one of 10 or 20 in a “big bonus lineup.” I agree with that, too.
My experience is that 4 years ago I could earn a modest bump in people signing up for my list if I was a bonus to someone else's launch. I didn't experience an increase of product sales. I would be very hesitant to offer my signature product as a bonus. I wouldn't want what I am most known for used as an “extra” in someone else's big launch. I would be more apt to offer something that is not my sig product. And, I would believe I had just diluted my own opportunity for sales, as well.
While many people of influence do truly promote fully as a part of your deal (and there are some who do not) you have to get that the eyes of the reader are on THAT person, reading THAT person's stuff. The list of bonuses will more than likely be scanned, not digested thoroughly. If you as a small business owner can truly see a way in which you can capitalize on tagging on to someone else's bigger launch, it might make sense. But if it drives traffic toward you and whoops! they already have your big product for free, what then?