The Value of Free

Free. It’s the world’s most powerful word. It can moves mountains and can be a great way to hack your business.

Unless your a developer, you’ve probably never heard of New Relic. For those who don’t know, New Relic is a web application monitoring tool that keeps track of your web app’s performance.

It went from a relatively small company into a behemoth of a company with $214 million in funding.

It also used one of the Growth Hacks I love, the free t-shirt.

Why a free t-shirt?

Why not a sticker, notebook, beer glass, iPhone whatever they’re at?!

One simple reason, people don’t use half the, pardon my language, shit, that you give them for free. But a t-shirt, why would anyone throw it away. You can always wear it.

T-shirts are probably the only company swag that I never throw away. The rest I giveaway to friends or try to sell on Kijiji for a few bucks just to get rid of it.

New Relic wasn’t the only one to realize this, InVision – the popular prototyping and design feedback tool also used this Growth Hack. So did, When I Work and a ton of other companies. The reason being, it works!

Now the idea isn’t just to give away a t-shirt and be done with it. That would be wasteful.

The idea behind it is to incentivize a paid signup in a unique way. Give someone a t-shirt that looks cool, not something branded to hell.

Here’s an example of the shirt New Relic gave away:

To some it seems plain but New Relic knew their customers, they were mostly backend developers or infrastructure guys. This shirt was pretty cool to them. Maybe not cool enough to buy on their own but cool enough to refer New Relic as their choice of performance monitoring.

The free t-shirt hack is a barrier assistant to help those on the fence about buying a great product.

The key idea here being that you have a great product to start, but you just need some help converting those visitors into paying users.

To get you started, I’ve broken it down into steps:

1. Start with multiple designs, not every design will appeal to everyone. Get a few made and use your users to narrow it down.

2. Get t-shirts printed (resources below) and give them out to VIP users, users who need a bit of love and newly signed on customers.

3. With each t-shirt you give away, include a request for a picture via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or whatever medium you desire. The key is to get your customer excited and get them sharing.

Bonus: Offer existing users a free t-shirt when they refer a new paying user. Make sure to also give the new paying user a t-shirt.

Now if you need some great quality t-shirts, here are some places I’d recommend based on personal experience:

Startup Threads
Freshly Bakes Tees (Toronto local and owned by a great guy!)
The Printful (they also automated ordering and ecommerce stores, great resource)

There are definitely others, but those are the 3 I recommend the most because I use them for all my t-shirt needs.

To help you with design, here are some of the shirts that startups are giving away for free.


When I Work

Now go out there and brand the world with awesome t-shirts!


Jamil started out in marketing, running campaigns for an agency and then transitioning into the world of startups and SaaS businesses. Jamil has lead growth teams at a number of startups across the globe and advised many others, helping them with their growth strategy. Since then he's become an entrepreneur that uncovers hidden pains for employees, founders and small to enterprise businesses to solve problems and alleviate their pain. Jamil also specializes in providing businesses with highly effective, automated sales funnels that increase conversions, optimize revenue and take their business to the next level.

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