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We’ve all seen the ads on TV:

Act now, and it’s FREE! You only pay shipping & handling!

That’s a free-plus-shipping offer. Most people assume the seller is making their money on the shipping—but that’s usually not the case.

Or, at least, it’s not where they’re making their real money.

That free-plus-shipping offer is the tip of the iceberg—one small, visible piece of a huge marketing operation that’s going on behind the scenes.

If you wrote a book to generate interest in your product or services, a free-plus-shipping offer can be a fantastic way to help you do that. It’s a way to:

  • introduce potential new customers to what you do
  • identify the ones who are interested enough to pay a nominal shipping fee in order to learn more
  • get their email addresses so you can keep building that relationship
  • generate qualified leads for the top of your sales funnel for FREE, even while you sleep

This post will tell you everything you need to know about how to build a free-plus-shipping sales funnel based on your book: what it is, how it works, how to set it up, and how to use it to generate great leads for your real product or service.

What is a Free Plus Shipping Offer?

A free-plus-shipping offer is a cost-free way to build an email list of potential customers for another product or service—done by offering free products and only charging shipping costs.

There’s a lot packed into that statement, so let’s break it down.

Let’s say you’re selling condominiums. That’s not the kind of thing you can sell by putting one ad on Facebook.

Buy now for $350,000. Just click here and put in your credit card.

Right…

To sell something that big, you have to build a relationship first. The customer has to get to know you. You have to answer their questions.

It’s a process.

Marketers start that process by identifying potential customers: people who like condos and are serious about buying one.

If you wrote a book about investing in condos, you could use it to find those customers with a free-plus-shipping offer. Anyone who takes the offer is serious enough about buying condos to want a book about it, and they’re even willing to pay the shipping price to get it.

That’s a great lead.

So if your ultimate goal for your book is to use it to sell a different product or service at a much higher price point—aka if that’s the way you’re making your real money—a free-plus-shipping offer can be a great way to do that.

If you set it up the right way, you’ll generate excellent leads for your business, and finding those leads won’t cost you a dime.

How a Free Plus Shipping Offer Works

At a high level, a free-plus-shipping marketing campaign works like this:

  1. You offer something (like your book) for free
  2. The customer only pays for shipping and handling
  3. That “handling” should include the price of printing the book—so customers are paying your true cost of printing and shipping the book
  4. The book is still “free” because you’re only breaking even on the deal—you’re not making any money, but it’s not costing you anything to print or ship the book
  5. When someone takes the offer, what you’re really getting is their contact info
  6. Once you set up the offer, you advertise it to make sure people know about it—that advertising costs you some money, so now you’re in the red
  7. But you offer immediate “one-click upsells” on the checkout page when they order the book—add-ons they can also buy if they want to
  8. If you make enough money on those add-ons, that pays the cost of advertising, and the leads you generate are free again (or might even make you a little money)
  9. Then you use those leads to start working toward your ultimate goal—selling investment properties, financial planning services, life coaching, online courses, etc.

How to Set Up a Free Plus Shipping Funnel

1. Review your ultimate goal

Before you start building a free-plus-shipping sales funnel, think about your ultimate goal and see if it makes sense to use your book in that way.

  • Your book should appeal to the same audience as your business
  • It should help people see the value in your business
  • Your ultimate goal should have a high enough profit margin to be worth it
  • You should have a way to capitalize on those leads—to nurture those new relationships toward making your ultimate sale (like a newsletter, for example)

2. Identify your target audience

In a free-plus-shipping model, the people who are most interested in your book should be the same people who want your ultimate product or service.

In other words, your book and your business should have the same target audience, and the book’s message should show people the value of your ultimate offering.

Hopefully, when you decided to write your book, you planned that out.

If, on the other hand, you wrote a book about your life travels but you’re trying to sell financial planning services, your book won’t be a great lead generator for your business.

If your book doesn’t serve your business, don’t waste your time trying to use it for lead generation. Either write another book or use something else.

That’s probably not what you want to hear, but you can’t use your book as a marketing tool if it isn’t a good marketing tool. It’s really that simple.

The whole point of the free-plus-shipping method is to generate qualified leads for your ultimate goal—leads that are pre-inclined to be interested.

3. Figure out the actual cost of printing and dropshipping your book

If your book is a good lead generator, the next step is to figure out what to charge for shipping and handling. To do that, you have to know what it costs to print and ship your book.

On Amazon KDP, that’s easy—it’s the cost of ordering an Author copy and shipping it to a different address.

You could also order copies ahead of time and ship them to customers yourself, but that’s usually a bad idea.

Amazon’s drop-shipping makes the whole funnel operation A LOT cheaper. That’s because you don’t have to pay to package and mail the books twice—shipping them from Amazon to you and then again from you to your customers.

It’s also faster, more convenient, and a lot less work than warehousing stacks of books in your living room and managing the shipping yourself. And the more people you’re trying to reach with your sales funnel, the more important that becomes.

4. Come up with your upsells

For a free-plus-shipping offer, you’ll want to use your print book because it’s a physical product people can hold in their hands. They’ll feel like they got more value, and they’ll feel like the shipping & handling fee is justified.

But add-on offers work best when they’re digital downloads that your customers can buy on an impulse and receive immediately.

That said, there are exceptions to every rule. If you have a dropshipping business that makes physical add-ons easy, for example, go for it.

Whatever you use, your add-on pricing should be enticing enough to grab people—one-time offers work especially well. Order right now, and you can get this new product, worth this much, for this one-time offer of only X dollars.

Examples of digital add-ons include audiobooks, streaming mini-courses, a workbook or template that goes with the book, or even a one-hour virtual consultation they can set up digitally through an online calendar.

These add-ons can be anything that makes sense with your business model and will be interesting to your target audience.

The trick is to make sure you get a high enough conversion rate (people buy the add-ons often enough) that your average order value pays for your offer’s advertising.

5. Create your landing page and offer

Once you know how your offer is going to be structured, you’ll need to create a landing page where you can send them to claim it.

The landing page should be dedicated to your free-plus-shipping business offer, designed to lead them to the “sale” (and upselling them on your add-ons along the way).

And, of course, it will need a form that captures their contact info and their payment.

6. Test your landing page and offer

When your landing page is ready, have a friend walk through the process to make sure everything works as expected—that you get their contact info and your shipping & handling money, and that they get their free book.

Be sure to test your upsells too.

Why have a friend do this? Because YOU know how the page is supposed to work. They don’t.

Test your page with someone who isn’t already familiar with it so you can make sure there aren’t any hitches.

7. Create and run your ads

Now that everything is ready, create ads for the free-plus-shipping offer and run them on social media—usually Facebook and/or Instagram with a link to your landing page.

Take the time to learn the Facebook advertising system and run the ads yourself. The system is fairly easy, and you’ll be able to keep an eye on how they’re doing.

8. Monitor your cost per lead

Remember, if you’re paying too much per lead, your upsells won’t cover the cost of your ads. Tweak the system until the lead generation is paying for itself.

If you aren’t breaking even, bring the cost per lead down by adjusting things like your ad targeting and/or your upsell offers.

Once it’s working, you can raise your ad spend to send more people to your offer.

9. Convert your leads

Once you’re generating leads for free, you can add a lot of people to your email list at no cost to you, adding them to your email marketing funnel.

Keep building those relationships and convert those leads into the sales you really want.