Free samples has several meanings and offering stuff for free can often result in different outcomes.
You can get a free sample at the deli counter before you buy. Usually you're there to buy so it makes sense to offer free samples. Sure someone might take advantage but typically the ratio of buying vs taking is low.
Free on the other hand, as in download this stuff free, take this free pen at the trade show, come to this free event or take an hour of my time for free has less attraction to real Buyers and usually appeals to Takers.
Takers go for anything free or close to free and place little value on what they're receiving. It's appropriate to lower your expectations and anticipate a lesser quality of response.
Rarely do they buy as the free stuff satisfies the need for acquisition. If I have all these free downloads to read I don't have to buy books. If I go to free events I don't have to attend paid ones. I've done my duty.
On the other hand if I'm considering purchasing a tool or buying a ticket for a paid event I'll gather information, evaulate the purchase and determine if it is the best choice for me. Will it fulfill my requirements, how does it compare with other similar offers and is it a good value? I expect to pay for value and free is not a choice.
So next time you're pricing and promoting a product or service or even considering doing someone a favour, you have to decide if this is a free offer or a paid one. We've all done favours where you know there was little real appreciation for your efforts. Kind of an empty feeling.
Ask yourself, what message are you sending about who you are and how you value yourself or your product. Is this a charge situation or a free sample?
Eric Gilboord, A2E