In 1915, Gillette offered free safety razors to U.S. soldiers shipping out in World War I. This simple act of marketing significantly increased brand awareness on the part of millions of Americans, who subsequently continued purchasing Gillette products after they returned home.

There have been many other historical instances where world-famous companies have offered something free to kick-start what became a lifelong customer relationship.

With a sound strategy to convert your leads, you can be well on your way to a successful paid acquisition campaign.

Today, most paid acquisition campaigns direct consumers straight to a landing page with the immediate goal of selling them something. While that may work well for some startups, I’m here to offer an alternative to the conventional paid campaign, which I have witnessed generate great success.

This alternative campaign involves offering a free e-book, a product or even a free lunch, all with the same goal of ultimately selling your offering. Campaigns like the Gillette example are pioneers to what many startups today are leveraging in order to drive millions in revenue on paid ad platforms like LinkedIn.

I’ll walk you through this free paid acquisition campaign strategy, its best practices and the well-oiled lifecycle marketing that’s needed to make for a successful return on ad spend (ROAS)–positive campaign.

How to select the right free offer

There are many types of free items that can be offered, but the most common are:

E-books/service guides.
Products (e.g., AirPods, Amazon Kindle).
Gift cards.
Free meals at restaurant chains.

There’s no right or wrong item to offer, so for the purposes of this guide, I will be focusing on free e-books. The approach of offering a free e-book requires strategic thought in order to be successful. The other free offers are typically transactional, with the free item being given out in exchange for the individual’s time for a demo consultation.

Let’s take the example of a software automation tool such as Zapier, which helps startups create automations in their workflows. Below, I have listed several valuable e-book ideas that they could provide:

How to automate your sales team.
How to automate your business operations.
10 tips to simplify your accounting workflow.

It’s important that your e-book title is catchy and speaks to a pain point for your target audience, which is then conveniently solved by your startup’s offering. Equally important is that the e-book itself is valuable and provides new insight into how the individual can solve their own problems.

Elements of a valuable e-book

The strategy of giving out a free e-book relies entirely on the value of the content inside, so it’s imperative to break down the elements that make for a great e-book. Below are some of the key elements to consider when creating your free e-book: