Most people get a kick out of sharing their opinions about products and services, and just about everyone loves free stuff. A combo of the two -- no-cost rewards for your thoughts -- can feel like hitting the jackpot for many of us.
There are three simple categories to pursue when looking to interact with big brand marketers to tell them what you think -- and to be compensated with free stuff.
Click here for a list of legitimate Web sites to contact to get started.
Online market research firms allow anyone to register for free, complete a short personal and professional profile, and become eligible to respond to surveys. Survey topics are very diverse -- from spending habits and lifestyle choices to preferences on a wide range of current and developing products and services. Each time you complete a survey, you earn points. As the points accumulate, you can redeem them for prizes. The value of prizes typically starts at about $10 (books, CDs, DVDs) and goes up to a few hundred dollars (electronics and home appliances). One company, ZoomPanel, says it ships more than 120,000 reward prizes per year -- free stuff valued at more than $3 million annually.
Feedback and Buzz Programs
Specialized marketing firms are hired by big brands to solicit feedback from a targeted demographic to assist with product development and promotion. In such cases, participants who meet a specific profile are invited to try the product or service for the purposes of providing that feedback.
For example, SheSpeaks, a marketing firm specializing in women, sent a $300 "Conception Kit" to 500 of its targeted members who indicated they were experiencing a challenge with fertility issues. The purpose: Allow them to review the kit and provide feedback to its manufacturer. Even though there is never any obligation to try the products or provide the requested feedback, most users are eager to share their experiences. In the process, SheSpeaks says 50 women have already credited the kit with contributing to their pregnancies, which become powerful testimonials among a community of like-minded women.
SheSpeaks was also hired by Peeled Snacks to solicit feedback about its snack packaging, which was mailed to 2,000 women. After trying the product, these women said they wanted two things: resealable packaging for the two-serving size, as well as single-size serving packs. Consumers got both, and the company got big buzz and very valuable feedback by putting free product in those hands.
To gauge the differences in creating buzz among men and women for a new tech product, BzzAgent sent 10,000 men and women a $250 Logitech universal remote control -- long thought of as a product coveted almost exclusively by men. The campaign busted that myth by finding that women were just as eager and enthusiastic as men to try it and talk about it among their friends.
Another fun way to try new things is through home-based parties among family and friends. When working with big brands to promote a new product, House Party coordinates more than 1,000 parties across the country the same day. You can register to be considered to host such a party, which might focus on candy, snack foods, toys, cars and even new TV shows. Approved hosts receive party packs to entertain their guests, and everyone is encouraged to talk about the experience and share photos from the party, online and off, which creates instant chatter about a new product line.A few key tips for all three of the categories above:
Even though you're getting free stuff, the big motivation to participate in these programs is really about sharing your opinions -- both among the brands directly, and among your circle of influence. Being the first to try new things at no cost is a bonus.
Never ever pay to participate in these programs. Avoid unsolicited e-mails and pop-up ads that promise big bucks or lots of valuable free stuff. Legitimate companies will never contact you without your permission, nor will they ever ask you to pay a penny to participate -- even the shipping is free.
Register with several sites -- not just one or two -- to increase your chances of being considered for participation. Just because you register doesn't mean you'll be selected. However, the programs we've identified include hundreds of thousands of participants per year, each of whom meets a specific targeted profile among big brands. For example, if you don't have pets, you won't be included in pet food campaigns. If you don't have kids, you won't be asked to weigh in on children's toys.
Tory Johnson is the Workplace Contributor on ABC's "Good Morning America," and the CEO of Women For Hire. Visit her online at www.womenforhire.com.