I’m writing today about a topic that’s quite a bit different than I’ve covered in the past. I got an e-mail that surprised me from a service provider. The service provider is Dropbox and what they sent me was a very nice, and completely unexpected bonus.

You see, a week or so ago,  I realized that I needed a lot more space in my Dropbox account, and so I upgraded to their Pro account. As you know I recently converted from Windows to the Mac and I use a MacBook Air and I’ve got to tell you there’s nothing that defines simplicity like Dropbox on the Macintosh–it just works.

Now I’ve used a lot of online backup and storage software over the years, in fact, Mike likes to give me a hard time about all of the media that I store online. I’m an avid photographer, and have a collection of thousands of photographs that I keep backed up online. I also enjoy doing video editing work as a hobby and so I have a lot of HD film footage.

When it comes to using online storage, I’m no beginner. With my new Mac, I don’t have a whole heck of a lot of storage space because it’s a solid-state storage device instead of the traditional hard drive storage and only has 1TB of storage. But the fact of the matter is, I use it as a portable computer and I use an extra account for all of my remote storage needs. So the 1TB of memory is really not a limitation for me because I only use it for my current active projects and so it works just fine for that.

I Took the Apple Store’s Suggestion


When I bought the Mac from the Apple Store they suggested I use Dropbox and said that it just worked better than anything else on the Macintosh and was seamlessly integrated, fast, and just brain-dead simple. Well they couldn’t be more dead on in that assessment. I’ve been using Dropbox for a while now and absolutely love it. 

But the problem with the free version of Dropbox was just that I had run out of storage and needed some more room, so I went ahead and upgraded to their Pro version since I was so impressed with it. Now bear with me, I’m coming to my point soon. LOL.

The fact of the matter is that I like to learn life’s lessons and life’s marketing lessons in a lot of ways, and so as things happen to me during the day I look at it from a marketing perspective and seek to learn from it. My experience with Dropbox was exactly that type of epiphany.

Simplicity–The Most Elegant Form of Marketing

You see the epiphany that I had, was that Dropbox is just incredibly effective in their marketing because of their simplicity. First of all, they make it easy to get into the experience of their product by offering a free version that, while limited in storage space, has all the features that you could ever want.

But they don’t stop there. If you analyze their sales and marketing process, it’s very simple and yet very elegant. They encourage you to do the marketing for them with referral marketing and reward you for the referrals that you make to them by increasing your free storage space. In fact, I have a rather large set of friends and associates, and through just referral exchanges I had already maxed out the storage capacity that I was able to get for free with Dropbox. And I’ve got to tell you, for most people it’s probably adequate enough storage that they’d never even need to upgrade.

Again, you really have to look at the details of this marketing process. It’s super effective, because of the referral nature of the marketing. It’s also super affordable for them to market in this fashion and by offering a free version they draw a lot of people in to get exposed to and experience their product. They’ve really got all of this down to a science.

The Free User Dropbox Experience

For example, as a free user of Dropbox, they will send you periodic encouragements of actions that they wish you to take in order to reward you with more additional free storage space. This is an ingeniously clever marketing tactic, and one that I highly suggest you study.

So, for example, to encourage you to share their site on Facebook and twitter, they’ll give you additional free storage space to your account when you do so. Now that’s a pretty common practice in the industry so it’s nothing revolutionary, however, it is extremely effective.

Another example of this rewarding behaviors approach that they take is that they offer some free training videos to show you how to use Dropbox and how to share pictures and images and files with your friends and family. Because they know this is so integral to the referral marketing process and the viral nature of their marketing business, then highly encourage you to watch this training video and so they encourage you by rewarding with more free storage for doing so. Brilliant. In essence, they’re bribing you to participate and become a better marketer for them–it doesn’t get much smarter than that.

Very Clever Marketing Indeed

But, if you step back and think about it, it goes even beyond that. By encouraging you to use the Video and Photo benefits of Dropbox they are pushing you towards higher usage of the product which will inevitably lead you to the path of a paid subscriber because Video and Photos take up a lot of space and you’ll outgrow that “free” space allotment quickly. Smart. Very smart.

But what really shocked me today, was that they took it to a whole another level by completely surprising me and doubling my storage that I had paid for as a free bonus. Now you hear us talking about overdelivering and providing tremendous value to your customers as an ingenious marketing strategy.

We want to always know that we’ve giving you the most value that we possibly can in every product that we create. But, what impressed me about this particular marketing tactic, is that it was an unadvertised bonus and something that I was not expecting. That really raises the bar because it allows you to completely take your user by surprise and set a much higher level of satisfaction with your user base by not just over delivering on the value of your product itself, but by actually surprising them with a completely unexpected and free bonus. It’s no wonder that Dropbox is so popular online.

Lessons Learned

So I encourage you to go back and study this approach a little bit and let some of these points resonate with you. The most important one that I have taken away from this experience was the simplicity of not only their product offering but that of their marketing approach as well. Sometimes I think we spend too much effort making things more complicated than they need to be. Dropbox understands the fact that referral marketing is by far the strongest form of marketing and so they designed their entire marketing experience around how to stimulate and encourage referral marketing–again, brilliant!

More than that, however, they exceed expectations by delivering a robust, simple, and exceptionally high quality product that just works–no muss, no fuss. So this becomes a very potent one-two punch–exceptional product plus brilliant and simple marketing. They certainly have inspired me to re-examine some of our own marketing practices and look for ways that we can stimulate more referral marketing as well as focus on the simplicity of our message. I hope that you find some value in this story as well.

All of his core products have been revised, enhanced, and improved many times over the past several years. You see, rather than chasing market trends, Dropbox chose to create a market trend and create quality products that are evergreen and that they can continually improve upon and dominate his particular niche. If that isn’t a lesson in simplicity for all of us online I don’t know what is.


Okay, that’s it for my lessons of the day. LOL. I hope you enjoyed this share, because as I was so pleasantly surprised by the Dropbox upgrade, it just hit me like a ton of bricks that many of us just make marketing far too complex and we could learn a lot by the simple elegance of the way Dropbox approaches their marketing. I hope you feel the same.


  1. I am going to take this advice to heart on my pet site. Surprising people with something they can use is a great idea and so much better than just generating hype. It reminds me of the bonus coupons you sometimes get when you buy a lot of a certain product. I know the ‘extreme couponing’ crowd will know what I am talking about here guys!

    My mentor in business always told me the customer had to be number one, but she also told me to try to use my available resources to improve the business instead of constant spending. I guess Dropbox is doing both, aren’t they?

    Fabulous post!


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