One of the most popular and effective marketing techniques at your disposal is sampling. If you have ever test driven a new car, tried a spray of perfume at the cosmetics counter, or tasted a bite-sized freebie of the latest Italian ice flavor, you’ve experienced sampling.
Why Sampling Works
There are several reasons why product sampling is such an effective marketing technique. It creates familiarity and trust, and alleviates any uncertainty the customer may feel. Product sampling also gives shoppers an outlet to try out products or brands that they may not have known about, or wouldn’t have thought about buying in the first place.
Marketing research shows that over 50% of the time consumers will try a new product if a free sample is offered. The food and beverage industry spends nearly $1 billion dollars on sampling each year alone. But it’s not just for the “big boys.” Small businesses can use free trials, demonstrations, and sampling to generate immediate sales. Even when a purchase is not made on the spot, using these sampling strategies can increase brand awareness for possible future purchase.
Free Trials: Try Before You Buy
Free trials allow people to use a product risk-free before buying. Software companies, fitness clubs, and many health and beauty products such as teeth whiteners and skin care programs frequently offer 30-day free trials. Netflix, the popular DVD service by mail, completely built their business by offering a highly addictive 2-week free trial.
Before you write a free trial offer, here are a few things you should consider:
- How long should the trial last? 24 hours? 30 days? You’ll need to think about what time frame works best for your product or service. Give consumers enough time to try out the product, without impacting your bottom line.
- What to offer in the free trial? Do you offer 100% of your product, or just a portion of the package?
- Should you collect payment information before giving a free trial? There are several schools of thought on this. Some research suggests people will walk away if they’re asked for their credit card number before gaining access to a free trial. Other research shows high conversion rates from free trial to purchase when taking the credit card number in advance of the free trial period.
Demonstrations: Show Them They Can’t Live Without It
Love them or hate them, door-to-door Kirby vacuum cleaner sales reps are masters of the in-home demo. By using scripted and specific demonstration techniques, Kirby salesmen typically close 1 out of every 3 sales. By the way, these vacuums cost around $1200. They’re not exactly a typical impulse purchase, and most Kirby buyers haven’t even thought about buying one before the sales rep rings their doorbell.
That’s the beauty of demonstration marketing. The demonstration method is a good way to introduce customers to your product in an informal way, with hopes of getting them to make a purchase immediately. Coupons, discounts, or free samples are often given as a part of the demonstration.
Home demonstrations are quite the rage, and are especially popular with women. Once upon a time, the at-home party was limited to Tupperware and Mary Kay cosmetics. Not so any longer. Home furnishings, clothing, jewelry, accessories, kitchen items, and even pet products are now popular items being bought and sold with the home-demo method.
Free Samples: Give A Little, Sell A Lot
The supermarket sample-station is one of the oldest marketing techniques in the book. Give the shopper a free taste, and they’ll reward you by purchasing a box or two of your product. Even better, they might just purchase your product or brand for many years to come.
Free samples are an easy way to garner more product exposure. Want to entice a potential consumer and get them thinking and talking about your product? Give them a free sample. Your samples may require some cost to you, but even still, samples are still one of the best and cheapest ways to market many products and services.
Free samples are especially popular in the food and beverage industry. Every year, Ice Cream giant Ben and Jerry’s offers a free cone day where they reward old and new customers alike with a free ice cream cone of any kind. In 2009, restaurant chain Denny’s offered a “Free Grand Slam Breakfast Day” – on this particular day lines were literally wrapped around the building at every Denny’s in America.
Creative business owners will tell you that free samples aren’t just limited to the food industry. Service-oriented businesses are also finding success by offering free samples. Here are a few ways businesses use freebies to attract sales:
- Spa owners give away free “mini” treatments
- Massage therapists offer 10-minute chair massages at a community event or function
- Professional consultants such as attorneys or tax preparers offer free 30-minute phone consultations
- Amazon.com offers a free chapter sample for most of its Kindle edition books
- Salons give samples of expensive hair products when getting a cut/color.
The Bottom Line
We all know it; people love to get stuff free. Put that fondness for freebies to work for your business. Think about how you might offer samples of your product or service. Odds are, you’ll be pleased and your wallet will be fatter.