5 Questions About Product Sampling

You know product sampling: it’s largely what clogs the aisles when you visit Costco.

But it goes beyond that:

  • It’s the free trial of a service, before you buy
  • It’s the base price that relentlessly upsells you to premium
  • It’s the free coupon that encourages you to visit a restaurant

“Does it work?” 

Roughly 35% of customers who try a product or service will buy it.  That’s way more powerful than advertising your service or product, which has comparatively dismal response rates that are (well, you know what they are).

  • The product’s merits are no longer in doubt: it’s proven (it works/it’s delicious/it’s beautiful/it fits/etc)
  • The consumer is now pre-disposed to look for your product the next time that they’re considering a purchase in your category
  • The risk has been removed (whatever the perceived risks were, the value proposition of the purchase has been accepted: the sales process has effectively ended)
  • Roughly 80% of buyers indicate that ‘pre-buy opportunity’ was a critical decision factor in their purchase
  • Up to 65% of buyers indicate that they would buy again – indicating that the customer lifetime value of sample-accepting customers is quite high

“What should we offer as a sample?’

While that depends on what you sell, we advocate guidelines that include:

  1. Something of value that indicates that you respect your customer
  2. Something that won’t break the bank to offer (ie you can offer many samples at relatively low cost)
  3. Something that will consistently reflect highly on you at point of redemption (ie your system won’t break if too many are redeemed)
  4. Something that can be offered to highly targeted buyers

Examples include:

  • Realtors provide a ‘complimentary market assessment of your home’.
  • Renovators provide a ‘complimentary quotation’
  • Restaurants provide a coupon for a complimentary appetizer or dessert
  • Dentists provide complimentary tooth whitening for new customers

“To whom should we offer the sample?”

Obviously, that depends on your business plan, and your ideal prospect profile.  We advocate the delivery of great, high impact samples, to highly defined homes/neighbourhoods (prior to going city wide or wider).  This assures higher redemption rates and lower marketing costs.

“How should we deliver the sample?”

While there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ delivery, we advocate for being as personalized as possible.  If you can deliver your sample to the door (or directly to your prospect’s hand) – do so, it’s better than an anonymous digital ad, and better than a mailed-flyer.

“If I’m stuck for inspiration, what should I do?”

Walk the aisles at Costco, and just stand back and watch the sampling process in action.  Note the item on offer, who is offering it, the location of the sampling station, the traffic flow around the station, the take-up rate of the sample, and note the number of people who later in the store actually buy the product being sampled.

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