by Matt Weik
I feel like talking about product samples is a great discussion topic that we could probably discuss all day. Personally, I see a solid argument from both the consumer and manufacturer side. The final question I want to ponder is the motivations for providing samples and what you want to get from them (yes, there is more than one thing that you can get out of providing product samples).
The cost of a trial
First and foremost, product samples are fantastic for getting into the hands of consumers trying out a new product, as many of them appreciate the fact that you allow them to try something before they spend more than $ 50 on a product and don’t like to find out. But you also run the risk that some people just want freebies and don’t care about your product or brand. You might consider distributing samples for pre-launch feedback (beta testing) or to spark consumer interest. However, this is usually a double-edged sword.
When you start supplying samples, consumers expect there will always be samples. You essentially train them to wait for samples every time a new product is launched. While this may be a brand’s strategy, it is definitely an expensive one (especially if you’re rehearsing at trade shows like the Arnold Classic or the Olympia). Sampling doesn’t come cheap, and if you don’t have a real way of measuring your ROI, just keep your fingers crossed that they’ll add to sales.
Providing product samples at trade shows is a stupid idea
There will be a lot of people who will be mad at me for saying this, but in my opinion it’s 100% the truth. Going to exhibitions all you see is a ton of people walking around trying to get as many samples as possible. This can either be used for personal consumption or give the people who want to sell the product samples online.
The people who want to get as many samples as possible don’t care what they get or from whom, nor do they pay attention to the product when they try it. You pour the sample into a shake bottle or eat the protein bar, throw away the packaging and completely forget what it was or by whom. It’s a total waste of money and you don’t have anything to show for it.
Also, taking samples at trade shows does not give you good feedback from your consumers as they walk from booth to booth in a hurry and get everything in sight. Manufacturers don’t get a chance to sit down and get actual feedback from the product samples that people are trying out. So what’s the point?
When tons of samples are handed out at large trade shows, many brands tend to see a slight drop in sales in the next 1-2 months after the show. This is because everyone uses the samples that have been given to them. Retailers also get injured during this person as not that many people shop and instead use up their freebie stash.
Why not get something out of product samples right away?
I have a much better idea of how to handle product samples. I have two examples below.
Some brands don’t believe in demos. I personally find them useful when used in the right setting. Getting a demo at a supplement store or gym are the two best options. And when I talk about product samples, I don’t mean giving away a sample to take away. You want consumers to try the product right in front of your eyes.
And PLEASE do not try any products that the gym or dietary supplement store does not have. There’s nothing worse than spending the time, money, and effort testing products in one place and not being able to point at the product on the shelf for people to shop.
But with the demos, you want consumers to try the product before you do. It gives you the opportunity to explain the product, have it tested, and get feedback on their likes and dislikes. It’s also much more personable than a trade show where thousands of people rush by to get samples without even hearing a “hello” from them as they go by.
2. Website forms
This option will take a little more effort from the brand, but you can also get more information that a brand can use to convert into sales and re-target. An online form with product samples has its advantages.
For starters, website forms collect information and data that you can use. Look at this gold. Have people fill in their name, address, and email address on the form. The piece of email is crucial. Why? Because that is your most valuable possession in the heap. Once you have their email address you can include them on your newsletter or email list (just make sure you state in the form in fine print that they will receive emails if they sign up for the register free product samples).
After you’ve shipped the samples, you can automate a follow-up where you can send them a survey to give you their opinion on the samples. But more importantly, you can now email them information about the brand or products to drive traffic to your website and convert sales. The most important thing you want is their attention.
Free is NEVER free
As they say, nothing in life is free. Samples cost money, and distributing samples to consumers should take them five minutes of their time to provide feedback (or send their email so brands can put it in their funnel).
So while I’m on the side of product samples, the most important thing is to use them to your advantage and not just give them away to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who walks by. And under no circumstances should you give out full product samples at trade shows, as you will never get a return on your investment – NEVER.
It is YOUR money that you would be wasting if you didn’t have a strategy or plan for your sample program. The whole “trial” of a product is great, but know what you want to get out of the program.