“Sampling” Can Be One of Your Most Powerful Marketing Tools

Sampling can be one of your most powerful marketing tools, but hardly anyone does it. John Dwyer explains why this should not be case for your business.

I was buying some bread rolls at the local Bakers Delight bakery this week and was surprised to be offered a sample of a new “Tiger Bread” product by the sales assistant. While taking my money for the packet of bread rolls I was purchasing, the young lady asked, “Would you like a complimentary sample bag of some slices of our brand-new Tiger Bread product?” — to which, of course, I replied, “Thank you.”

The reason I’m making a big deal at what may appear to be a simple “sampling exercise” is that hardly any business does this. Yet, “sampling” is one of the most powerful marketing tactics any business can implement. 

Movie studios have been doing it for years with their “teaser trailers”, where they give you a taste for the full-length movie by providing snippets that give you a pretty good idea of what to expect in the full movie. Food manufacturers have been using the technique for decades. Without such “taste testing”, most consumers would never likely consider swapping from the brand they are currently loyal to.

Remember, we are all “creatures of habit”, and with over 3,000 advertising messages hitting us every day, the “sampling” of an alternative product can often be the “clutter-buster technique” that cuts through. Providing a prospect with a no-risk, no-cost opportunity to break away from “the norm” just might be the “cut-through” you have been looking for.


How Can You Provide “Sampling” of Your Product or Service

In my own case, because I’m in the business of “selling advice and information”, I provide sampling through free videos, free reports, free E-books and blogs. Anybody in the information/advisory” industry would be mad not to demonstrate their skills by doing the same.
The idea is to provide one’s target audience with a “taste” of one’s wizardry, increasing the likelihood that a prospect will consider using one’s services or products thereafter.

When was the last time you saw a fish shop handing out free calamari samples at lunch or dinnertime? I bet the answer is “never”. Whereas if I owned a fish shop, I would have attractively attired hostesses on the pavement in front of my store handling out samples every single day, and I would be promoting that I have “the best calamari in the world, so I want you to have a complimentary taste.” 

Likewise, if I owned a coffee shop, I would be handing out small “shot glasses” of coffee to passersby.

Some years back, it was not unusual to see hair product companies providing complimentary sachets of free shampoo via women’s magazines and shopping centre hostesses. Must confess I have not seen many lately.

Cosmetic companies are experts at it. You only have to walk through an up-market department store like David Jones, Macy’s or Myer, and you will see that the cosmetic firms are very cognisant of the “value of sampling”. Women are invited to take a seat and experience a quick “makeover” from just about every cosmetic company, and of course, we all know about the “sample spray bottles” of perfumes and aftershaves that are on the counter for all to enjoy.

Why, on earth, do 95% of businesses ignore this powerful marketing tool?

Imagine if a window cleaner walked the main street of a retail shopping strip and, upon entering each store, offered a complimentary “one panel window clean?” I bet he would get a “yes” from every shop owner, and after making one panel of the shop front window look unbelievable, do you think he would be in a better position to close a sale for the rest of the windows? You betcha!

You will see on occasions (very rare occasion) in supermarkets representatives of food suppliers providing samples. I realise the supermarket chains may have restrictions on how many “samplers” they allow in store.

Nonetheless, you still do not see many of these sampling exercises in the retail sector, and it just amazes me, because “food” is absolutely built for the marketing horsepower of sampling. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, this “food sampling” exercise was common some years back but not so often now.

Other forms of sampling are “events”.

In my own case, I do Wow Factor marketing seminars in Australia and internationally, with these events clearly being a vehicle for me to showcase my marketing programs to business owners. My target audience is very clear — business owners. All of the marketing of my events is targeted at “business owners”, and my shorter events are designed to provide a taste test of the “Client Attraction Marketing Formula” that I provide businesses. The idea is to provide attendees of my events with enough “sampling” of my skills and programs to entice them to consider coming to one of my longer events or investing in my coaching program.

Guess what? This system works. If I were to try to sell my skills without showing case studies or giving examples, I may as well be whistling dixie.

When I hold a short seminar, I normally get between 100 and 200 businesses in the room. keep in mind I’m making one presentation to multiple prospects at the same time, so this has to be ridiculously more cost-effective than visiting each of the attendees’ businesses.

The great thing is that the seminar registrants are prepared to sit and listen to my stories, theories and solutions for 90 minutes, sometimes half a day and, on occasions, a full day. Imagine how much shoe leather I would wear out if I wanted to give the same presentation to
a hundred businesses individually one-on-one.

Therefore, my “sampling” is based around volume. Think of something like this that could work for your product or services. You may not hold a seminar, but you may consider holding an “expo” for your product or services. There are many expos happening right around the nation every week, the likes of
• Home and lifestyle expo
• Gardening expo
• Travel expo
• Jewellery expo
• Pet expo
• Food and wine expo
• Relaxation expo
• SEXPO (no need to explain this one, I’m sure)
• Motor vehicle expo
• Boat and marine expo

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the drift. 

The point I’m making is that there are major events for just about every subject you can think of, so why not consider holding an expo, cocktail party or luncheon yourself and provide “sampling” of your product or services at the event?

You know when you go to one of these expos, you walk away with a gazillion “samples” from exhibitors. Whilst your “expo” may not be in a large convention centre, the same principle applies. You may decide to hold a relatively boutique evening cocktail function for prospects, but the same principle applies. Let them sample your environment and therefore get a “taste” for what they can enjoy if they spend more time with you and your product or services.

When mapping out the marketing plan for your business, do not forget to include this very important strategy, because it can deliver “cut-through” like nothing else.