“So I find myself at the grocery store the other day. And though this is not one of my favorite places to be, I happen to see the infamous “free sample lady”. I don’t know about you, but I’m always happy to see her. She always has some type of product (usually food) that she’s just giving away to anyone who walks by.
As consumers, we LOVE the free sample lady. The food is usually quite delicious. It’s free. And we’re welcome to take as much as we want. We can come back as many times as our little heart desires. Or at least as long as her free supply will allow us.
But as businesses, we can all learn from her. Her marketing strategy is so simple it’s actually brilliant. You see, she already knows that her product is pretty good. And she knows that as soon as we sample it we will probably like it. She also knows that in the grocery store there is a such thing as an “impulse buy” where people will sometimes buy something they had not initially planned to. But more importantly, she understands that even if we don’t buy right on the spot, we will remember her product in the future. And the next time we see it, if we’re forced to choose between buying hers and some competitor that we’ve never heard of, we’ll probably go with hers – because we’ve tried it before.
So the lesson is simple: if your product is good, give your customer a free taste. It will either make them buy right on the spot, come back for more, or at the very least, make you stand out from the competition later down the road.
Obviously the strategy works for tangible products – as the free sample lady perfectly demonstrates. But it actually works just as well for intangible products. And offering the free sample doesn’t always have to be complicated or super expensive. It just needs to be well planned.
Let’s say the “product” you offer is some type of expertise in a certain area. You offer some type of consulting that can show an organization how to solve a particular problem they may be facing. In fact your expertise may be SO good, you might even have your own book or blog on the topic. Well, the best way to let people know that you have this amazing expertise is to give them a free taste of it. Just like the free sample lady.
Find a tradeshow / conference that your customer attends on a regular basis. Contact the tradeshow about being a guest speaker at the next event. (They are always looking for valuable content in order to help make the event worth attending). Obviously make sure your speech/presentation is offering some valuable insight that these attendees can actually use. It might even be a snippet from your book/blog (if you have one). Submit yourself to be a speaker. Once you get “picked up” as a speaker, you now have hundreds of people who will be receiving your “free sample”. If it’s good, either they will come back for more, contact you to buy right on the spot, or at the very least, remember you above other competition down the road.
Find a magazine that your customer reads on a regular basis. Contact the magazine and ask if they will accept an article written by an outside person. (They are always looking for valuable content to make the publication worth reading). Obviously make sure your article is offering some valuable insight that these readers can actually use. It might even be a snippet from your book/blog (if you have one). Submit the article. Once it gets “picked up” you will now have thousands of people who will be getting your “free sample”. If it’s good, either they will come back for more, contact you to buy right on the spot, or at the very least, remember you above other competition down the road.
Repeat these steps again. And again. And again. Every time you do, some will buy right on the spot. Those that don’t buy, but keep coming back for more, will eventually crave more than a “free sample” and will want the whole meal. And those that didn’t buy but kept placing you over the competition will start to really respect your position and will begin viewing you as an “expert”. As a result, you will likely be one of the first providers they contact when their “craving” reaches a level of actual “hunger”. You will be minding your own business and they will just contact you. Right out of the blue. Ready to buy!
And no, this approach doesn’t just apply to tradeshows. It doesn’t just apply to magazines. It applies to all media channels – including radio, television, and of course the internet. Any channel that has the ability to reach your customer in large quantities has the ability to give away your free sample – in large quantities.
And if you can’t afford to use a third party channel to give away your free sample, then contact the customer directly yourself and do it. You may not reach quite as many people, but those you do reach will love it just the same.
Give your customer a small taste of what you can offer. If they like it, they will eventually come back craving the whole meal.
Keep reading. And I hope you continue to enjoy my free samples…”