What is free sample marketing?
Free sample marketing is the act of giving products or services away to prospective customers for free. It is especially effective in the health, beauty, food, and drink industries. While inc.com concedes that these industries really are the ones that cash in as a result of giving away freebies, inc says that giveaways work for any retailer.
Giving out free samples to the target market is a way to gain a lot of customers quickly because you effectively get your product or service into the hands of just the people who are most likely to want what you are selling. People will try something new if it doesn’t cost them any money. And, of course, the psychology of giveaways includes the obligation that consumers feel when they have been given something.
Prospects may tell others about what they got for free. Sometimes they share the product or show it to other people who then also buy the item and spread the word. Getting free stuff makes people feel valued and happy with you. Many repeat customers are created.
Sure, you will have people who just take the sample from you and move on. More often than not, though, you will gain many customers for each item of value you give away. A sudden influx of cash into any new business is always a good thing.
Benefits of Giving Free Samples
People these days use brick and mortar stores to browse. Then they make their purchases online. In-store giveaways often make people feel obligated to the person who gave them the freebie, which encourages in-store purchases. Of course, some customers will just be more convinced to buy that thing online, as intended.
Whatever your scenario is, many benefits can come from sample marketing. According to copywritematters.com and breezepeople.com, product giveaways:
- Create brand awareness
- Build trust in a brand
- Create business relationships
- Foster customer loyalty
- Boost the business’ reputation
- Introduce new products (and maybe their other products)
Raise awareness of upcoming campaigns and offers
- Build an email list of individuals in the business’ target market or otherwise enable the business to find the niche/target market
- Create a buzz and word of mouth among customers
- Increase traffic to the company website
- Increase website subscriptions
- Increase conversions to sales
Along with all of those benefits, one must consider the giveaway’s cost. There is always an investment of either time or money. According to VSS Communications Industry Forecast, marketers spent $2.2 billion on sample marketing in 2009.
Some samples cost the marketer every time they reach out, while other types of giveaways allow the businesses to get away with just an initial investment. It depends on the nature of what is being sold.
For instance, online writers may make time investments, giving up a day or two to create a free literary masterpiece for every editor they hope to write for in the future. Much upfront cash is spent whenever food and drink handouts are distributed by paid employees.
Digital giveaways, on the other hand, don’t cost anything except a one-time investment. For instance, once online marketers have their free giveaway e-book and the other components of their email campaign written, their businesses gain customers daily and profit, pretty much on autopilot.
Do free samples increase sales?
In a word, yes. Sample giveaways do increase sales, which is why sample marketing is still done today.
Sales conversions for some markets reach as high as 90%. Word of mouth and brand loyalty kick in following giveaways, creating revenue spikes and launching businesses.
In one 2017 Bringham Young University study, researchers measured the sales and other benefits that various grocery stores and coffee shop chains experienced as a result of giving away free samples to consumers.
They discovered that giveaways:
- Make the in-store shopping experience enjoyable or beneficial
- Give an immediate spike in sales during the giveaway and the next week
- Continue to improve sales up to eight weeks afterward
- Cause many more people to adopt the product if customers are repeatedly exposed to the same item
- Expand sales for the product’s category
- Are twice as effective as discounts or product rearrangements
- Benefit small stores more than big stores
How to Use Samples to Promote Your Product
There are some key points that you need to remember to make your giveaways effective. You need to:
- Give an adequate amount of the product away to be of use to the consumer.
- Make sure they know how to use it. Include instructions if needed.
- Make sure they know where they can purchase the product.
- Make sure you give your samples away to your target market. That means you must go to where your target market congregates, whether that is in a physical place or an online community.
How and where you promote your product or service through giveaways depends on what your product or service is. Obviously, you want to give your samples out to people who would be more likely than others to purchase what you have to sell.
You see people in grocery stores or flea markets giving out bites of food to shoppers. If you are a woman, you may receive cosmetics or similar items in tiny trial size packaging in goodie bags you receive at an event. Some women’s magazines have full-page advertisements with samples of a particular perfume’s scent within a type of glue, right there on the paper. Some samples are mailed directly to prospective buyers. Some business-to-business (B2B) online writers and other marketers will give a free service sample or data away when attempting to start a business relationship.
Samples are sometimes loaned to prospective customers. Carpet and countertop samples are examples, where remodelers want to visualize the product before they buy it and install it. These samples are too valuable to give away, but they enable high-ticket purchases to follow and they make the customer happy with his purchase.
Online marketers give away a free e-book or some other desirable digital product in exchange for the prospect’s email address which the marketer later sends content and advertisements to. This is an extremely cheap kind of giveaway that makes your prospects self-identify. Many email subscribers become customers, which is why they say “the money is in the list.”
Freebie websites have emerged, which aggregate promotional freebies in one place. Sometimes consumers must refer a friend or fill out a survey to receive the item.
At the very least, both of these types of online marketers get valuable information before giving their “free” product or service away.
Unscrupulous online marketers give away samples that have a form of trickery attached to them. They give a one-month free trial of their online service, but they make prospects give them their credit card number and agree to monthly charges the moment the free trial period is up. Prospects are assured they can cancel the subscription, and that is usually true.
However, this works for the marketers because of human nature. People forget to cancel the subscription and end up paying for at least one month for the service. These subscriptions are often monthly double-digit expenditures.
Most free samples leave a warm and fuzzy feeling within the prospect’s heart, but these paid subscription-related free sample offers often bring regret and resentment when the prospect had no intention of continuing the subscription.
Some samples are not given away, but are sold in trial size packaging. You see toiletries such as shampoo sold that way. They are practical for traveling with.
Hotels and motels provide customers with trial size soaps and things with the hotel/motel’s name on them. The customer essentially pays for them when he rents the room. They often bring these advertorial items home or give them away.
In summary, when it comes to giving out free samples to prospects, today’s marketers:
- Pay people to prepare and hand out samples such as food directly to prospects
- Include samples within other items, such as perfume scents in magazines
- Include samples in goodie bags at target market events
- Mail samples to prospective buyers’ homes
- Pitch writing services to editors through initial free articles
- Loan out expensive samples, such as pieces of carpet and countertop material
- Give a free online product out, such as an e-book, in exchange for the prospect’s email address and agreement to receive emails that contain both content and advertisements
- Join a freebie site that requires prospects to fill out a survey or give up a friend’s email address before they receive the free sample
- Give a one-month free trial to an online service if the customer gives their credit card information and agrees to monthly billing for the service after the trial period is up
- Sell trial size samples outright – not free, but nearly free
- Market their brand through giving away small useful items related to the business’ service the customer paid money for – things like small packaged hotel soap and shampoo