If you’re struggling to get your product into the hands (or mouths) of consumers, considering a sampling campaign should be your next move. The notion of handing out free products, and maybe even a discount coupon, would seem to make a lot of sense. Everyone loves a free gift, and ideally, some of them will love the product and become loyal customers.
Unfortunately, some brands are turned off by the costs. After all, setting aside a truckload of product, transporting it, and paying staffers to distribute it is not a trivial expense. But as any good marketer knows, the cost is justifiable if the ROI is large enough.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the key considerations for any successful sampling program, whether you’re offering hot coffee to a morning rush hour crowd or sharing a sample of the latest shampoo. Smart execution leads to better results and achievement of your ROI goals!
Start with a product that makes sense for a sampling program
This may seem obvious, but there’s more than meets the eye. Not every product makes for a good free sample. Some considerations to think about…
- Size and weight - is the product easily hand-held and comfortable to carry/consume?
- Quality - is this the product you want representing your brand to make a first impression? Don’t blow your chance!
- Purpose and Benefits - What does it do? Why is it better than competing products? If this can’t be explained in the amount of time you expect to have your consumers’ attention, they might not understand why they should want or need it.
- Availability - They love it! Great! Now can they actually find one to purchase? Don’t leave it up to their Googling skills. Make sure sample recipients are aware of where the product is sold.
Make the best use of the sample packaging
- Size - This was mentioned above in relation to consumption, but let’s think in terms
of cost. Giving out a full-size product might be the most exciting option for your consumers (ask any kid who’s ever received the full-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on Halloween), but it’s typically not necessary. Halve your product cost by halving the size. Just make sure you distribute enough to make a positive impression!
- Shape - So your creative team developed a super cool new hexagonal package for your product. Great, but have you ever tried to efficiently pack hexagons in a box? Snazzy packaging might make sense for products destined for store shelves, but for samples simpler is better. Basic, flat packaging allows you to squeeze more into a box, meaning fewer boxes, and perhaps reduced shipping or storage costs.
- Easy to read - Remember what we said about explaining your product quickly? Well, this is your backup plan. If the scope of your sampling program is large enough to justify custom packaging, do so. If not, consider printing some kind of adhesive to affix to the package to enumerate the benefits for a consumer taking a quick glance. Use short phrases and large fonts!
- Minimal litter - Getting approved for sampling on city streets or at an event is typically not overly complicated. However, if those responsible for maintenance of the venue find crumpled, torn, or otherwise discarded wrappers all over the place, don’t expect to be welcomed back. Use packaging that creates minimal waste and make sure there is a place for trash nearby.
Don’t Wing it on Location
Choosing the right location for your sampling execution goes well beyond naming a market or neighborhood. Do your research - or have a partner like Moderne do it for you - and go for the best possible spot. Here are a few things to consider:
- Foot traffic - For city streets, you might be able to find research on how many passersby an intersection sees each day. If you’re familiar with the market, you may just know where the sweet spot is. At an event, your booth might work fine as a distribution point, but find out if you’re allowed to be near the entrance/exit or any other spot where all attendees won’t have any way to avoid your booth.
- Demographics - It’s not just foot traffic numbers you want to be aware of. You want to know who is passing through your sampling site. Getting your product out to the wrong audience may give you some sales, but it won’t give you the ROI you’re after.
- Permits - 34th and 7th in New York City. Good choice. Unfortunately, you can’t just show up and start handing things out, especially if you have a branded vehicle with you. You’ll need permits for your event, your parking, and depending on your product, approval from the Department of Health.
Pick your Brand Ambassadors earlier rather than later
You might be thinking that you just need to figure out the logistics of your sampling activation and you can fill in the staff at the end. Well, that’s mostly true.
Before you have an event, there’s no use in having a staff. Still, you don’t want to just throw some stuff together at the last minute. You want your staff to be prepared, enthusiastic, and excited to be a part of the program. That doesn’t tend to come together too well at the last minute. Often, we see brands decide to send their own employees out as the sampling team. With the right personalities, that may pay off, but we’ve seen it flop too.
Make Your Brand Visible
Alright, you’ve got the product ready, the staff is trained, and all systems are GO for your sampling activation. One question: do you have the right branding in place to attract and impress consumers?
- Signage - The most obvious part of any brand presence is having visible signage. From hanging banners to standing signs to sandwich boards, there should be no question about which brand is there handing out freebies.
- Uniforms - After all we’ve said about finding the right staff, why waste an opportunity to add branding to their outfits? We love seeing sampling teams in bright t-shirts, but even if that’s not your thing, spend a few extra dollars and let them advertise your brand as they move around. And make sure the clothes fit!
- Vehicle - We realize that custom-wrapping a truck might not be in the budget for a single sampling event, but if you have an extended, multi-day program, build it into your budget. A branded vehicle parked nearby your sampling team - even outside an event venue - adds a whole extra layer of visibility.
- In-store - Let’s get back to the initial idea here. You’re distributing samples so that consumers buy your product at retail, right? So, don’t forget about the second leg of the transaction. Work with local retailers to add a product display that coincides with your sampling events. This way consumers looking for your product can find it and consumers looking for something else can’t help but see the product and trigger recall from the sample they received.
Measure and Analyze
Phew, campaign’s over and it’s time to figure out if it worked. First, figure out what “worked” means. Without a firm definition of success, you won’t know if you’ve achieved it. Some possible goals and measurement opportunities include:
- Coupons - If you distributed coupons, with or without the actual product, this is an easy way to track consumer response. Use your knowledge of the average customer’s lifetime spend to determine full coupon redemption volume.
- Social - Likes, follows, shares, pins... whatever your platform, make sure you take note of your fan base before and after the campaign. And you don’t need us to tell you, but monitor the real-time response. Are they loving it? Hating it? These sentiments can tell you a lot about your present and future success.
- Local store sales/rebuys - Are your retailers suddenly looking for more products? That’s a great sign. Compare your rebuy rates in local retailers before and after the campaign and see if you’ve moved the needle.
- Post-sample survey feedback - If your sampling activation took place at an event with a registered audience or you collected consumer data, you might be able to send out a quick survey to solicit feedback. Make it quick and easy, unless you’re offering a valuable incentive.
- Unique website URL - Did your sampling event push people online or to a microsite? Check the traffic hitting that URL and break it down by days, locations, and the demographic info the top analytics platforms offer.
We hope these tips were helpful and informative. If you’d like to talk more about how a sampling program could work for your brand, reach out!