Product sampling makes a lot of intuitive sense: you believe in your product, so providing small amounts of it for free to potential customers is a great way to get them to believe in it, too!
In practice, however, there are many more elements at play than simply handing out your product. Product sampling sessions require a careful balance between service skills and salesmanship, making sure that customers come away from the experience interested in your brand rather than simply enjoying the short-term buzz of getting their hands on something for free.
With that in mind, let's explore two product sampling plans that went from strategy to execution with great success:
Trader Joe's Marketing Expenses Center on Product Sampling
The increasingly ubiquitous Trader Joe's has not only embraced product sampling, but made it the focal point of the bulk of their marketing budget.
This may come as a surprise that Trader Joe's considers this to be such a crucial marketing element, when so many grocery chains already provide samples of their products on a regular basis.
The difference is in the execution. With marketing solely focused on sampling, they track how investment in a given product's free samples correlates with subsequent sales.
This practice of connecting sampling with their marketing budget also gives them room to experiment. Unlike the traditional grocery store sampling station, which often has perishable or overstocked items that management deems customers need encouragement to buy, Trader Joe's often has portions of their most interesting and even expensive products on sale.
And because product sampling is such a cornerstone of their marketing team, the staff involved with handing out samples are often masters of the art of turning samples into sales by providing the perfect blend of service and succinct, casual sales talk that naturally encourages people to go beyond the free bit they just enjoyed.
Trader Joe's is an interesting case study in how product sampling is more than freebies: it can be tuned and finessed into becoming a primary driver of growth for a major franchise.
How Mike's Hard Lemonade Uses Samples to Target Millennials
Mike's Hard Lemonade is one of the few in the alcoholic beverage space to see their fortunes drastically grow in the face of a notably flat sales atmosphere. Their strategy? Completely overhauling the tone of their marketing to a humorous, emotion-driven angle that targets younger male millennials, with a unique product sampling strategy to match.
The strategy combines the lighthearted end of the bizarre humor millennials are known for with an emotional appeal to a simple, broad concept: happiness.
The product sampling comes in with the "Happy Camper" prong of their brand strategy. The Mike's Hard Lemonade camper is a striking, bright yellow vehicle that appears in targeted hotspots throughout the country.
The staff used for these tours is fully trained in the larger brand strategy, providing a seamless connection with traditional TV and social media pushes that all work together to bring the same message home.
How to Apply These Strategies to Other Brands
The commonality between these two major examples is clear: the differentiation factor is that the samples themselves are only a small part of the overall product sampling strategy.
Trader Joe's considers sampling to be a marketing expense and behaves accordingly. They don't simply view sampling as a last resort to move struggling items, or even a strategy for simply increasing foot traffic with the allure of free food and drinks. They choose exciting products, inspiring existing customers to spend more on products they hadn't considered, right then and there. They integrate sampling as part of their brand identity. And they train employees in the art of casually selling, rather than aggressively pushing for converting samples to sales.
The Happy Campers appear in highly targeted areas, staffed by event professionals trained in key talking points and service approaches. This is not aimless sampling with a loose goal for general brand awareness, but a complex strategy meticulously designed to convert samplings into new customers. And again, the final key is in event staff: these are not generic service personnel, but people trained in providing a comfortable, brand-forward environment to best leverage the needs of their target demographic.
Not everyone is in the position to completely overhaul their staffing and training practices. In fact, even some of the largest corporations work with firms squarely focused on event services and product sampling marketing strategies.
Don't hesitate to contact us at Sonas Marketing to learn more about collaborating to create a customer-generating product sampling event for your product.