Steps for Launching a Successful "Free Sample" Promotion

Steps for Launching a Successful "Free Sample" Promotion

By: Marcia Duffyphoto

The best way to entice new customers to buy your product is for them to try it first - for free. But offering free samples takes more than simply giving something away for nothing.

It takes good planning before, during and after the free sampling if you want to reap the full potential of this kind of promotion. After all, if you're giving away your product you will want - and should expect - some kind of return on investment, i.e., more customers and more profits.

Here are steps to creating a successful free sample promotion:

1. Decide on the Freebie

There are three criteria for a good giveaway:

• Keep the cost low. "It has to be a reasonable marketing expense," says Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant/copywriter and author of six marketing books including Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World and owner of FrugalMarketing.com.
• But not too low. Don't offer stuff that has so little value that it's a "throwaway."
• Make it attractive to the sampling audience. Enough for them to want to purchase the full priced product.

"Food and beverage artisans, of course meet all three criteria, but plenty of non-food artisans can do so as well," says Horowitz. For instance, someone who works in textile arts could give out doll blankets, a metalworker could do single spoons and encourage people to buy a complete cutlery set, suggests Horowitz.

2. Don't Call it "Free" but "Complimentary"

Each promotion needs to be tailored to each artisan type, adds Colleen Leader, owner of Loose Thread Stitchers (http://www.loosethreadstitchers.com/), a marketing and public relations firm for the needlework industry.

"[The giveaway] needs to be something that enhances their brand while not taking away from their current business stream and it needs to [labeled] 'complimentary' not a 'free sample,'" says Leader.

The reason is that "free" means a product that has little or no value - even if it has taken the artisan many hours to create the giveaway.

One of Leader's clients, Just Another Button Company, which sells handmade clay buttons that are used a embellishments to needlework designs, gave away "complimentary" needlework design samples that would showcase the company's buttons.

"The designs are 'complimentary' but the consumer pays for the buttons," says Leader. "They give away something of perceived value that creates a demand for their product...now that's a great promotion!" says Leader.

3. Do Face-to-Face Giveaways

Leader says the business owner - or a trained salesperson - be the one to hand out the complimentary samples. "You are your own best salesperson," says Leader. Leaving the giveaways with marketing material or product information is the second best thing; worst is leaving the giveaway alone in a basket at a show for passersby to help themselves.

"Don't let the sample speak for itself," agrees Debbie Gokhan, vice president and COO of Oil & Vinegar (http://www.oilandvinegarusa.com/), an upscale culinary specialty shop with international and U.S. franchise operations, which frequently promote their product with samples with salespeople at the ready to answer questions.

"Someone needs to be there to explain the product...if the customer hears the whole story the product becomes more interesting and chances are you can sell them the full product," she says.

4. Work the Giveaway to Your Advantage

These giveaways are not just passive advertisements of your business, but must require a little bit of "work" for the receiver, says Larry Bennett, a professor of entrepreneurial practice at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University www.whitman.syr.edu/eee.

Items that are consumable are often forgotten once the wrapper is gone. A way around this is to make sure that the receiver has to do something to get more benefits. For example, a free food sample might be accompanies by a request to sign up for email coupons.

"If, however, your free food sample was to try and directly sell your product(s) at that moment/event, you would not want to create this kind of a barrier," says Bennett.

Giveaways for higher cost items can require that the customer go to your Web site, for example, and sign up for a newsletter, with the full customer contact information.

For example, if you are an oil painter and you wanted to provide interested customers with either a downloadable screensaver (or a CD) containing images of your works you might request information, in advance.

"This helps to identify customers that are shoppers and not "lookers" or freebie packrats," says Bennett.

5. Include Your Contact Information & Follow Up

Don't forget to include your contact information with your complimentary sample.

"I would go one step further and make it include a call to action," says Leader. This could include, for example, a request for a phone call for more information, a mail in card for coupons, or written URL to a web page with a "limited time offer."

"If someone is taking a complimentary sample they are interested in your products, services or offerings," says Leader. Don't drop the ball, but continue to move the recipient through the sales cycle. Create a plan of action (or a marketing plan) to move a consumer from complimentary sample to an actual product sale.

"The [giveaway] promotion is the beginning of the relationship not the end," she says.

___________________

MARCIA DUFFY Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Dealing with Customers

photoDealing with Customers
By: Cynthia Bull

Whether your business involves direct or indirect customer contact, a product or a service, a brick-and-mortar or virtual office, good customer relationships remain a cornerstone of business. To become successful, customers not only must buy your products and services, they must also recommend your company to their friends and associates, who, in turn, also become profitable customers; meaning, they continue to buy from you.

Providing customers with quality products and services drives the economy, but other aspects of customer relationships also contribute to a successful business. Customer satisfaction is subjective and, therefore, isn't always a reliable tool for measuring the success of a business. The personalities of business owners and product/service providers play a key role in how customers perceive their transactions and whether or not they recommend your company.

Essentially, customers become advocates for your business, which involves trust between the buyer and the seller. Simply stated, customer advocacy is the interaction between a business and its patrons that promotes the extension (or growth) of business using various approaches, such as word-of-mouth, promotional materials, polls and surveys, and other strategies.

A recent blog entry (Oct. 13, 2009,http://blogs.oracle.com/) cites Paul Greenberg, one of the world's leading authorities on Customer Relationship Management and author of CRM at the Speed of Light. Mr. Greenburg suggests asking four key questions to measure customer advocacy:

1. Would you (the customer) recommend this company to someone you know?

2. Did you (the customer) recommend this company to someone you know?

3. Did they become a customer?

4. Are they a profitable customer?

In a progressive, action-driven relationship between management and customer, management frequently offers an incentive for customer referrals, often with little or no additional business cost. While a satisfied customer may be your best advertisement, satisfied customers who are rewarded for their referrals tend to be return customers, without question.

Consider the effects of customer service slogans and mission statements on the relationship between business and customers in these two Fortune 500 companies, Allstate Insurance and Office Max:

• Allstate: "You're in good hands." "To be the best...serving our customers by providing peace of mind and enriching their quality of life through our partnership in the management of the risks they face."

• Office Max: "A relentless focus on you." "Every company can claim to be a leader. We earn the distinction from those who matter most: our customers. By partnering with our customers, understanding their needs and exceeding their goals, they succeed and so do we."

Phrases like "serving our customers" and "partnering with our customers" suggest a strong focus on meeting the needs of customers. A business with a frontline statement of the relationship it wants with its customers is simply good business.

Inspiring customer service quotes from noted business leaders contain excellent guidelines for good customer relationship management that apply anytime. Consider comments from Henry Ford (1863-1947, Ford Motor Company Founder), Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005, well-known economist and business strategist), Sam Walton (1919-1992, Wal-Mart Founder), Bill Gates (Microsoft Co-Founder and one of the world's most generous philanthropists), and Jim Rohn (business philosopher and coach, motivational speaker).

• Henry Ford: "It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages."

• Peter F. Drucker: "The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer."

• Sam Walton: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

• Bill Gates: "You need to know about customer feedback that says things should be better."

• Jim Rohn: "One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising."

And remember these basic Customer Service Tips:

1. Welcome customers with a warm and sincere greeting.

2. Remain attentive to and focused on meeting the customer's goals.

3. Always thank a customer for choosing your product or service.

4. Stand behind your guarantee.

5. Maintain good customer communications after a transaction.

Whether you're a Fortune 500 company, a mom-and-pop business, or a one-person show, how you deal with customers can either push your reputation and your profits forward or put you in File 13 of their Rolodex. Dealing with customers in a direct, respectful and knowledgeable way and doing your job well is good customer relationship management and creates lasting business customer relationships.

_______________________


CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

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