Product sampling marketing campaigns provide immediate value. They also have a long-lasting impact on sales compared to other sales promotion techniques. You can track the value of this type of campaign for a year or longer. Compare that to a coupon campaign that you can track for only two to four months.

Sampling gives consumers the chance to experience the product quality firsthand. They do not have to rely on your sales pitch or marketing to find out about the product. They can discover it on their own, which provides a more powerful impression.

Product sampling may be the most effective sales promotion technique to get a consumer to try a new product. However, it is also one of the most expensive. Producing sample sized product and paying for the sample distribution process adds up fast. This means you have to plan your sampling campaign carefully to get the most from it.

Developing your plan requires paying attention to certain aspects of the campaign. These include identifying your objective, customer, and sampling techniques. Plus, you have to figure out your approach and how you will monitor the campaign. First, though, you need to make sure that you are prepared to launch such a campaign.

Are You Ready to Begin the Campaign?

Sampling works best for a new or improved product. It allows you to introduce the product and get feedback from consumers quickly. The technique is also effective when introducing a different use for an established product or to reach new geographic areas.

Before you begin a campaign, you have to make sure your target market has adequate access to your product. You may need to takes steps to push it to the areas where you will run the campaign. You must ensure there is enough product for the demand that will occur after your sampling event. If you are reaching the right consumer, they will seek your product out and be turned off if it is not immediately available to purchase. So, make sure distribution channels are ready.

The Importance of Psychographics

Identifying the ideal customer and the best way to deliver your sample are important first steps in deciding your sampling approach. The term psychographics is used to identify the demographic group that buys a product and the things that influence their behavior to make them want a product. You need to figure this out.

Looking into the potential consumer’s conscience and unconscious reasons for using your product can help you to identify the best sampling channels, locations, or venues. This will give you the optimum environment and most solid message for your sample delivery.

When sourcing sampling companies or agencies for your campaign, provide them with the psychographic profiles of your target consumer segments. This will assist them in recommending a strategy for your campaign.

Product Sampling Techniques

Sample delivery methods include special events, in-store or near store distribution, newspaper or magazine inserts, and direct mail.

Example of on package product sampling

Example of on package product sampling

Samples may also come as on-pack promotions, such as a sample of toothpaste fastened to a mouthwash brand, or as near-pack promotions, such as the free sample of laundry detergent that comes with a new washing machine purchase.

Sample distribution through a related industry partner is also effective and cost-efficient. Recently, I received a free sample of a new moisturizing cream from the receptionist at the dermatologist office along with a coupon for repurchase. This is a great example of getting the product into the hands of a consumer who has a need and is in the frame of mind to appreciate its value.

Focusing on the Target

The expense of getting your product into the hands of your ideal customer is something you can greatly control through your choice of distribution method. For example, hiring a team of people to hand deliver a sample at a special event will be more expensive than delivering the sample in a direct mail campaign. You still need to choose the distribution method carefully, not just considering the cost. It also depends on the type of product and the consumer psychographics.

Direct mail is among the most efficient ways to deliver a free sample  Establishing metrics for direct mail campaigns allow you to test demographic lists, their response to the different marketing copy, and the results of subsequent direct mail or other promotional offers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, event or special venue sampling is expensive, but the impact you can make with your presentation offsets the cost. Reaching your target at a ski resort, a festival, a conference, or any other venue that ties into your brand’s image, creates a positive brand association that impacts future purchase and word-of-mouth advertising.

Smart marketers have also been using the influence of social media. Identifying target customers who are social media influencers and providing them with product samples to experience is a great way to organically grow. You only have to give out a handful of samples, but the marketing effects are wide-reaching.

Analytics and Technology

Marketing analytics is important to measure the effects of your product sampling campaign. Through using consumer data and sales data together can help you to define your customer and determine why they purchase your product, which is helpful information moving forward.

New technologies are being launched that track the consumer who receives the product sample and overlays the sales and demographic data immediately. An example is the Freeosk product sampling kiosks, which are in over 600 Sam’s Club stores. Consumers simply scan their membership card to receive their free sample. Immediately, the Sam’s Club marketing team knows who received the sample and can track their purchases over time.

Product sampling apps are a growing trend. Consumers offer their demographic profile when they sign into the app. Campaigns target a specific consumer segment, and measurement focuses on the samples received.  You then have access to the data to reach out to the consumer and/or track purchase action.

Start Your Campaign

Now that you have a good idea about the various things you need to do to prepare for a product sampling campaign, you are ready to get started. You should be able to put together an event that will help your business grow. Taking the time to plan out your campaign before getting started is going to be the most beneficial thing you could do to ensure success.

Kevin Danaher

Kevin’s career spans over 30 years where he worked for New York Sales Promotion and Advertising agencies such as Ventura Associates, and BBDO developing promotional campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands including VISA, General Electric, Kraft/General Foods, Fidelity Investments, and Chrysler. Read More