It’s no secret: People like free stuff.
In fact, people love freebies so much that they’re willing to exchange time and effort for them — even when the reward is relatively small.
That’s why providing free samples or a free trial is such a powerful tool for reaching new customers. First, it puts your brand in the spotlight. Plus, the instant gratification of a tasty snack or taking home something useful without paying for it ignites psychological triggers, which help drive purchasing intent.
Free gifts can even push people to sign up for a service or participate in an event. According to EventTrack 2014, 83 percent of the consumers surveyed said free samples were motivators for their participation — a 15 percent increase from 2013. And for those who actually bought something at an event, sampling the product or seeing a live demonstration influenced their decision to purchase the item.
For a relatively small up-front cost, going the freebie route can generate brand awareness and ultimately help you become consumers’ brand of choice.
The Power of Reciprocity
Samples not only prompt participation, but also sway consumers to change their buying behaviors over the long run. Often, consumers reach for the same brands simply out of habit. By providing a free sample, consumers can try your product with no risk, decide if they like it, and replace their old purchase habit with your product.
For brands trying to convert shoppers, reciprocity can be a compelling tool. The concept of reciprocity taps into people’s hard-wired impulses to do something nice for those who have done something nice for them. In a retail environment, prospects would be much more inclined to purchase from a brand that helped them “win” a free sample.
Giving can incite brand awareness, sales and, ultimately, loyalty, but how and where you give are also critical factors in reaching new audiences and converting them into lifelong customers. Here are a few ideas for sharing the best of your business with potential customers:
1. Position your brand as the “in” crowd. When providing on-premise sampling, you want others to see you as part of the “in” crowd, which you can easily create through a flash sample experience. Have a group of fun people run into a retail location, make some noise, offer free swag and leave (likely to the next retail engagement). This generates excitement in the moment and stirs a psychological desire in the audience to become part of that “in” crowd.
2. Take your sampling to the streets. If you’re in business, you already know the people who make up your market — so go out and find them. Take the best of your company to where they live, play and work. Since your street team will meet consumers in unexpected places (e.g., anywhere outside of the grocery store), your brand will naturally stand out.
With our Red Baron pizza-sampling program, we targeted consumers on their way home. We handed out frozen pizzas to parents waiting to pick up their children from school. In some locations, we also had hot, ready-to-eat pizzas to offer before they got their free samples to take home. Bringing your brand to consumers in their natural environment is a refreshing yet memorable way to stay top of mind.
3. Organize a mobile vehicle tour. Vehicle tours are intended to build an experience where you show the product in the best light possible and engage consumers over a period of time. If done correctly, your presentation will convince consumers they’ve already made up their minds to purchase before they even sample your product. The sample simply closes the deal.
Char-Broil organizes a tour where representatives barbecue as they introduce people to the experience and benefits of its products. Building the anticipation and singing the praises of Char-Broil makes the finished food taste even better from a psychological standpoint, further ingraining the need for one of the brand's grills. By controlling the environment and message presentation, Char-Broil “samples” its entire experience and drives more sales.
By offering free samples, you create a win-win for your brand and consumers. You generate brand awareness among new customers and have the chance to convert them into long-term buyers. Meanwhile, consumers get introduced to a new product without any risk.
Pick the right opportunity to sample, and don’t hesitate to give away your goods. Consumers will flood to the brand that helped them out first. By capitalizing on the power of reciprocity, you could be that brand.
Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., a provider of field marketing services.