Walking past an Italian restaurant in a shopping centre, the owner came up to me with a round wooden board with piping hot Marguerite pizza.
“Please try a piece,” he said. I did. It was delicious. I had no intention of eating pizza, perhaps stopping for a coffee, but 20 minutes later I had a pizza in front of me and bit into my first slice.
It reminds me of when I was running a start-up in personal defence products and would get prospective customers to sample the spray themselves. I would hand them a canister and show them how to spray while standing back to prevent it catching them in the eyes. When prospective customers sampled the spray themselves, almost every one of them would buy.
Sampling is an effective sales and promotion technique that is not used nearly enough by small businesses and start-ups.
In the test-market phase, a start-up founder can use samples to check out customer response. One example, I came across recently was where a founder was sampling her home-made pesto in the deli foods section of a large life-style centre. She got enough feedback from customers and sales to increase production for other shopping centres.
Sampling works on the reciprocity principle. People tend to return a small favour. Robert Cialdini mentions the example of a supermarket who sold a 4,536 kilogram (10,000 pound) cheese in a few hours by putting out the cheese and inviting customers to cut off slivers from themselves as free samples. Many people, once they have sampled the product, feel obligated to return the favour and so they buy.
On-line sellers are big into sampling with free 30-day trials of their software products. App producers for smart-phones also use sampling heavily. Authors are giving away free chapters online.
Sometimes online sellers use a wicked sense of humour in their sampling strategy. I used an online “free” dictionary for about a year. One day out of the blue the program asked me how many international flights I had taken the past year. I entered the number two into the program. Back came the reply, “If you can afford to generate so much carbon in the atmosphere, you can pay for this program.”
Sampling can help you gauge demand for your product or service during marketing testing to see if your product will fly. If you need to give your sales an instant rush, sampling can generate excitement. Try-before-you buy is often overlooked by start-ups but can work like magic.
PS If you want to find out how to test your product before you even put it out in the marketplace, subscribe to Ideaaccelerator.co.za now and I’ll send you a tool that will show you how.