Rebuttal: Free Samples

Marketing Ideas Free Samples

In response to Seth Godin’s “Free Samples” post, May 11, 2012:

marketing ideas ebook divider

Free samples

It bothers me to watch the hordes at the farmer’s market, swooping in to each booth, grabbing a sample and walking away. The thin slices of handmade rye bread, or the perfect strawberries or the little glasses of juice—all of them disappear into the hands of people who have no intention of buying.

Sure, someone stops and buys now and then, which is why the farmers keep offering the samples. To them, it’s merely a cost of doing business, a relatively inexpensive way to keep prospective customers coming. I’m not sure I could do it—the people afraid to look me in the eye, all that slinking around, and most of all, the profits walking out the door, over and over again. Enough thin slices makes a loaf.

This is vexing, even to someone who merely makes ideas. Watching people sneak endless tastes with no intention of making a purchase—sometimes I gasp at the audacity.

The distinction in the digital world is profound. In the digital world, the more free samples you give away, the better you do. The miserly mindset that afflicts the merchant watching inventory walk out the door at the market is counterproductive in the digital world. That’s because more free samples cost you nothing.

The scarce resources in the connection revolution are connection, attention and trust, not molecules, atoms or strawberries.

marketing ideas ebook divider

Free Sample Double-Take

While I see great value in most of Seth Godin’s marketing ideas, I will respectfully cry foul on this one. I would have placed this comment on his blog, however—at the time of this writing—Mr. Godin has turned the commenting feature off. Curious, for someone who reports engagement is a primary vehicle for building a trusting, loyal following?

People are People

Though I agree things may be different in the digital world, I would also say the contrast is not so stark. People are people, no matter where we draw the lines on a map, and no matter whether that map is of the real or digital world. In fact, free samples probably work just as well in the flesh; they simply exhibit different properties.

Let’s Compare

Yes, your reach is broader online. You can reach anyone with a computer and an Internet connection (so long as they can find you.) This means greater volume, greater exposure, and—hopefully—greater opportunity for sales. It also means greater exposure to vultures and trolls. In the digital world, your free samples can be snapped up by people who never read them, or worse, repackage them as their own. C’est la vi.

Marketing Ideas Free SampleIn the real world, free samples also entice—same as their online counterparts. Accepting a free sample in the real world carries less anonymity, however. In a crowded farmer’s market, you can’t use a fictitious name or a junk email address to grab that succulent sample; you or your minions (maybe you send in your child, eh?) must get close enough to the purveyor to risk being greeted. As a shop owner, immediately your connection is stronger and your ability to engage the potential customer (face-to-face) is dramatically increased.

The same time and effort that went into crafting that piece of digital brilliance may also be the same time and effort that went into crafting that bread. Sure, digital assets can be downloaded and reproduced over and over. It’s the “do it once, replicate over and over” model. Yet, while many of us don’t need the latest, greatest marketing book, we all need to eat. Now we’re moving into differences in product selection, which has precious little to do with whether free samples work in the real world (which they do.)

Example: Used car dealerships employ a variation of the free sample concept all the time. Have you ever test-driven a car but needed to get buy-in from your spouse or parents before signing your life away? Has the salesperson ever told you to take the car home overnight to get a feeling for it? That’s known as the “puppy dog close” and it works wonderfully. The “free sample” is in the chance to try the vehicle on, wear it and show it off. The dealership is banking (literally) on you becoming emotionally bonded with the vehicle. The more connection you feel to that vehicle, the more likely you will adopt it and the sizable loan or lease that accompanies it.

Afterglow

Maybe Mr. Godin was simply searching for something to critique so he could segue into his final point about connection, attention and trust. He obviously must understand the ancient, time-proven concept of free samples, even though he finds himself “vexed” and “gasping” at the “audacity” of it all.

What about you? Do you believe free samples work? Have you used them in your own business? Have they compelled you to buy more yourself?

marketing ideas ebook divider

Reference

Godin, S. Free Samples. Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/05/free-samples.html on 05/11/2012.

Marketing Idea #43: Tips to Make Your Grand Opening Successful

Marketing Ideas Grand Opening

To make your grand opening successful:

  • schedule it during high-traffic times (if your location allows for it),
  • throw a big grand opening sale,
  • offer food (make this appropriate to the clientele you are seeking),
  • provide a tent for seating outside,
  • send a direct or email mailing the local market,
  • offer demonstrations of products or services, and
  • invite all local business owners, press, and the local chamber of commerce for the ribbon-cutting.

Variation: Already been in business a while? Find anything to celebrate! Maybe you throw a party over being in business so many years. Or maybe you had a recent birth in the family. Or maybe you want to celebrate a key vendor or client. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate. Pick one and show people a great time.

Marketing Idea #104: Host a Field Trip

Marketing Ideas Field Trip

A great way to gain exposure and provide entertainment is to provide public tours of your facility. This is especially powerful for agriculture, arts and history, manufacturing; essentially, any place where something is grown, created or built. Try not to schedule such an event around any deadlines or busy periods you might have. Take your time with the tour to ensure your captive audience remains engaged and make sure to tailor your presentation to your audience. A class of first-graders may be more interested in learning how apple cider is made than watching giant steel presses shape red-hot bars into orthopedic implements.

Or, then again, maybe not..

Marketing Idea #87: Demonstrations Work

Marketing Ideas Demonstrations Work

Many a cheap diaper has been bought because of commercials showing it can hold the contents of an entire water balloon. Whether at trade shows or in your TV ads or videos, demonstrations prove your products work. This is why those late-night infomercials are so successful. Even brochures can illustrate a step-by-step series of images that prove success.

What can you do to illustrate your product in action?

Marketing Idea #53: Start a Sidewalk Sale

Marketing Ideas Sidewalk Sales

Just because you provide a service instead of a product, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate in sidewalk sales. Use sidewalk sales to:

  • Get to know your neighborhood and its foot traffic.
  • Educate the public on what you do.
  • Survey the public for what they want. Get suggestions and ideas from people on what they need and how you may best provide it.
  • Conduct free demonstrations of your product or service.

Tip: Don’t worry if you don’t have a sidewalk. Find out when the next big local sidewalk sale is, and work out an arrangement with one of the participating vendors (one that compliments your own offerings would be preferred) to share its space.