Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gain More Customers by Offering Free Product Samples

Recently I came across a product I wanted to try before I buy. So I contacted the sales rep and she explained the products, its ingredients, and so forth. She informed me the company doesn’t offer samples however any purchase I make from the website comes with a 30-day, no hassle, money back guarantee. Fair enough I said. But I was thinking: is it that much work to assemble the samples yourself? When it comes to general products like personal care and household products, people are already using another product that's probably working just fine for them. So if you want to redirect someone's spending and gain new customers, offer people free samples of your products, especially to a prospect that asked you for it!

It wasn't that I was unwilling to spend the $20 on the product. It was more about making sure I can use the product without experiencing an allergic reaction. And truthfully, I'm not the type to return a product. It's inconvenient to package it up, drive to the post office, and pay for returning the product. Unless the return is super easy like Netflix or paid by the company like Zappos or Sephora, the product ends up in my trash.

But more importantly, the moral of the story is that I kinda felt like I was given the brush off. Maybe she was an inexperienced sales rep. Or maybe it was her company’s protocol in how they handle sample requests. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help thinking, I was a hot prospect who just turned cold. The truth is it’s not even about the actual samples but the way the situation was handled. Product samples are a dime in a dozen and I could easily get free samples elsewhere.

Most companies are eager to let potential customers try before they buy because it’s an effective form of gaining a new customer. If you make a purchase at Sephora, a beauty online store, you get to choose several free samples of your choice. Email marketing services like Aweber and Constant Contact offer free trials up to 60 days because they know it’s easier to attract new customers with this offer.

Now, I’m not saying I haven’t made an online purchase without trying samples first or unwilling to. The moral of the story is that when you have someone contacting you with an interest to try your products, not only do you have a hot prospect, but you have a qualified prospect. This is especially an important lesson for direct sellers because the lifeblood of your business is generating leads. Experienced direct sellers know that one of the most effective forms of recruitment is to recruit their best customers into their business so you always start with having a satisfied customer first.

If the situation were reversed, I’d take the time to assemble the products, even if my company doesn’t have ready-made samples. The upside is huge and I’m not even thinking about the one time sale of a $20 order. I’m talking about the potential to build a long-term relationship with my customer.

Why do suppose a company like Zappos spends little money on advertisements? Because the majority of its business comes from their repeat, satisfied customers. Happy customers are more likely to make future purchases and they tell people they know. Zappos is all about customer service- it’s a customer driven company that happens to sell shoes, is the way Tony Hsieh puts it.

Regardless of what product you’re selling- a $20 vitamins or a $40 skin care product, understand that what people want most besides a quality product is to know their time and business is being valued and appreciated. Even if your company doesn’t have ready made samples available, make them up yourself. Do your best to get and retain customers by giving them an opportunity to try before they buy. It's one of the most effective ways to gain new customers!

Have you had a similar experience? Leave your comments or questions in the Comment section.


LearnHowToMakeBows said...

Great idea! I always offer a free trial for my online products too!

Also, I'm wondering if you would be interested in participating in my Mom Blogger Contest for $100 Cash prize during the month of April?

The details are here http://www.misstutu.com/mom-blogger-contest.html

Thanks for considering! I think your readers will really enjoy this contest too!

Janette Stoll said...

Hi Jenni!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, offering samples is incredibly effective at converting a looky-lou into a customer.