How to take a strategic approach to sampling

Advertisements, direct mail and digital marketing are well understood marketing strategies that help to create awareness for your brand.  When executed appropriately, these strategies help you create emotional, one-to-one connections and form deeper relationships with consumers. While these strategies are effective, there is still a need for consumers to experience the benefits of your products and services.

Sampling is a proven marketing strategy that many consumer packaged goods (CPG) marketers use to accomplish this. Think of the samples you’ve received as you’re walking by the food court at the mall or shopping in-store. Costco, for example,  is known for their samples and  the Costco team promotes that in-store product demonstration has the highest sales lift and helps to drive customer loyalty. Sampling allows your customers or prospective customers to try your product before making a commitment. The low-risk associated with sampling can encourage consumers to try your product when they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Still, developing a sampling strategy requires a lot of planning and understanding of consumer behavior. There are specific incentives that drive change. For example, 41% of consumers switch brands because of price while 26% change because of quality (Nielsen). Understanding the incentives that drive change for your target audience is essential to executing a successful sampling strategy.  Getting your product into the hands of consumers enables them to experience firsthand the quality your brand has to offer. And by including a promotional discount with the sample you can directly influence two incentives that drive change.

Your approach to sampling should be a methodical process – similar to how you would execute your advertising or digital marketing campaigns. Start by asking yourself who should I target? In my recent article: Royalty treatment for top tier customers drives loyalty, I reviewed how brands can ensure they select the right target audience. Propensity models are also important to help to predict consumers’ brand and shopping preferences, refine target audiences and, in turn, maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns.