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How to Boost Your Online Business With Free Samples

When your business is just starting out or you want to break into a new market, being generous with free samples is a great strategy for building your brand recognition and capturing new business.

However, if you aren’t careful, the tactic can turn out to be a waste of time and money. That’s why you should follow the advice of these business owners who have been there, done that, and come out on top.

Target the Right People

Specifically, when it comes to more expensive products, you will go broke if you send samples out willy-nilly. Focus on influential bloggers, celebrities, and wholesale buyers who have the means to promote your products successfully.

For example, Darlene Tenes owner of CasaQ Ornaments, says she sends samples to wholesale buyers so that they “can experience the quality of the product.” She recalls one wholesaler who picked up the product, made a big order, and then said “You should have sent me a sample years ago because I can't tell how fabulous the product is by looking at a picture.”

In addition, vetting influencers is critical, says Christy Cook, owner and CEO of Teach My, who relies heavily on mom bloggers to promote her business. “I had to become very discerning because there are ‘bloggers’ and then there are ‘power bloggers.’ Now, I research the blogger’s stats and check them against my criteria,” she says.

Hitch Your Wagon to an Event

Planners of industry, celebrity events, and local or community events are always looking for swag to put in gift bags or to offer attendees for free. Just make sure you are targeting events that your customers will likely attend.

The key, however, is to capitalize on the opportunity to garner free press. Jamie Thistlethwaite, of start-up company Mous, says that including free samples of the company’s Musicase in the VIP goodie bags at this year’s London Fashion Week was well worth it because celebrities endorsed the product through social media.

He says, “If you can get a sample into an event that has a lot of social media buzz around it, do it. People love to imitate what celebrities and influencers buy, and if you get one influencer tweeting about you, it increases brand exposure, SEO, and conversion-rates.”

Take Advantage of Outgoing Orders

When you are shipping products, slip a sample or two into the package to encourage customers to try your other offerings. Erin Fry, who runs Fancy Fortune Cookies, adds samplers of assorted flavors to every shipment, along with a seasonally specific flyer and various incentives. And Tiffany Prinster, CEO of Simple Girl, makers of all-natural, sugar-free, fat-free, and gluten-free sauce, dressings, and spices, sends samples of best-sellers in each order.

Pretty Up the Packaging

If you want your product to stand out among all the other freebies that influencers receive, you need to upgrade your packaging, say the folks who created the Wiggletot. They suggest sending product samples in nice, branded gift boxes or bags with tissue paper and a card that thanks people for reviewing the product.

Get Something in Return

Hey, it’s great if people love your product, but you want -- and need -- influencers to promote your business. Otherwise, sending out samples is a waste of time and money. When bloggers and other media types request samples, offer to do so if they agree to provide you with a testimonial, review of your product, ad space, or even a social media share.

In addition, share samples with customers in exchange for email addresses or follows on social media.

Follow Up

Ultimately, all your efforts are for nothing if you simply send samples out and forget all about them. Take the time to reconnect with influencers to ask what they thought of your product and to encourage them to share it with their followers. Also, send out customer surveys to capture customer feedback and ask for reviews via social media. Whenever you receive positive feedback, share it (with permission, of course) via your marketing efforts.

Getting your product into the hands of customers and influencers is a great strategy, but only if it generates positive press or leads to new business.

Avalara Author
Jaimy Ford
Avalara Author Jaimy Ford