Why giving away free samples can boost your sales

A woman sitting at a desk with a laptop and a cup of coffee.

One of the most effective ways to gain new customers is to give your product away. For free. Now while that might seem counter-intuitive, giving away your product can actually be more beneficial to your bottom line than discounting.

I want to share the benefits of giving away your product, how you do it effectively and the story of how a free product sample took this copywriter from uninterested shopper to loyal fan.

I recently attended a networking breakfast and it was a bit of a big deal with hundreds of businesswomen in attendance. At each seat, there was a goodie bag and the bag was jammed with free product samples and flyers.

One of the products was a moisturiser. Not just a sachet either, the regular sized product. Now I have a great range of skin products that I love so I wasn’t in the “purchase zone” at all but who doesn’t love a freebie? I decided to try it and after using the product for 6 weeks or so, I was a convert. I loved it and searched online for ways to buy it. And I bet that a hefty percentage of women in that room did exactly the same thing.

You want your target market to TRY your product so they will BUY your product. Your free sample works to increase the incentive to buy while you reduce the perceived riskIt’s a no lose situation for the buyer that just might turn into a big win for you.

Benefits of giving away free product samples

  • Increase brand awareness by getting in front of buyers who might never have heard of you
  • Increase potential for conversion,  with a trial hopefully turning ambivalence into loyalty
  • Increase traffic with access stages such as like our page, come in store, call our, etc
  • Build your list especially if you require some engagement as part of the process
  • Boost your reputation as a subject matter or industry expert

Effective ways to give away free product samples

  • Include your free sample in a goodie bag or hand it out at an event
  • Offer your free product as a bonus, given away with a complementary* product
  • Offer your free product as a reward for a particular action, like subscribing to your newsletter or visiting your store
  • Target your efforts by sending your free sample to key influencers in your target market and asking them to try it out

* So really you’re giving your product away complimentary with a complementary product. Confused? Check this post for an explanation.

Deciding on whether you should give away free product samples is a numbers game and you have to be confident you’ll get the return on your investment.

The key to getting a return on your investment is making sure:

  • Your free product sample matches your audience or the product/process you are complementing. This might seem obvious but it’s VERY important to make sure your target market is in the audience.
  • You include enough of your product to be useful. You want low cost but don’t be a scrooge.
  • The recipient knows how to use your product. Include instructions if it’s not obvious.
  • Make the next step easy with a special offer or instructions on where to buy.

Don’t have a physical product? Then give away a free consultation or analysis, or go digital with an ebook, video or interview that shows off your skills. Be imaginative with your offer and make sure you hit the high value/relatively low-cost end of the spectrum.

Remember, a free product sample is like a preview to the main show. When you target your product well it could just get you a swag of customers you could never have reached.

So now it’s over to you. Have you given away a sample of some description and did it work for you? Are you anti-giveaway? Feel free to have a rant and tell me why.

The Copy Detective

12 Responses

  1. I used to give a free session of business coaching when I started out, this was great as it doubled as a screening session for both the client and I! I got fantastic results from these sessions and at the end it was usually very clear whether we would work together well. I think a free sample is a great way to start a relationship.

    1. Thanks for commenting Serena and I think your story is a fantastic example of how “giving away” your services can yield just as high a return. When you do this it’s also important to create a sense of value and I think that’s the key – that the person getting the freebie considers it to be a high value exchange.

  2. That’s a really good article with lot of insights. Also, I was wondering about the numbers. So, what would be the conversion rate? As in if a company spends some amount in giving free samples, how much will it boost the sales for the company in percentage?

    1. Hi Kanishk, I think it would come down to the product and the manner in which the samples were delivered.

      Well targeted samples will always be more effective however if you’ve got the budget, giving them out to large numbers at an event could just work in your favour. But again, only if a decent percentage of the audience is likely to consider you anyway.

  3. Great post, Belinda – I totally agree with you. It’s a great way to boost your sales. As you said, there’s no risk (or cost) attached to the transaction for the buyer and it might turn out to be highly beneficial for you as well. Win-win.

    1. Thanks Sam. It can be tough to overcome the idea of giving stuff away – even content, which has just as much value as a physical product – but that generosity pays dividends.

      Thanks for commenting!

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