Will a Product Trial Work for You?

Sampling and free trials are a marketing programs staple, especially for consumables.  The hope is that you’ll like whatever it is enough to come back and buy it.  Free samples are also wonderful when you’ve done something so different that it is hard to describe or get people to understand the difference between what you have and the ordinary product.

I occasionally participate in BzzAgent programs to try new products and pass on the word.  Recently, even though I wear lipstick infrequently, I tried Covergirl Lip Perfection lipstick (which made me vow to abandon all other lipsticks.)  I was also part of a trial for the Flip Ultra HD video camera.  I loved the “slip into my pocket” size and the amazing quality footage out of what felt/looked like a toy.  (Note: BzzAgent programs like the one for the Flip are not “usual” sampling programs as I am unlikely to go out and buy another video camera but I am likely to recommend it….sadly, if you can continue to buy them.)

I’ve also sampled the wares at Trader Joe’s and purchased whatever they are cooking at the samples counter.  If you have kids, it is a wonderful way to see if the food is acceptable to the small food critic in the house.

I’ve also had the experience of using a free trial of a software product that is so difficult to use that everyone on my team has abandoned it (and gone searching for alternatives.)

In April, one of the Mass Innovation Nights featured products was a toothbrush – a “revolutionary” toothbrush made with nano-silver.  Mouthwatchers offered our 300+ attendees each a new toothbrush.  Like everyone else I took one (who doesn’t need a new toothbrush.)  It spent several days sitting on my desk – I had just replaced my toothbrush at home, and, hey, how different could a toothbrush be, right?  We’ve all become inured to marketing promises.  Even other marketers.  (Or, especially other marketers.)

Let the games begin.  It isn’t unusual for me to meet people locally and for them to rave about the last Mass Innovation Nights they attended.  It’s awfully nice and people are awfully kind.  It’s wonderful to hear about the connections they made, the cool products they saw, or, in the case of the April event, how much they enjoyed the new location (co-hosted by VideoLink and Continuum in their funky chic space in West Newton.)

But I was also hearing about everyone’s toothbrush and dental hygiene.  This person had had a toothache that disappeared once he used the Mouthwatchers brush.  Another retrieved the packaging from the garbage to show his dentist.  Another loved it so much; he worked it into his customer newsletter.  And everyone raved.  And promised that they would be visiting Whole Foods from now on to get their toothbrushes, or ordering them online.  While it is hard to see the antibacterial benefits, the “mouth feel” from brushing with the Mouthwatchers toothbrush was easy to recognize.  The disappearance of a toothache (one that hadn’t responded to dentist visits and the application of various remedies), also remarkable.  This is a product that does very very well in a sampling program.

How will your product do in a sample program?  Here are just a few questions to ask:

  1. Are the benefits immediately obvious?
  2. Is the product better, faster, stronger than a similar product?  And will people know this right away? (If the answer is “no” you need to figure out how to keep them using the product until the benefits become obvious.)
  3. Will your customer know how to use the product immediately?
  4. Will your customer tell others about the product and rave about it?
  5. Is the product one that will need to be replaced regularly?
  6. Will a sampling program break the bank in your marketing budget?
  7. Can you easily get product in the hands of qualified customers?  (The right customers.)