THE THOUGHT OF giving away your products or services for free might seem like a form of insanity. After all, you’re in business to sell stuff not give them away!

But giving things away for nothing can generate a lot of leads and sales for your business. Free samples can boost sales by as much as 2,000%.

A survey by Harris Interactive found that nearly 90% of free gift receivers said they were “somewhat likely” to buy more frequently from an online retailer after receiving a gift.

After receiving a free gift, the next time a shopper encounters several retailers selling the same item he or she is somewhat likely to buy from the retailer who provided the free value-add.

Offering free samples, trials or giveaways is a great way to introduce your products and services to people who aren’t familiar with them. It’s also a tactic you can use with existing customers to foster loyalty and to encourage more purchases.

Your prospective customers have a need, desire or a problem and then decide to look for information about a possible solution. They consider alternative solutions, weighing up factors such as prices, availability and their own preferences. It’s easy for them to get overwhelmed by information.

But you can cut through all that ‘noise’ and encourage prospective customers to purchase by offering them a product sample at the point where they’re trying to choose the best solution to their problem, need or want.

It means prospects can sample the product without having to make a commitment. That, in turn, will make it easier for them to evaluate and understand your product or service.

There’s a psychological factor known as the ‘Rule of Reciprocity’ at play too.

Simply put, when someone does something nice for you, it creates an urge in you to do something nice in return.

It’s what happens when your business offers samples and giveaways to prospective customers. After receiving the free sample, your prospective customers feel compelled to do something nice in return such as buying a product or signing up for your service.

But this can all go wrong if you offer prospective customers too many choices of free samples. They’ll get overwhelmed to the point they won’t be able to choose. Instead, they’ll leave your website or shop.

This ‘analysis paralysis’ was demonstrated in an experiment conducted in an upmarket grocery store in California. Researchers set up a jam sampling table. In the first test, they offered 24 different jams to taste. On a different day, they displayed just six types of jam.

Shoppers who took part in the sampling were rewarded with a discount voucher to buy any jam of the same brand in the store.

Interestingly, although more shoppers stopped at the display when there were 24 jams only 3% of them went on to buy a jar of jam. But 30% of those who stopped at the table when there were only six types of jam to sample went on to buy.

Too much choice is demotivating, concluded Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford.

Offer free samples
Decide what you will offer. Will it be:

  • A discount?
  • A voucher?
  • Free shipping?
  • A free gift or sample?
  • A free product demonstration?
  • A free course?
  • A free consultation?

Before launching your giveaway programme, think about the following:

What do you want to achieve?

Who do you want to try your product or service?

How will you track and measure the programme?

How and where will you promote it?