Free Samples

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 at 7:54 AM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 4 comments
Farmer's Market

Image from user awottawa

“It bothers me to watch the hordes at the farmer’s market, swooping in to each booth, grabbing a sample and walking away,” writes Seth Godin. In his post, he explains that it bugs him to see farmers giving away free samples at a farmer’s market. Instead of offering samples, they need to focus on building connections. Of course, building relationships leads to trust and eventually the buy. No argument there.

I’ve been guilty of picking up a sample and avoiding eye contact with the person at the booth. But I do the same thing in clothing stores. Two reasons for this. One: I want to make my own decisions without interaction. If I need help, I’ll seek it. Two: I don’t want to risk having an awkward conversation or embarrassing situation if I can’t read the person’s lips.

Example. Years ago, I was trying on clothes in a store with my mom nearby. Apparently, the sales person had been trying to talk to me while I was in the changing stall. She admitted to my mom that she thought I was a snob. We had a nice conversation, I bought a few things and I walked away with a good story.

If I I decide to buy the sampled item, then I’ll go back and grab it.

Granted, Godin could be speaking of farmer’s markets and not other situations. After all, he has given away many books. It’s true that free samples don’t work for everything. Writing and designing on spec has had plenty of controversy.  Yet, sites like 99designs thrive. These sites allow clients to post a project posting a fee for the winning design. Designers submit their entries based on the client’s requirements and cross their fingers. Imagine the time the designer invests in creating the work. If the designer’s work isn’t selected, that’s time wasted. And many do it again and again.

I’ve bought many things as a result of free samples. Some of these, I continue to buy. While 10 people may have sampled items with no plans to buy, the company turned me into a loyal customer. My regular purchases paid for the 10 little samples and then some.

Heck, I’ve even bought from companies after receiving their swag that had nothing to do with their product or service. The swag helped me remember them when I needed their services. Yes, I researched the company before hiring them. No one expects you to buy on swag alone.

Building relationships is important. No question. Still, free samples. They can be a good thing. Maybe not for farmer’s markets, but certainly for others.

What are your thoughts on samples? Spec work?

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Free Book Downloads

Monday, March 20th, 2006 at 9:09 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

More authors offer a free ebook version of their book in hopes of generating buzz. Godin’s Unleashing the IdeaVirus had 400,000 downloads in 30 days thanks to buzz. Few authors have that kind of success, but this method helps get the book out there. For a short time, Scott Allen has posted an ebook version of The Virtual Handshake for free downloading.

I remember when Cory Doctorow distributed his book, Down and Out in Magic Kingdom. He also sold paperback copies of the book at sxsw in 2002. According to Wikipedia, “This (free downloads of ebook) has not seemed to adversely affect the book’s sales; it received mostly positive reviews and sold relatively well.” He also has a couple of other science fiction books available for free under the Creative Commons license.

The Cluetrain Manifesto had better luck with sales and publicity. So does providing a free copy work or not? Looks like it’s mixed. It’s another tool in the author’s toolbag along with sending review copies to bloggers and print media reviewers.

Ahem… from the sponsor: Rhinoplasty Toronto isn’t a rhino living in Toronto.

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