Volume 44 Number 9
Creative Marketing: Taste Sampling Equals Sales Leads
Of all the marketing and promotional vehicles available to water treatment dealers, taste sampling is the one that gets a prospect’s blood pumping fastest because it appeals immediately to three of the five senses. When you combine a taste sampling experience with a thoughtful coupon offer, you have a surefire means to capture qualified sales leads and set in-home sales appointments. Whether you’re selling water filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) units, distillation equipment or delivered bottled water, taste sampling can work for you. How well sampling works, in general, was recently documented by a consumer research survey conducted for The Promotion Marketing Association (see FYI).
Targeted prospecting for leads
This proven promotional technique works best for capturing sales leads and setting home appointments. It’s not for closing sales. That will come later at the in-home appointment.
Why taste sampling works
Sampling at community events
A short list of events you may find counterparts for in your community can be seen in Table 1.
Unlike home shows, each of the sampling opportunities suggested here are non-paid events, in which a dealer only needs to provide quality drinking water and disposable sampling cups. In each case, you’ll be providing a valuable enhancement (free drinking water) to the sponsor’s event in exchange for the opportunity to develop sales leads. For more information on promoting at community events, see the March 2002 Creative Marketing
Sampling in retail stores
That doesn’t mean you can’t conduct taste samplings at other health-and-fitness retailers that don’t offer competitive water products. In the mid-1980s, I personally field-tested taste sampling promotions for Culligan in retail specialty stores while selling home RO and distillation systems on Chicago’s affluent lakefront area. These non-competing retailers included specialty vitamin stores, sports equipment stores and even a “fresh roast coffee” store. A word of caution -- tread lightly on retailers’ hospitality. You’ll need to carefully consider your approach and develop a mindset in which you and your workers must play the role of “grateful and polite guests” at the cooperating retailer. In your initial meeting with the host retailer, you’ll want to offer some thoughtful ways your company’s sampling presence will enhance their store atmosphere. Your interest in their store should not only “provide water” but also extend the retailer’s hospitality to its customers. Be sure to mention it’s your intention to see that the host gets maximum benefit from your participation and you’re open to their suggestions. Above all, always show respect for your host and the cooperative promotional opportunity extended to you.
Keep in mind these rules of success for retail sales floor sampling:
Informal taste samplings
A simple, portable sampling setup will fit in the trunk of your car. My favorite setup consisted of three plastic gallon bottles filled with RO or distilled water, two more jugs half-filled with RO ice (frozen overnight), a compact ice chest, a supply of four-ounce cups, a small serving tray and a demonstrator point-of-use faucet. The ice chest sat on top of a simple wooden kitchen stool, with room underneath for a small waste basket. A spiral bound sign-up pad was attached to a string and pen for capturing sales leads. Finally, hand-lettered signs, taped to the front of the stool, greeted passersby. Here are a couple of examples:
-- “Cold, healthy drinking water: 0 calories, 0 cents per cup”
The entire taste sampling setup described above takes up only four square feet of space, fits in the trunk of any car, and costs well under $50.
Why offer a coupon?
First sample the product, creating more interest by engaging prospects verbally. Then offer the coupon provisionally. The provision? That they give you their name, address, phone number and email address (the email marked with an * as being optional) so someone can bring over a gallon of free drinking water by appointment, at which time they’ll learn more about your products or services.
Experiment with different coupon offers, to determine what works best for you. Some possibilities include:
About the author
Table 1. Going public with water’s value
--Health fair………….Hospital or…………….Weekend
NOTE: This is not to mention county fairs, business expos, community festivals, antique shows, flea markets, etc., that may take place at public parks or fairgrounds. Keep an eye on the community calendar in your local newspaper for these and other ideas.
FYI -- Survey confirms sampling’s importance
Last year, The Promotion Marketing Association’s Sampling and Demonstration Council commissioned a consumer survey that shed new light on the way consumers respond to product sampling as a marketing technique. Here are some highlights:
-- 94% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that sampling is a risk-free way to try a product.