Local Store Marketing: Product Sampling

By: John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.

If you feed them, they will come….

One of the most successful local store marketing (LSM) tactics to build into your daily operations is a sampling strategy for your products.  If your retail establishment is foodservice, your customers will want to taste the product.

The goal for your retail store is to market your unique product offering by taking it to your best prospects.  Day in and day out, your local business community should be reminded that the fantastic products you offer are less than a few blocks away.  By investing less than an hour per day, you can solidify your brand in the minds of your core customers.

Flyers and coupons only go so far–customers want to know if your product will work for them.  Finding an ideal product that you can use for your store to sample to potential customers may be the difference whether you attract them to your store or not.  This is particularly the case if your products are food.  Tasting your products is a critical deciding factor more so than a coupon.  Nonetheless, even if you are not in the food business, you need to find a unique product that you can sample.  If you have established group sales programs, participate in fundraisers, and get involved in sports sponsorships, all of these relationships should involve product samples.  Developing a sampling strategy for your unique products helps elevate your store to the next level in the eyes of potential customers and is a terrific way to win them over.

Every morning, create 20 product samples.  Wrap each sample with a flyer for your store and based on a predetermined distribution route (map out your trade area), send a clean-cut and articulate employee to local businesses handing out samples/flyers to employees.  Tout the product in addition to delivery services, if applicable. In the case of food, it is an extremely rare occasion that will someone will turn down food—so this gives you an inviting door opener to any establishment. In addition, you can leave a slew of menus for all to use when the samples are depleted.

Identify Your Key Proprietary Product: Pick out your product “winner” and bring it to life!  Sample a product that not only represents your brand but delineates your brand from competition. A product sampling strategy creates a purchasing routine for your customers and helps undermine even the biggest advertising budgets of your competitors.  Ensure that you leave behind a bounce-back coupon or offer to drive customers to your store.  This is the perfect LSM strategy for restaurants.

Systematically Map And Plan Your Sampling: Map out your trade area in quadrants—dividing it into four sections—and post the week’s sampling territory on the wall.  That way, everyone knows precisely where the sampling will take place and enables you to track sales from the respective quadrant for the week.  Once all of the quadrants have been provided samples, have your employees repeat the process.

Best Foot Forward: When executing a product sampling strategy, it is crucial that you select employees who best represent your store, are clean-cut, and well-dressed in uniforms (if applicable).  Have them work their way through your three-mile trade area over six weeks until they hit all of the local businesses.  In addition, it is essential that you provide your employees strong direction, ensure quality representation of your products and that you monitor sales.

Provide Direction And Monitor: Dividing your trade area into quarters, you should plan on making your way through the entire territory in one month to six weeks.  Once complete, repeat the process.  Every sample should be handed out and a business card gathered–if sampling to a company–to verify that samples were delivered. Also, be sure to add all business cards into your customer database.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat:  Once completed, do it again!

John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries.  With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.

 

  • Greg Ehrlich, Convevo Partners

    Great advice on block marketing and sampling John! Thanks for sharing.

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