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Marketing Tactics

4 Creative Ways To Use Free Samples To Grow Your Business

All you coupon clipping customers out there know exactly what that means.

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As a consumer, I’m a big fan of free samples. (And who isn’t?) I love getting stuff for free, trying new stuff risk-free. Costco is a favourite store of mine for this reason.

And, again for this same reason, as an entrepreneur I’ve been collecting creative strategies for using free samples in my business. You might want to try them, too.

In particular, small businesses can learn a lot about free samples from the world of SaaS (software as a service).

Online software services have a variety of pricing models, but most of them offer something along the following lines:

  • A one-month free trial
  • Data for one domain at no cost
  • A sign-up for the basic plan for free.

Most SaaS companies know that people hesitate about signing up for a new service.  But, offering a free trial means you can see what the service is like, with no risk. SaaS companies also understand that somebody already using their service for free is more likely to upgrade to a paid subscription than is a total stranger.

Here are four creative ways to turn free samples into bigger profits, whether yours is a SaaS business or not.

1. Free samples as part of your branding

natures-path-cereals-logo

This week, I am the proud owner of two huge boxes of Nature’s Path cereals, thanks to a taste test last week at Costco. Already, the brand is one of my favourites. I even found a flavour my wife and daughter would like, and discovered that I pay less at Costco than at my local store. That free sample probably sold me dozens of boxes of cereal over the months to come.

What is also amazing about Costco is how it has made free samples part of its broader marketing plan. There are times when we’ve gone to Costco just because our stomachs were getting grumpy and there was free food to sample while we shopped.

Even if the store had not sold me cereal this week, free samples are a form of in-store entertainment. Costco has probably sold us hundreds of dollars of various products, just by pulling us into the store for the samples.

Another example? The Cora breakfast/lunch chain offers people a free sip of mango smoothie while they wait to be seated and a free “sucre à la crème” while they pay (my kids love that part!). I wonder if some people go to Cora just for the freebies – or maybe even subconsciously.

2. Free samples as a customer bonus

recreate-yourself-logo

My Australian friend found that she gets free samples when she orders her hair products. Recreate You sends “2 Free samples with every order.”

To the consumer, it’s a nice bonus gift.  It’s like getting more than you paid for. For the company, it’s a way to expand the number of products it sells to each customer.

Taking a page out of the SaaS handbook, once consumers use even a sample of a product, they are more likely to buy it than if they have to pay for a whole bottle just to try it. If each customer ends up buying one new product as a result of the free samples, the company has just doubled the value of each customer.

3. Free samples to kick-start a new business

Every start-up knows how hard it is to make waves in this era of information overload. Offering free samples is one way to get people to stop and take note.

If I was to open a restaurant, I would have someone standing outside the door offering a free sample of one of the signature dishes to everyone who walked by, along with a business card or take-out menu or whatever publicity I had.

Bar a bar called Louie did something similar, creating enough buzz that people came out just to try its free cucumber martinis.  They created so much buzz that people were talking about it in social media for days.

4. Free samples to sponsor an event

thecolorrun-south-africa

People build an affinity for events in which they participate. When my daughter and I ran The Color Run this summer, we trained for a couple of months.  When it was over, we took home souvenirs.

Sponsoring events is great branding, because you connect with your audience members where they are emotionally invested.  So, what a great place to offer free samples: The official sponsors of The Color Run were Fruit2O and Sally Hansen. Specifically, Fruit2O offered free drinks for hydration, which I certainly appreciated. And we saved a couple of the little cups; we still use them.

Sally Hansen, meanwhile, left an array of nail polish colors sitting out on tables for runners to try, post-run.  I declined. But my daughter had fun plastering her nails with the samples.

Similarly, Artic Ease used a similar strategy at the run. Its cold wraps are designed to ease pain after an injury, but they work just as well on sore muscles after a really good workout. Although we had just run three miles that day, consider that marathoners run 26 miles.

Imagine how sore their muscles are when they reach the finish line; imagine how grateful they are when someone provides relief!

In fact, Arctic East shipped 80,000 samples to the Chicago and Philadelphia Marathons. How many runners went on to buy them at full price later, to use for training for their next run?

Free samples are a versatile marketing tool.  Here are those four ways listed to leverage them:

  • Part of your branding
  • A customer bonus
  • A kick-start for a new business
  • Sponsorship of an event

There are many ways to leverage free samples to boost your business. You can probably think of more.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

David Leonhardt runs THGM Writing Services, a freelance writing agency that helps clients write books, articles, blogs, press releases, screenplays and speeches. He has authored his own books and ghostwritten books for others. His background is in media relations and public affairs, before becoming an entrepreneur. He is a people-oriented writer, focusing on topics related to small business, personal finance, communications, lifestyle and healthy living.

Marketing Tactics

Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget

Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.

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As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.

First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.

For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.

Related: 5 Ways To Market Your Business On A Limited Budget

3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter

Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)

1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns

It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.

2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly

(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.

Related: 4 Unique Marketing Ideas For SMEs On A Budget

3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe

Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.

Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.

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Marketing Tactics

Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?

How do you market your company to this generation?

Stuart Scanlon

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According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.

They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.

So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?

1. By being transparent

Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.

Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs

Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.

Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.

2. By offering options

A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.

That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.

3. By being forward thinking

We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.

On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.

1. By being transparent

As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.

2. By offering options

Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.

Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.

Related: The Z Generation

3. By being forward thinking

They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.

The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.

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Marketing Tactics

Free Sample Marketing Plan Template

You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.

Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.

Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template

Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:

Download Our Free Marketing Plan Template Here.

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Recommended Marketing Reads: 


Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

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