Think like a drug dealer
First of all, I can’t take full credit for this analogy. I first heard it from the book Rework, by the founders of 37 Signals. The idea is to think like a drug dealer and give out small samples of your product. If you have an amazing product the consumers will come back with money in hand.
Ever since the start of Bearded Brothers we have given out tiny samples of our bars. This saves us the cost of handing out full sized bars, and we still get people to sample our products. Sampling is the best way to gain new customers. This is evident by the spike in sales we get when we do a product demo. While in some cases a store might only sell four cases of energy bars in a month, but during a demo they will sell 4 cases in a three-hour period. Those same customers are likely to come back and buy the product again, and increase the monthly sales to 6 cases per month. It may not seem like much on a small scale, but multiply that by hundred of locations and you have quite the impact.
Sponsoring events is another great way to get people to try your product. For Bearded Brothers our primary target market are athletes. So providing samples for race packets, and handing out samples on race day is a great way for us to get our product in front of our target audience.
We are selective about where we give out samples though. We are not likely to give samples to an event in Wyoming where we don’t have any locations to purchase the product. It’s important that the consumer be able to buy your product in the store. Sure, we live in the day of online sales, but when you have a small business you have to be selective about how much free stuff you give out, thus the reason why it’s important to tie in your donated product to an area you have an established retail presence.
I have also found that sponsoring events in an area where we did not have a presence did not generate any online sales for us, even though we included an awesome coupon code. Most people are impulse buyers when it comes to trying new products. They are more likely to use that coupon code if a friend forwarded them an email, or if they saw a Facebook or Twitter post. People are not likely to take a coupon code home and use it. It’s just the facts.
Event sponsorships are great for brand awareness. Going on four years now we have been sponsoring 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell in Arkansas. This brings in climbers from all over the country. We provide coupon codes in all the participant packets (but will not do so again this year) but have not had a single one redeemed. Yet we have people coming up to our booth each year and telling us how much they love our product, and that they eat our bars all the time. This tells us we have built brand awareness with them, and that they are buying the product locally, rather than online.
This concept works with any type of business, even if you don’t have a tangible product. People providing services such as consulting or career coaching can provide free advice in the form of high quality blog posts with truly valuable content, free e-books, or podcasts. The most important thing is, to get people to try your product or service, it helps you earn their trust and makes them feel better about spending their hard earned money on YOU.
My final installment will be on, “Building and army.” How you can leverage Twitter to help spread the word about your brand.