|What's A Good Free Samples Policy|
Free Sample Policy
I sell laundry bags online and get requests for free samples from time to time. Mostly from camps, cleaners, schools and churches. Usually I get a decent order from it.
Most the time I can verify the organazation via their website, the address provided or the email address has the domain name in it and I can look it up.
Recently, I had a request for sample bags but could not find the business name that was listed in the email request via google. I replied asking for a website and was told it was not completed yet. The email address used was hotmail. I'm reluctent to sent them.
I'd be interested in what others have for a "free" samples policy, if any.
I used to work for a company who would send out free samples. We insisted that companies would give us their phone number. All companies requesting samples would be called before anything was sent out. This ensured that only companies who looked likely to buy would get samples for free. It also helped the potential customer to chat with a salesperson, to see if they needed anything else.
If people *have to ask you* to get free samples, and in return you get good sized orders from that... I think it would be wise to advertise that fact, that free samples are available. It might just increase conversions by a good margin. It's kind of like 100% money back guarantees... Merchants and small business owners think that they are going to be taken advantage of, but in reality hardly anyone asks for their money back, and sales only increase.
As far as the policy goes, start with no policy at all, and if people start to abuse it, you can refine it, but don't make it difficult for the rest.
This 'we need to verify who you are', 'we don't trust you', 'documents are required' train of thought does not work at all. Trust the customer, the customer will trust you. Some will rip you off, but that is the price of doing business.
[edited by: TowerOfPower at 4:07 pm (utc) on Aug. 8, 2008]
|Some will rip you off, but that is the price of doing business. |
Tread carefully ... if you advertise free samples without setting some requirements and qualifying your prospects you're a sitting duck to get cleaned out by the coupons/freebies crowd.
I've seen it happen and it isn't pretty.
It could happen, but you could also get hit by a bus. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and work it.
[edited by: engine at 5:49 pm (utc) on Aug. 8, 2008]
[edit reason] site [/edit]
> Merchants and small business owners think that they
> are going to be taken advantage of, but in reality
> hardly anyone asks for their money back, and sales
> only increase.
You really have to qualify this statement! If this were the case, why don't all businesses offer such a guarantee?
LBSO, you are not running a charity. You are investing in that customer in hopes they will purchase a bigger order after examining the goods. I think it is reasonable policy to refuse sample requests from non-organizations and excluding free email services like hotmail, yahoo, gmail.
|It also helped the potential customer to chat with a salesperson, to see if they needed anything else. |
It's also a great point of contact the salesperson can use to follow-up afterwards and see what the potential customer thought of the free samples and help prod the person into a purchase.
We run into a variation of this every so often. We typically sell products 1 or 2 pieces at a time. We sometimes get requests for discounts on large orders. Sometimes a customer will want the first piece free or at the same discount as the volume order. What we typically do is tell them they have to pay the full amount up front for the one piece. We will then discount their bulk order by the cost of the first piece once they place the bulk order. Our items are typically higher value, though.
Alternatively, you could view it as a marketing expense just like sending out a free catalog.
> You really have to qualify this statement!
My area is in software products.
1. It has worked for myself.
2. Most of the marketing experts recommend doing this, regardless of the product/service you are selling.
3. Most successful businesses are doing this. Just look around. It does not matter if they are selling software or vitamins. They have a satisfaction or money back guarantee.
> If this were the case, why don't all businesses offer such a guarantee?
Because they are scared.
And so was I when I first started doing this. I thought people would start asking for their money back. I'd wait 30 days and the flood would come and wipe away everything I made prior. But guess what? Only a few people ever ask for a refund. And the product I'm referring to is somewhat complex and can be difficult to use unless you know the technology behind it well. In my next version I'm going to offer a 60 day trial. Why? I don't know! But everyone else that I know is making a profit is doing this. I have my reservations, but it must work better than the money back guarantee. Though at this point you better have a well rounded product that has a purpose the customer can take advantage of. I don't think this would work well for my current version.
[edited by: TowerOfPower at 6:02 pm (utc) on Aug. 8, 2008]
I know of people who make a habit of going to manufacturers' sites and requesting samples of products normally bought in bulk so that they can increase the amount of stuff they themselves use to make things. For that reason, I would not think it was weird for a company to make a phone call in order for a potential customer to get free samples. In fact, recently when I was looking for some widgets, I ordered the samples online and then got a phone call from the sales rep. It was actually helpful to me, because in that way I was able to get price estimates and lead times and other terms.
I have also known people to request free samples of expensive items from small shops like mine and others in order to just acquire stuff. These were requested for the purpose of writing a review, but in fact the individual(s) request much more than is necessary to review, like hundreds of dollars worth of widgets. Then they write a review of one or two things on some site that gets 80 visits a month. Or they will say that the samples sent were lost and they require more.
This is exactly the policy I have come to incorporate.
"LBSO, you are not running a charity. You are investing in that customer in hopes they will purchase a bigger order after examining the goods. I think it is reasonable policy to refuse sample requests from non-organizations and excluding free email services like hotmail, yahoo, gmail."
I don't think it's a big deal to find out if the business actually exists first before sending out samples. 99% of time I just google the company name, address or phone number and verify them in a few seconds.
In this case I could only find the potential customers name on a facebook page. There just seems to be too many things that don't add up but it just could be a startup. But then again he may want 100 pieces for his employees as mentioned in his email. However, I would imagine the business would be established before having 100 employees.
WE have found that free samples don't get used. When a customer pays for it - almost any amount - then they use it and decide to order more or not.
When the sample is free, it sits there and week after week our follow up call gets the same response "I haven't got around to it yet, but tomorrow...."
Our widget normally sells in the $200-400 range. Even if we only charge $50-100 it gets tried. Free? gets dusty.
|> If this were the case, why don't all businesses offer such a guarantee? |
Because they are scared.
i'm not sure that offering a money back guarantee is the same as a free sample, infact it is totally different, or maybe i have misunderstood your post
[in the uk, you are obliged by law to refund the price of a mail order (distance order) product for any reason if the customer doesn't want it]
Well just for those that are following this thread - here is the update.
After not being able to find the customers business name, address, website, phone number listed anywhere. Normally the reply email address has the domain in so it's a 5 second check. In this case it was a public email address suchas gmail or yahoo.
I emailed him indicating we only ship samples to verfied businesses ie. those with a web site, business address etc..
He replied that his web site was not finished. A day later he emailed me his domain name. A whois indicated he registered it that same day. Which at least told me he was serious.
Things suddenly got busy and I needed the samples for paying customers as it was a brand new style bag (30x40" with strap) just addded and supplies were limited.
I had to wait until the next shipment arrived from the vendor before I could send samples. He couldn't wait I guess and ordered 50 bags anyway.
buckworks is 100% correct, I would charge a flat $4.95 for the shipping fee to avoid all the freebie hunters. They can tear you a new one! We once did free samples, free shipping on them and got 200,000 requests in a week, then we tried charging $1... not enough still too many requests... $2 still too many... $4.95 BOOM number dropped sharply and conversion rate went up drastically. find your magic number!
----He couldn't wait I guess and ordered 50 bags anyway.
Congratulations to you!