I get asked a lot if sending out samples to potential retailers is a good idea…to which I always reply, YES!!!
If you can afford to do it (and you can), I am a big advocate of sending out product samples for potential retailers to try. The expense of doing so may seem costly, but you have to weigh out the pros and cons for your own business budget to see if it makes sense for you. When I send out samples, I am chalking it up to advertising and promotions, so it is a healthy expense, as opposed to just charting it as waste, or even giveaways.
If you are going to send out product samples, keep these things in mind…
First and foremost, send full size bars.
Depending on the retail outlet you have targeted to give samples to, I highly advise giving them the full monty…don’t cut them a sliver of soap for one person at the store to try…don’t let their very first impression of your business be a small sliver of soap folded up in a glassine or plastic bag. Retailers buy branding and packaging more than the actual product anyways. You know you make the best soap, but they will actually want to visualize how your soap will look on their shelves and how their customers will react to your packaging and branding.
Instead, deliver for them the full experience. Give them a full bar of soap, wrapped and/or packaged (and fully labeled) in all of its glory. This way, if the lucky recipient needs a second opinion, or even approval from a higher-up, they can split up the bar into two or three pieces.
Not to mention, the longer he/she uses the bar of soap at their home, the better. If they have family or roomates using the bar, it might become a topic of conversation at the dinner table. You just never know!!
Furthermore, if you have, for example, 8 different varieties you are wanting to wholesale, send them all! Let the potential outlet pass them around, create curiosity and compare scents and colors among themselves. If your average bar cost is around $1.50, in this example you would only be out $12 on product cost.
Second, be personal.
Write a letter coming from the heart of your business, and cater each one individually based on your potential clientele. When I send out beard care samples (from my company, The Imperial Drifter), I really make sure to “see” the vantage point of that particular customer. If one set of samples goes to a vintage barbershop that serves beer while you wait for a trim and shave, you better believe my letter will be much different than my one that goes to Natural Grocers Health Market.
Take the time to read the mission statements and values of each company you choose to send samples to, and make an effort to genuinely acknowledge and sympathize with their core objectives as a business. This will go a long way, and it will make you feel better about the potential relationship.
Let them know that you’ll be following up with them, but that you wanted to give them a bit of time to try your product.
Third, don’t leave anything out of the parcel.
Make sure your wholesale catalog, linesheet and business card are included in the shipment of samples! All of your pertinent contact information should be at hand for your potential customer. By sending your wholesale catalog and linesheet, they will have all of the information (wholesale price, minimums, payment info, ingredients, branding) needed to make a decision about your product.
Lastly, you have to follow-up.
Give at least one solid week before you call or email them. Let them experience your product sample as often as possible to solidify their minds.
One more thing…presentation!
Don’t just throw your product in a box with peanuts. Give them the experience of opening a gift! If you can, wrap your soap with colorful tissue (that matches your branding). This will delight them and make a really neat part of their day!
So there you have it…
You have to weigh out the cost of doing this, but I strongly recommend making this a part of your customer expansion as a wholesaler. Remember, if you send out 10 sample packages and get 2 opening orders, you will have made your money back and will have the foundation set for recurrent re-orders as time goes on from the 2 that took the bait. So all in all, see what kind of budgeting for this is viable for your company and then start sending out those beautifully packaged, personal, information-packed sample packages to your hopefuls!
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