Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures
Sample products are a necessary part of the sales process. They can be costly, however, so they should be managed well and be a part of the planning process.
In order to get our products into stores or distributors, we have to provide these vendors with samples of our product.
In order to gain new customers, we may offer samples of our products to increase our business.
Samples can be costly to produce, but they are a necessary part of the selling cycle. Our sales representatives are constantly asking for more samples while our accounting department groans about the overall cost.
The truth is, samples are indeed costly and the return on investment can be difficult to measure. Without samples, however, it's difficult to impossible to increase our business. Due to the importance and cost of samples, we need to manage the process effectively if we hope to maximize our return on the investment.
It is important that our samples look good and are of a high quality. As a result, cutting corners is not a prudent decision when it comes to sample creation. The sample should be a positive representation of your product and your company. Remember, the sample should lead to future sales so it has to be the best you can make it.
You should create pricing models for your samples, similar to your regular products. Make sure you understand fully the cost of creating each sample. Once this has been established, you may be able to reduce the cost with some efficiency or better materials, but you cannot skimp on the product. By offering a quality sample, you're more likely to gain future sales.
Samples need to be allocated within your various budgets. Once you've established the cost of the samples, you and your sales representatives should budget how many samples will be needed in the future.
By budgeting samples, your accountants cannot complain later on down the road. In addition, your production team knows what is in store for them when it comes to samples production.
As mentioned earlier, the most difficult aspect of the sampling process is determining a return on investment. While this is difficult, it is not impossible.
Work with your sales team to establish metrics in this regard. You can track how many samples went to each sales representative and calculate future customers based on this. While this is may not be totally accurate, working with your employees will help you sure-up these numbers. In addition, you can calculate which samples went where and what the percentage of new sales resulted. This number can be very revealing and should help you understand your sampling process.
By analyzing the return on samples, you may find some surprising results. You may find that prospective customers that receive samples wind up purchasing your product more frequently than those who do not receive samples.
You may find that the opposite is true. By better understanding the patterns involved with giving away samples, you can make better educated decisions. Samples cost a lot of money to produce and distribute, as a result we want to be diligent in tracking their success.
Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.
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