by Lisa Lake
When first going into malls across the country, Chick-Fil-A sandwich shops probably did more for business by handing out free chicken samples than anything else. Who could resist a chunk of fried white chicken meat, lightly coated, offered to you on a toothpick from a tray dressed up with a doily? Samplers returned as customers, just as the company knew they would.
A specialty condiment company that hocked homemade jams and mustards at street fairs in Texas grew fantastically. They were awfully generous with the samples, spread on good crackers and fresh bread. Didn’t loads of people take advantage of the free food? Sure, but soon they were a mainstay at bazaars and big events, always with their spread of mustards and jams. People tasted the product, loved the handsome jar labels, and bought them up. How much could it have cost them to open up10 or 15 jars during an event?
A classic selling dilemma is the need to help customers over the decision-making hump. Are they sure your product is worth their hard-earned money? This is your chance to eliminate the risk. It’s the “free trial-offer” solution.
A baker I knew had earned a place in history when her recipe for Fudge Pecan Pie was published in Good Housekeeping Magazine. Still, people hesitated over the twelve-dollar price tag. She did two things: she served pieces by the slice. At a buck-fifty, it was easier to swallow. But swallow they did, and often walked out with a whole pie. Once the fudge pie or cherry or lemon chess pie was already cut, she offered thin slices from the remaining pie to people humming and hawing over a purchase. Never tasted strawberry pie? Oh, you can’t live another day until you’ve tasted mine. This is the first time you’ve bought our famous bread pudding? I’ll put another one in the bag so you won’t have to return quite so soon.
Pride in her baked products, combined with some marketing genius and a little southern charm, made her bakery a winner.
What if your business doesn’t sell food?
Vendors at trade shows are spending huge sums on decking out booths and rented suites with food themes. A company I worked for spent weeks developing a chocolate theme. Chocolate everything, down to huge printed photographic murals of chocolate chips adhered to the walls. During the trade show they hired girls to pass out printed menus of the tantalizing chocolate desserts in the company’s suite. Did it work? Agents hoarded into the suite. Listening to a pitch on long distance service was simply more enjoyable while nibbling chocolate truffles. They did a booming business that day.
The winter holidays offer an ideal time to tempt browsers into the store with the smell of hot cocoa. A cool cup of lemonade is a fun way to attract shoppers to a summertime sidewalk sale. I think there’s nothing nicer for weary shoppers than a discreet table set up with coffee and cookies. It’s a lovely gesture and one of the cheaper efforts you could ever make at developing good will and customer loyalty.
Lisa Lake provides marketing advice and writes web copy, sales letters, articles, ads, and press releases.