I love going grocery shopping on Fridays. That’s the day my local Wegmans sets up half a dozen “sampling stations” throughout the store. As you shop, you can nibble on tiny bites of aged pecorino… soy chips… dry salami… pasta… protein bars… and wash it down with a thimble-sized cup of green tea… pomegranate juice… or lemonade.

Is Wegmans doing this to try to keep my blood sugar high while I shop? Of course not. They offer samples to influence shoppers to buy those products.

It’s a tried-and-true marketing strategy.

In fact, according to an Arbitron “Product Sampling Study,” samples can be a big help when it comes to selling a product. Thirty-five percent of the study participants claimed they bought a product after sampling it – the same day. Even more impressive, 58 percent said they would buy the product they’d sampled in the future.

Of course, these numbers don’t reflect what actually happened. There could be some variation between what the study participants said they did or would do, and what they actually did or will do.

So should you offer samples of your product? And if so, will the sampling increase sales?

The only way to find out is to test.

Break your customers into two segments. Offer half of them a sample, and monitor the results. If the sampling increases their buying behavior, and if it makes sense for your bottom line, go for it.

[Ed. Note: Testing is one of the keys to making profitable marketing decisions. You can learn the details behind testing – and what NOT to test – in Changing the Channel, the new business-building book co-written by Michael Masterson and MaryEllen Tribby.]
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