What kind of person are you?
A) Totally organised, thought of every detail. Nothing gets passed you?
B) Fly by the skin of your teeth, make stuff up as you go along, give something a crack, learn and then do better next time.
Slightly frustratingly for me I am more of a “B” gal, which is why it’s really important for me to have lots of “A”‘s around me (even if they feel like they are running behind me, picking up the pieces as I forge ahead with another “great idea!”
I have to say, I did have a great idea – our Protein Pops – you may have heard me banging on about them but they really are good. Healthy, filling, fuel the body, filled with goodness. The “B” had the idea and the “A”s made it happen!
Enough about them though.
This is about Sampling Sessions, or really making the most of any market or event.
Now that we have these deliciously, amazing Protein Pops… we need to get them into the hands of the people.
I think that they are the PERFECT snack to keep in your freezer and grab when you are too busy to eat properly (hello new mum, “old” mum, and social butterfly).
So the strategy for us is to get these into Gyms and Cross fit Gyms and other fitness places (hit me up, ‘yo) as well as deliver them to the door via our online store
So I see lots of sampling sessions in my future – like the one we did at CAT FIT in Armadale. Which is great because we had such a fun time meeting people, getting their feedback, making connections and meeting other stallholders and sharing stories and helping each other grow.
As someone who goes into things a little unprepared, just to see how things go I am writing this for me, but also anyone else that is new to doing samplings.
Why do them?
Some of the main reasons are:
- Builds your relationship with the store if you are going to be stocked there
- Get direct customer feedback on the taste of your product
- See how people react to your spiel about the product. What are the selling points they respond to the most
- Collect contact information to build a continuing relationship
- Brand building
Preparation before the day
- Business Cards
- Mailing list signup form + pen (or use ipad)
- Write your Welcome Email and follow up sequence (if you can, or do immediately afterwards)
- If selling, float and also electronic payment system (Paypal or Stripe)
- Write and practice your “patter”
- Samples – how will you serve and prep them
- Need a helper
- Set up, Signage and Presentation Items
- Work with the store / venue to promote your session
- Is there a competition you can run on the day to encourage sign ups to your list
- Do you have stock to sell. Back up plan in case you run out
- Can you offer a discount for purchases or promo
Lots of people took cards and they were great to hand to other stall holders who kindly offered to hand on our details
Improvement: Rather than a general business card, a “Call to Action” card with details on where to buy the pops (website address), what we were selling and perhaps a discount voucher.
Mailing List Sign Up Form
Name, email, address, phone number (maybe). Make sure people know they are being added to a mailing list and consent to receiving a email from you.
Improvement: Would be even better to have an electronic form set up on an ipad so the customer can enter details immediately. Save on time inputting yourself, save on incorrectly inputting information and having to decipher handwriting. You could have your welcome email pre-written so that soon after the details are submitted online it triggers an email to be sent out (You would need an account with a CRM provider such as Mail Chimp, Active Campaign, Infusionsoft and the like)
Welcome Email and Follow Up Sequence
You’d want to get this sent out asap.
Remind the customer that they signed up, be helpful, not overly salesy, provide value in some way, use great images. Perhaps offer a discount code, announce the winner of the competition you ran.
Write a compelling subject header. Using a person’s first name in the subject header has shown to increase open rates.
Have a follow up sequence scheduled. You don’t want to go over board but perhaps remind customers that haven’t purchased they only have a couple more days to use the code before it expires, and then remind them on the final day.
Do some research into sending times and open rates and plan what time you send. For example luscious images of your food on a Friday afternoon around 1:30pm might peak some interest.
Float / change plus change box or a bag. If you are using a box can you store it somewhere safely that you can access easily.
Is your electronic payment system working? Can you log in, is your internet enabled on your device? Do you know the log in? Do you have a back up plan if something goes wrong?
Get comfortable with how you’ll get people’s attention quickly
“Come try a free sample”
“Would you like to try a free sample”
Find the way that feels comfortable to you, but play around and see if you get better responses to one or the other. You’ve only got a couple of seconds to grab attention.
Most people are pretty happy and open to trying free food. Woo! (be prepared, and don’t take it personally to someone who is a bit closed, awkward, or rude. It’s all part of it)
You’ll want to prepare and practice how to encapsulate what your product is, and educate and inform your customer during the tasting process and help them to purchase (or know where to purchase), how to enter the comp if you are running one, and also how and why to sign up to the list.
You want to feel confident and natural and be succinct and friendly.
Also use this time to ask questions, get honest feedback and see if you can work out who your idea customer is.
Duh.. that’s why we are here! Some food products are easier to serve and sample than others. In our case we had to organise freezers for storage, and we made mini versions of our mini pops as the regular size pops themselves were too hard to cut up. This was all prepped and labeled before hand and easily accessed on the day.
Do you need a hand? Maybe with bumping in and out? A back up in case it gets busy? A bit of support.
I had Roxy (my right hand lady) come along with me on this first sampling session. I’ve had a bit of tiring time over the last few years (pregnancy and new baby) and with the fatigue came lack of confidence and out of practice.
Having Roxy there was great because she’s the “A” to my “B” and had organised everything far better than I would have. Eek! But also I think sometimes we can be so emotionally wrapped up in our product that it can be hard to put ourselves out there and potentially face rejection.
It was nice to have someone to “hold hands” with the first time, and definitely you’d need someone if things got busy, but I also felt confident that I could do a session by myself in the future too. There was nothing to be afraid of!
Set Up, Signage and Presentation Items
Do you need a table? How will you attract attention? Do you have any Marketing Point of Sale? Banners, Signboards etc
Business Card Holders?
Menu Board so people know the flavours, or a way to display your products?
What space do you have to work with?
You should have your brand signage, but also do you have signage encouraging people to try a free sample.
Once you’ve spoken to them is there signage to prompt them about what they can purchase, the price and also the menu.
Promote the Sampling Session prior to attending
Work with the Venue / Store to promote your session; for example on Social Media. Provide their SM Manager with a great image and blurb
Do some Instagram stories in the lead up or even as you are getting ready to head out.
Is there a competition you could run on the day? For example we gave away a pack of pops and told people if they wanted to sign up they would go into the raffle which would be drawn on the day and that they would also be mailed out a discount voucher to the online store.
Most people were more than happy to leave their details.
Don’t be shy – ask.
Stock to Sell
In some cases you will just be sampling and other times you’ll have the opportunity to sell.
If you are in a supermarket for example, be sure to be able to direct the customer as to which aisle they can find your product.
If you are selling on the day, then guess how much stock you need (it’s anyone’s guess.. there are so many variables). Have a back up plan in case you run out.
In our case then plan was to get customers to place an order with us through our online shop and pay via credit card. We could then deliver the product the following week.
How can you encourage people to buy on the day? Can you offer a discount, Buy 1-get-1-free? A value bundle.
Improvement: I was thinking that for us we would have to deliver any orders made after the event. So that would be a cost to me. If someone wanted to purchase on the day and take away I could have had a “Buy Today 35% off” or want to buy later “we’ll send you a 25% discount code”
Something to consider.
Make sure you know information such as
- What time you will be sampling from – to
- How much time you have to set up
- Do you need power? Will you have power
- Estimate of how many people will be coming to the event? Is this a true estimate? This helps with working out if you need a helper, how many samples and stock to take
One the Day
I’m not so great at this as I can be a bit shy and awkward (I think it comes off as snobbish but I don’t mean it to be!)
Connect with other stall holders – the other event we did, we met some really lovely business owners with amazing stories, and helpful advice who offered some great opportunities. Help each other out.
Make sure you meet the organisers in person and thank them for their help etc etc… you know what to do.
Be Confident and Charasmatic…
….charming, authentic, excited, informative, personable, well-presented, approachable, helpful … be you.
Don’t be shy asking people to try a free sample.
Don’t fear rejection. Use it as an experiment – turn it into a game. Can you change what you say slightly to get a better response.
On the day, can you create some insta stories or good SM images and find something interesting to blog about after (if that’s your thing)
Some ideas for content creation
- Feature other stall holders; showcase their products, tell their story, share their advice
- Testimonials from customers
- Share the discount code with your Insta Stories viewers
- Talk about the venue or store. Do a tour
- Interview the owner / manger
- Take your insta viewers through a tasting, as if they were there
- Fun snaps and boomerangs
- Maybe run a separate comp and encourage people to come down if appropriate
- Encourage others to post and tag you in their Insta Stories and then reshare their post.
After the Sampling
Write down your lessons learnt – how can you do better next time?
Follow up with any additional opportunities
Add customers to the mailing list, send Welcome email and discount and schedule follow ups
Draw the competition winner and announce
Book another one in!
Hope that helps! I’ll be referring to this next time we have a sample session coming up and I hope this helped!