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Strategy for Free Trials in Marketing

Instructor: Tara Schofield
Manufacturers must determine how to promote a new item into the marketplace. This lesson explains the benefits, challenges, and strategies for planning for a free trial offer when releasing a new product.

Purpose of Offering Free Trials

Getting exposure for new products can be challenging, especially with the number of products available in retail stores and online. Imagine you are selling a new laundry detergent. You have a lot of competition and know the only way you may get consumers to try your product is to give them a free trial or sample to try. Offering a free trial is a method of giving the key audience a sample to use and test. The goal is to increase sales and encourage word-of-mouth marketing about the new item.

Strategies for Offering Free Trials

Several key strategies need to be considered when offering free trials.

1. How will the target market be reached? The marketing team must understand who will use the product, how they will find them, and how the samples will be delivered to them. The company must have a plan to develop a list of potential customers with strategies to connect with those customers. This list can be developed from previous offers, followers on social media, purchasing consumer lists from list services, and running ads for people to claim a free offer.

2. What is the goal of offering the sample? When creating free trial strategies, understand what you hope to accomplish by giving complimentary items. If it is a consumable product, such as soap, toothpaste, or food, the goal is to get the consumer to purchase additional items and tell others about the product. If it is a one-time or infrequent purchase, such as a small appliance or tool, the goal is to get large exposure to other potential consumers. When offering a free trial, the marketing team must determine what the ultimate goal is in giving free products.

3. How will the free trial be maximized? After the item is given away, the marketing team must follow up and encourage further sales. Strategies for maximizing free giveaways may include reaching out to future clients on one-on-one basis for larger items or to the whole market for smaller items.

These strategies will vary based on the price and type of product being offered. If the product is small, as in the laundry detergent example, the follow up may be as simple as including a coupon with the free sample. If the product is larger or requires more consideration before purchasing, sales people may need to call or be available to potential customers to answer questions and provide more information.

4. What about providing a subscription option? Some companies will send a free trial with hopes that the customer will continue buying the product on a regular basis through a subscription program. For instance, companies may send out a free sample of vitamins to potential customers and provide them with the option to continue receiving a monthly shipment of their multi-vitamins or daily supplements. This provides consistent sales for the company and is easy for the consumer to purchase.

Challenges to Consider When Developing Strategies

There are a few challenges that must be considered when developing strategies for offering free trials:

  • Budget: The smaller the budget, the more careful the marketing team must be in offering free samples. They must target a very specific group that is most likely to want the product.

  • Time: The shorter the time frame for launching the product, the faster the company must be in getting products into consumers hands and getting feedback.

  • Finding the right consumer: Knowing the key audience is different than reaching the key audience. It can be difficult to find the right users of the product. Marketing staff needs to work on collecting a database of consumers prior to offering the free trial.

Continuing the example of the laundry detergent, the cost of producing and distributing the detergent samples, the time spent getting the products to the right people, and finding the target market must be considered.

Benefits of Offering Free Trials

The benefits of free product offers are a result of effective strategies. If the campaign is well thought out, the free items should expand the exposure for new products and increase sales for a new release. There are several benefits for offering free trials, both to the manufacturer and the consumer.

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