Blog - Sampling - Cross Your Ts and Dot Your IsOur last article introduced you to successful sampling programs and stressed the importance of building a solid foundation for your sampling efforts.  This article dives deeper into the planning process to ensure you have covered all of the important details for your event marketing sampling program.
So you’ve decided that the strategy of sampling to consumers is right for your brand. Sampling gives consumers the opportunity to try or taste and decide for themselves, and it also gives you the opportunity to share your brand messaging in a one-on-one setting, while witnessing reactions and soliciting valuable feedback directly from the source. Many brands have made loyalists out of samplers, and I applaud your decision to join the party and put your product into the hands of the consumers you want to attract.

But now you have some planning to do.

Before you take your product out on a sampling escapade, use this checklist to make sure you are prepared:

Pre-Promotion – For on-premise and off-premise sampling, this could be as simple as placing signage at the account. Flyers with the brand logo, date, time and specific activities should be placed 1-2 weeks prior to the event. Coordinate with the manager to put these on the doors, windows and walls, as well as in the bathrooms to let people know to look forward to a fun evening with your brand. In addition, Twitter and Facebook are handy tools for announcing the big event. This allows your influencers to spread the word to their tribes.

Permissions – If you are sampling at a bigger event (fair/festival, sporting event, parade, etc.), you may want to get permission from the organizer. Or maybe not. Guerilla sampling can be a cost-effective way to put your product into the hands of eager consumers, but make sure you are aware of the consequences. While it’s no Class C felony, guerilla sampling can make enemies out of event organizers, paying sponsors and sometimes even consumers. There are ways to make it work, though.  Permitting with the city or with an event organizer is the safer path, but you need to make sure you request your permits early in the process. These deadlines vary drastically depending on where you want to be, so do your homework. If you are looking for a city permit, try searching the term “special event permit [city name]”.  The “Office of Special Events” is typically the keeper of the info you need.

Premiums – Premiums are a great addition to many types of sampling, especially on-premise. When you are on-premise, consumers are not able to take the brand with them like they are when you sample, say, bottles of juice or soda. Great on-premise premiums are items that can be worn (hats, shirts, necklaces, pins) or played with (balls/Frisbees, whistles, playing cards) later or right there on the spot. Pens may get lost in purses, although they tend to be great for servers or bartenders who use them all the time. Order your premiums several weeks in advance, and order for several events at a time so you can take advantage of bulk pricing. Not sure how many to order? Ask accounts about their nightly turnover and event coordinators about expected attendance (then multiply by 1.25 because people will always want extras to take home, which you should most certainly accommodate!).

Schedule
 – It sounds like a “duh”, but you need to develop your schedule up-front. It’s great when you can let people know where you will be in the future because then they can tell their friends. If possible, consider printing out the schedule to have on-site, or at the very least post it to a microsite that is easy to remember (www.[your brand]sampling.com). Once it is made public, try not to change your schedule around any more than you have to. You’d be surprised how many people see the schedule and make plans because of it. And these are some of your brand loyalists, so don’t lead them astray! They are invaluable assets at these events because they are eager to share with friends and family. Brand loyalists are like unpaid Brand Ambassadors.

Recruiting
 – Speaking of, the most common way to put the right people in the field is to hire Brand Ambassadors with experience activating sampling promos in your target markets. You can do this recruiting on your own, or you can call on a staffing company to help you. There are plenty of agencies out there that specialize in finding the right person for the right brand, although the rates vary across the board based on what you are asking for the agency and Brand Ambassadors to provide. You can go basic and request a “body”, or you can get completely turn-key service that includes custom Brand Ambassador placement, brand training, event management and thorough recap data. Believe me when I tell you that you get what you pay for!

Training – Whether you or the staffing agency conducts the training, you have to be responsible for compiling and providing the brand-specific information. Share info about brand and company background and product lines. Great Brand Ambassadors have a knack for quickly retaining this information and sharing as though they have worked with your brand for years.

Signage – A good set-up will contain on-site signage, and the best use of signage is to provide a “call to action”. Typically this is a push to your website, where your brand messaging can be extended. If you have a sweepstakes going on or an online deal, use the on-site signage to integrate this into a sampling event. QR codes would help if the URL is longer and, therefore, harder to remember. If you don’t have much going on online, let the signage serve as an extra Brand Ambassador – use it to share talking points (beverage attributes, brand slogan or retail locations where it’s available). Also, plan and print your signage early to save money. Those office stores can do last-minute print jobs, but usually at double or triple the price of a local print vendor.

Sampling events are not difficult if you have some experience behind you. Be creative in your thinking (a memorable engagement is what will set your brand apart), be diligent in your planning (taking care of business beforehand will ensure a smooth event) and, of course, have a great time (enthusiasm for your brand will be contagious).