One of my favorite things to do is visit my local Whole Foods on a Saturday morning. On top of getting a kick out of the mix of people-watching, there’s also a pretty good chance I’m going to be able to put an entire meal together from all the suppliers and farmers on-site passing out samples of their products.
See, Whole Foods and just about every grocer I’ve ever visited, understands that every 4th or 5th person that tries Jim Bob’s Lavender Kissed Cantucci di Prato is going to buy several packages. In most cases, they are counting on these being people who have never done so before. The hope, of course, is that this taste will lead to a sale, which will lead to getting you hooked for life.
The key here is to lower the barrier to entry; by either making the offering free, or creating a lower risk way to try a version of the offering. Any business, including service businesses, can tap into the power of sampling with just a little bit of creativity.
Below are five ways to think about adapting the sample strategy for your business.
1) Create a product
Every business that sells services should look at creating a related low-cost product that supplements the service offerings. For many a consultant this product may be as simple as a book or set of workbooks and CDs. In some cases, this can be a way to package your service so that people can buy it like a product – an architect might sell a feasibility analysis as a product or an accounting firm might sell a certain type of low-cost tax return this way.
2) Create a starter version
No matter what you offer, there’s a pretty good chance you can sell a starter type of offering. A coach might create a “get unstuck” in 3 sessions mini engagement that allows someone to try out coaching without a long term commitment. Remodeling contractor Schloegel Design Remodel adopted the One Week Bath to offer a quick starter offering that could attract large numbers of new clients.
The online world is full of free offerings that also feature upgraded versions with greater capacity and features. Could you create a free service with the same goal in mind? What about a group consulting model that would offer advice and answer questions in a free weekly session that could be upgraded to one-on-one consulting? What about expanding this to your entire strategic partner team and building a platform where all of your partners provide free services in a group setting to your community? Again, with the goal of moving community member up to become paying premium members.
4) Try before you buy
Every now and then I get featured in a magazine (it never gets old) and after a particularly big feature I get solicitations from a number of firms that offer to laser engrave or otherwise memorialize the article on some sort of plaque. I’ve never gotten around to taking them up on the offer, but I’ve always noted that the offer is to create the plaque, ship it to me, and only after I decide that I love do I have to pay for it. This can be a particularly enticing way to offer services as the mind tricks you into thinking, “what’s the harm in taking a look?”
If you are certain you can produce results for a prospect, another variation on try before you buy is, “only pay for results.”
5) The maintenance model
I live in a 100 year old home with a boiler for heat so I feel the need to have the boiler looked at every fall to make sure there’s no chance of my family becoming the lead story on the 10 O’Clock News. Fortunately, my heating and cooling company offers a $179 semi-annual check-up plan that has them calling me up each September to come out and adjust and maintain the boiler. Of course, while Rusty is down there in the basement he usually finds that my water heater is leaking and that I could use a new hydrogismoduthingy too. So, I happily pay another $899 for the check-up.
So, what could you do that would get you back in the prospect’s office or home on a routine basis? Could you provide a free web analysis or competitive SEO score card update for a small fee? Could you offer to install all the latest network upgrades each year for a small fee? (Of course all the while creating a checklist of paid fixes.)
Trust building is such an essential element of long term client success and getting your foot in the trust building door with low barrier to entry offerings is one of the keys to successfully moving people into full fledged customers.