So you’ve lovingly crafted a new product, or perhaps you need to increase awareness of your existing line? You’ve worked hard to develop and create something delicious and delightful for your target audience and now we need to get your wonder product flying off the shelves.
You know your target audience is going to fall in love with it, but how exactly do you find the right words to explain this to them? Well, sometimes words just won’t cut the mustard. Rather than simply telling your audience how exceptional your product is, why not let them experience it for themselves at the point of sale?
An in-store sampling campaign is, of course, not exactly a new promotional invention. It’s been a tried and tested method for many a moon, enabling target audiences to interact with products using all of their senses — often with more lasting and powerful results than any carefully crafted advert. It affords your audience the chance to experience and explore your product on their own terms, without the pressure of handing over their hard earned cash first. It gives your audience the opportunity to make sound and informed purchasing decisions, as well as reassuring them that they’re paying for a great product.
There are countless things to consider when planning a sampling campaign. We’ve decided to condense our knowledge and experience into a helpful guide, to help you connect with your audience on a tastier level.
Sampling Campaign Checklist
Location, Location, Location
Think about your target audience. Where do they live? Where do they shop? Realistically, how many stores and locations can you afford to visit in order to effectively target your activity? Ultimately, everything comes down to your target audience, so if you’re ever stumped as to what to do next, always refer back to this group and ensure you’re catering to their needs.
Once you’ve chosen your locations, plot them on a map. Getting a visual overview is extremely beneficial to the planning process as it enables you to sit back and take stock of the running order of your campaign. It can also help to raise any potential issues regarding promotional staff availability in certain locations — but we’ll come to that later!
Now that you’ve plotted your locations, do yourself a huge favour and group your locations into mini-regions, like so:
This will also enable you to streamline your staffing process. For example, rather than booking 28 sampling staff members you’ll instead be able to use five or six reliable, experienced individuals to take control and manage the front-end of the campaign.
Timing is everything
Once you’ve mapped out your sampling campaign, the next step — if your product is already stocked at the stores you’d like to visit — is to create a campaign timeline and book in your activity with the relevant store managers. If you have a promotional staffing agency supporting you throughout your campaign, they’ll usually be more than happy to take on the task of confirming the store bookings with the appropriate personnel on your behalf.
Be sure to schedule your store bookings in accordance with your staff’s availability, and be careful not to book two stores within the same region on the same day.
In terms of when to book; weekends are just naturally busier in the world of retail, so we’d always recommend holding your sampling activities between Thursday and Saturday where possible.
Then, once again, think back to your target audience. Is your product time-specific or seasonal? It seems obvious to point out, but you’ll probably find that sampling Christmas puddings in December and ice cream in July will be more effective than doing so vice versa!
You’ll find that most stores will be pleased to entertain the activity, as ultimately a boost in sales for you means a boost in sales for them. But if they’re not willing to grant your sampling campaign permission, and you’ve spoken to all the appropriate people then you may have to consider moving that particular activity somewhere else.
Don’t forget, sampling doesn’t have to take place in-store. If you’re planning on making the most of the sunshine and executing an outdoor sampling campaign, then you’ll need to speak to the land owners in advance to ensure you have permission to carry out your promotional activity. We published an article this year about leaflet distribution, which involves similar permission processes.
Finally: Think about your staffing. Are you going to use your own staff or are you going to enlist the help of a promotional staffing agency? Either way, make sure you leave yourself sufficient time to recruit the perfect people!
Once you’ve booked your locations
One of the most important aspects of scheduling in your sampling campaign locations, is to ensure that your designated stores (or land owners) are completely aware of what your activity will entail.
They’ll need to know where you’d like to be positioned, what you’re bringing with you, and how much space you’ll be taking up. Send them a photograph of your sampling stand if you’re using one; make sure they’re clued in on absolutely every aspect of your activity.
When sampling in-store you will also need to consider ordering a stock uplift to replace the stock that the sampling activity has helped to sell. If you are working with a staffing agency, make sure you are clear as to where this responsibility lies – most agencies will be happy to take care of the stock uplift on your behalf, but make sure they know that you would like them to! Alternatively this can generally be arranged directly with your buyer.
Remember to give the store a courtesy call and check in a couple of days before your sampling activity takes place. There’s no harm in being cautious; even if you have already booked the activity in the correct way, you can never be completely sure that the booking has been properly recorded at store level. Always be sure to confirm everything one last time before you commence!
Staffing your sampling campaign!
Before you start, you’re going to be needing some bright, bubbly and engaging staff to lure your target audience into connecting with your product, and ultimately, falling in love with it.
Any staffing agency worth its salt will be able source such individuals, and what’s more, individuals who are also hard working, self-motivated, reliable and have demonstrable sampling experience. It’s also vitally important that these promotional staff reflect your brand and your product, and can relate to your target audience. If you have decided to use a promotional staffing agency, be sure to give them a clear brief and be specific about what you want – it will make the job easier for everyone involved and removes the risk of any unwelcome surprises.
When choosing your staff or briefing your agency, think about their roles and what they will need in order to get the job done. For example, if each of your staff are going to be tackling multiple locations around the nation and transporting a sampling stand, then you’ll need to make sure that they also have access to their own vehicle with business insurance, and a valid driving license. More importantly, for any sort of food and drink handling we insist upon promotional staff being in possession of a recently obtained food safety certificate.
Be mindful of your budget on sampling campaigns; staff travel and parking expenses can certainly mount up quickly when your staff are covering a lot of ground! Work out your mileage allowances before hand so that you know what to expect before the expense claims start coming through!
We’d also recommend spending a little more on a team leader or senior brand ambassador. That way you can ensure you putting your campaign in the hands of seasoned promotional staff who are used to taking on extra responsibility and managing projects independently.
If you do decide to invest in a group of senior staff to drive forward your activity, you can expect thorough reports, as well as photos, detailing the days’ events. When briefing your staff team, be sure to instruct them to obtain the predicted sales figures from the store for your product on each activity day. That way, once the campaign is over, you can compare the results and measure its effectiveness. It’s great for providing you with some insight into your target audience response across different locations.
In terms of general event analysis, make sure your staff know to record the level of customer engagement and useful feedback, as well some demographic details about your audience. This information will come in use for when you’re planning your next campaign! Also, be sure to get your staff to take plenty of photographs. These will help improve your understanding of the on-site logistics for your activities if you’re not able to be there with the staff members at the time of the sampling events.
Final checklist for your sampling campaign:
- Have you created your campaign timeline and mapped out your stores?
- Did you remember to group your locations into regions in order to streamline the staffing process?
- Have you booked each of the activities in with the relevant stores, taking care to provide them with all of the necessary details, such as how much space you’ll be taking up, what you’ll be bringing with you and when you’ll be sampling?
- Are you arranging the stock uplift or is your staffing agency taking care of it?
- Ensure your promotional staff have suitable travel arrangements in place and are in possession of a food safety certificate if sampling food or beverages
- Have you fully briefed the staff on your activity, including their reporting and photo responsibilities?
- Have you given each store a call to check in and remind them you are visiting?
If you’ve followed our handy hints then your sampling activity should go off without a hitch!