Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Revised Sample suggestions.....the LONG version

About 10 months ago, I posted my suggestions on what to do (and NOT do) when submitting samples to sampler boxes, and the value of tossing free samples in with a purchase. Recently, this came up again on places like facebook, so I decided to revise my original list to account for some things that have come up over the past year, and post again. Please indulge my vanity in thinking I  know these things.

First, some background.  I buy 2-4 sampler boxes a month. Every month, I try to make at least one purchase from someone who has sent something in a sampler, though it is not always that month's sampler.  I am a huge bath and body person, so there is a definite slant to my purchasing.

Sampler packs are the best way for handmade afficionados like me to find you.  In the last year, I have bought from over 20 sellers I found through samplers, some orders were huge (We're talking over $500 huge), some were a single bar of soap or lip balm.  My family is NOT wealthy, and money is tight, but I try to put aside some money every month to make these purchases. Almost ALL of the money I make on etsy ends up going directly out of my bank account to other sellers. I like supporting handmade, and I only buy things that I love. I am also a repeat buyer if you are a great seller.

I am also one of those buyers who keeps a list. I have a whole file of business names from companies I have gotten great products, service and/or samples from, what I got that I loved, any other thing special about them, and what type of products they have. I keep this list because I have a surplus of some things, and the list helps me remember sellers I have loved in the past for future purchasing, especially around gift giving holidays and events. I also have a list of people who I will not buy from for various reasons. 

As you may know from this blog, I also write reviews of sellers who really impress me. Often, these reviews are based off of a sample I have used and gotten from a sampler.  Whether this leads to sales, I do not know, but any publicity is good. Also, though I may not always buy from you, but at least I know who you are, and can tell someone else about you.

So, without further ado, these are my top 10 suggestions to consider when putting together samples:

  1.  Ingredients are vitally important in anything going onto or into a body. "Flavor oils" is usually not detailed enough as an ingredient.  I am allergic to artificial sweeteners, for example, so I need to know if your items contain them, even the lip balm. Frequently the flavor oils include things like this, though not always, so it would be a good thing to know.
  2.  First impressions are KEY. Packaging and presentation are hugely important. If your promotional sample looks a mess, what will your product look like? And why would I send you money for something like this, if you obviously don't care? Along the same lines, make sure your site matches with your samples. There is nothing more disappointing than getting an awesome sample, running to a website, and seeing stuff that is nothing like what you just got in a box.
  3.  CLEARLY label your product, what it is, and where it came from. Make it easy for us to find you later. Clearly label where your items come from with a business name and website address, even when including a free sample in with a purchase. I had an experience this morning where I tried to use a wax tart as soap. There was no label anywhere on the product telling me WHAT it was, just what scent it was, so I guessed, and guessed WRONG. You may think it is obvious what you are selling, but it isn't always. From now on, if I can't figure out what it is, it gets trashed.
  4.  Whenever possible, include instructions. Not everyone is familiar with sugar scrubs, wickless candles, melting body butter, paraffin hand treatments, that special kind of tea blend you just sent, or whatever. If I can't figure out how to use it, I am not going to.  That is a potential lost sale for you. If you are the one who tells me how to use something I am unfamiliar with, and I love it, I am going to buy from YOU. Instructions  also put you HIGH on the "repeat buyer" list.
  5.  The best things to include in samplers are things that need to be purchased relatively regularly. Give us just enough to be addicted (for me it takes about a week). When we run out, we will run to your store and buy. The next best thing to include in samplers is things that make great gifts. When Aunt Sally has her retirement party, I will know who to go for for that uniquely perfect thingamabob.
  6.  Food scented home, bath, and body products make a lot of people nervous. Especially chocolate and/or sugary treat products. Also, food SHAPED non-edible products are not always the best thing to send in a sampler.  I have had to stop my kids from eating more than my fair share of wax tarts.
  7.  Propaganda of any type is evil. No matter how strongly you feel about something, it is not professional to include it in your packaging.  If I don't agree with you, I will be turned off. If I agree with you, I will still be turned off by your need to preach.
  8.  If you send something scented, please wrap it up, at least in a Ziploc bag so the scent doesn't get everywhere. I will get sick of the scent before I use the item, and I may decide to throw it out if I worry the scent will contaminate other things, or is overwhelming in the small box or drawer I have it stored in.
  9.  Please give more than a month on coupons, if you are going to include them. I don't always get to the sample right away, and it i discouraging to see that I could have saved money on someting I want to buy because I didn't use it right away.  I can't use everything all at once, so please give me some wiggle room. Also, please pack the coupon separately from the packaging of your item.  If I want to give those earrings to my sister as a stocking stuffer, I don't want her seeing I got them in May with a coupon that expired May 21 on the card they are attached to.
  10.  Free samples (especially coordinating ones) tossed in a box with a purchase are awesomeness. They can be given to a friend to show them how great your stuff is, and it always eaves a good taste in the receiver's mouth.

I hope that this is helpful.  I LOVE samples and LOVE samplers. Some of my favorite sellers who I buy from all the time I found through samplers.  I love handmade, and want you to be successful at your craft!  Thank you so much to all of the handmade artisans out there, and keep up the good work.

Also, readers, any other suggestions I may have missed?