I get them everywhere – in the mailbox of my condo, at the train station on my way to/from work, on the streets, at sports events and concerts… I’m talking about free samples. If I’m lucky, I will try the sample, but most of the time that’s not the case. Usually, I’m just disappointed in my “free gift” and the sample ends up being tossed in the garbage.

Yes, I’m one of “those” consumers – the Millennial that cares about personalization and wants products that are better for both the consumer and the environment. I’m extremely particular about what I consume – be it food or personal care products. So when I get product samples that I toss, I can’t help but think – someone could have enjoyed it and may even have purchased a full-size version of this product after trying it. But, instead, it’s going to end up in a landfill. And I know there is a better way to do it.

The Power of Personalization

When I was in university, I worked as a part-time salesperson at a natural makeup and skincare spa. What I learned very quickly was that the most successful sales strategy for me was observing and learning about my customers before trying to sell them any products. In fact, most of the time I would just give them a few samples I thought they would enjoy without selling them anything that day. After a while I noticed that most of my sales were from customers who took samples on the first day and returned to buy the full-sized products over and over again.

Now, I’m not suggesting that sampling at this personal level is possible at scale, but what I am suggesting is that targeting based on one or two parameters is better than not targeting at all. You may end up with a smaller population that receives your samples, but the conversion rate of those who do receive the samples will be much higher.

So when I speak with companies launching new brands with small sampling budgets, these are my main tips:

1) Don’t direct mail samples to mailboxes without any targeting other than postal code.

Chances are, your samples will end up in the wrong hands and get tossed away with the rest of junk mail. If you choose the direct mail option, pay the extra bit to learn more about the person getting your samples.

2) Don’t hand out samples on the street to every passerby.

At the very least, ensure your brand ambassadors are identifying your target consumer (it may be difficult to find your target solely based on physical characteristics).

3) Don’t settle for options that don’t deliver your product in the hands of the right consumer.

It will be a waste of your time and money. In today’s world, there are so many “non-traditional” options out there – it may be a little more effort but will be worth it at the end.