Try Before You Buy!

Try Before You BuyBy Ron Rosenberg

One of the key concepts in our style of marketing is the concept of the USP - the Unique Selling Proposition - where you demonstrate quite clearly why your product or service is the only logical choice in any given purchase decision.

Admittedly, this can be tricky, especially if people can somehow view what you sell as a commodity - something that's interchangeable with other similar options - or if it's a particularly expensive product or one that represents a new direction than what the customer is familiar with.

Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome wariness and reluctance on the part of your customers, clients, or members, and one of the best is to remove any and all risk from the equation entirely.

A Story About a Horse...

GirlHuggingHorseThere's an old story about a young girl who wanted a horse. She begged and pleaded, and finally her father agreed to look into the options. They went to the first farm, and the owner said he had a horse he could sell them for $500. They looked at the horse, and said they had a few other places to visit and would be back in touch.

Then they went to the second farm, where the owner talked to the girl, asked her a lot of questions about why she wanted a horse, and then brought one out for her to look at. The owner saddled up the horse, and let the girl get up and sit in the saddle. She had a smile a mile wide, when the father asked how much it would cost.

$750 was the answer. The father mentioned that the other place had one for $500, and the owner said, simply, "Look, take the horse home and let your daughter ride it for a month so she can get to know him and see if it's the right horse for her. If it's not, then bring him back; if it is, then come back and you can pay me the $750 then.

Needless to say, in that 30-day period, the girl fell in love with the horse, and there was no way she was going to part with it. This is the power of "Try Before You Buy."

How About a Sample?

Free Sample #2

Free Sample #3

Free Sample #1

It's just common sense that people buy what they try. That's why you see so many "sample stations" at grocery stores, farmers markets, and food courts. In fact, it seems like it's impossible to pass through a food court anywhere in the US without being offered a sample of bourbon chicken on a toothpick.

If you're hungry, then just stop by any Whole Foods store on a Saturday afternoon, and you can pretty much fill up on the samples they offer throughout the store. Any poor, starving college student can verify this for you!

And if you happen to be traveling internationally, and find yourself strolling through the Duty-Free shops in the airport, you'll almost certainly have the opportunity to sample a bit of, well, virtually every brand of liquor they sell!

There is a certain comfort knowing that what you're getting is actually good, instead of relying on the admittedly biased claims of the company selling the product. In fact, when it comes to buying wine, we almost never buy anything we haven't tried - either at a friend's house, a wine tasting at our local wine shop, or during a visit to the actual winery.

A Few Examples...

Free Diabetes MeterFree Diabetes Meter - For people with Type 1 Diabetes, it's essential to monitor their blood-sugar levels several times a day. This is done by using a blood-sugar meter where you use a special testing strip with a sharp point to draw a small amount of blood that the meter then evaluates. The number, displayed on the screen let's you know the result.

The meter is generally a one-time purchase. The testing strips, on the other hand, are the "consumable item" that needs to be purchased regularly...and not just for 30 or 60 or 90 days, but forever, since this type of diabetes is a lifelong condition. And since people tend to stick with what they know and trust, so getting them to select your meter (and, by extension, your testing strips) is crucial.

That's why you'll frequently see ads for a free diabetes meter. Sure, the meter itself is somewhat expensive, but the prospect of years of purchases of the testing strips can make this a smart investment.

Give Them the RazorGive Them the Razor...Sell Them the Blades - Another similar approach can be applied to other products that have a base component with a consumable component. In this case, Shick offered a free sample of their "Hydro" razor in the form of a coupon that would cover the cost of buying one, and then followed that up with an additional coupon cutting the price of the replacement blades.

Since the razor itself comes with one blade, this presents a completely risk-free way to try the product before committing to its ongoing use.


Give Them the Razor - Original

The "Original" Razor Concept - Finally, to stress the importance of being a "student of marketing," it's important to point out that this is not a new concept - when safety razors were developed and introduced by King Gillette in the early 20th century (yes, "King" was actually his first name) the company held the patent for the razor and was able to charge a premium price for it.

But when the patent expired, it was Gilette's competitors who developed the original "Give Them the Razor...Sell Them the Blades" concept.

A Bonus History Lesson!

The concept of "try before you buy" can have a huge impact on your marketing and, in turn, on your revenue stream.

But don't miss the "hidden lesson" buried in this article: there's a lot you can learn by going back in time and studying classic ad campaigns - the products themselves may seem obsolete or even quaint by today's high-tech standards, but make no mistake about it, the marketing methods used to promote them are just as effective today as they were "back in the day."