Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sample your way into the black!

Are your sales efforts getting noticed by your customers? Are your retail products noticed by your customers? Or is your in-gym store languishing and gathering dust? Draw attention to those products that you have so wisely invested in. Make that store square footage pays it’s way in your club. You have spent good time and money on setting up your store, making it look attractive, educating your staff on the products. So, let’s make it pay off and get noticed and boost those sales.

How, you say? By creating a great sampling program you can create a buzz in the club, make your members feel like they are getting more from you and get all of those products moving through your store, bringing profits to your bottom line. In the west, we have a warehouse store that is famous for its sampling program. The store is called COSTCO and in the middle of the day, they have 8-12 sample stands set up all around the store. Customers flock in during that time to try out the products and basically get a free lunch off the samples. But, from personal experience, I know that I cannot step foot in that store without spending at least $100.

Once your customers start sampling your products several things happen:
1. They relax, because they feel they are getting something for nothing
2. They open up, because you have just given them something
3. If you are sampling more than one item at a time – they go into shopping mode and they are more likely to buy something.
These are all emotional reactions that just naturally occur and are exactly what you need to be able to sell more to people who are often too rushed and busy to stop and notice what else is going on around them.

I highly recommend that you pick the right products to sample and the right people to run the sampling. Our customers that regularly sample, find that it is not just the sampled products that increase sales, but also their close cousins. By sampling, you are raising awareness for your whole store. From your supplements line, I recommend sampling the liquids and mixables over any pills. Not too many people will swallow a pill for someone else, but they will take a shot of a liquid vitamin or a powdered drink that you have mixed up. Also include samples of some energy bars or other tasty items that you are selling in your store. Cut up the bars into small pieces and sample only about ½ oz of liquid vitamins, perhaps 2-3 oz. of a drink. Definitely put your friendliest people on the job, and back them up with someone that really knows the ins and outs of the products that are there. I think it goes without saying that the sample giver should be an experienced user of the products so that they can be a personal champion for the benefits of the products.

Setting up your sampling area is another key to success. You only need one table or perhaps two if you have a larger area to move customers through. Drape the table with a cloth or perhaps your signage. Make it attractive. Set up a rack or two of sale price clothing from your fitness gear to really get the shopping gene activated. Finally, dress your employees in a company shirt or perhaps with a themed prop to attract attention.

Many of your vendors are likely to have a sampling support program for their products. This means that you can obtain a certain amount of the product for a lower cost than you normally do, just so you can use it for samples. They are usually marked “SAMPLE ONLY; NOT FOR RESALE”, and this is to protect themselves and the end customers against abuse by unscrupulous retailers, that might otherwise sell those items. Many vendors require a minimum order to accompany sample sales, which only makes sense because you need to have product on hand to sell at your sampling. Which brings me to the obvious tip; offer a discount on sales made right now.

Finally, choose the appropriate time for your sampling. I suggest a busy time when lots of people are coming in. And make it a regular thing, perhaps twice a month. Your members will get used to seeing your people out there and they will warm up to it even more. This is a great way for your staff to get to know your members better and vis-versa and that relationship will bring you profit. The more they know and trust your staff, the more they will buy from them. You can try out different times and days to see when works the best in your club.

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