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Free Samples—Yea Or Nay?

True or false:

A good product will sell itself. Get people to "sample" of your product and they'll buy in droves—and you won't have to say a word.

Michael is a marketing consultant who's wondering about this idea of sampling:


I've recently decided to take a shot at creating an online program (more like an immersive "bootcamp" style program) that introduces a business scenario where we'll setup a Facebook advertising campaign (with a sales funnel of course) to generate sales for a "fictitious client".

With this program being in such a competitive market, do you think a free 7 day course would be a good lead magnet? Or do you think maybe offering free access to the first part of the course would be a better option? Or maybe I should test them both?


The King of Free Samples in my book is Claude Hopkins.

In his lifetime, Hopkins ran thousands of tests with free samples, and he documented the results in his 1918 book, "Scientific Advertising."

I'm on my third or fourth reading of this marketing classic.

And the other day, one point in particular jumped out to me.

Hopkins wrote that there's a right way and a wrong way to offer a free sample.

The WRONG way is to offer samples promiscuously to anyone and everyone, before they've heard your "sales story."

In Hopkins' day, this meant roaming through a neighborhood and lobbing samples of your new breakfast cereal onto everyone's front porch.

Today, it might look like offering the first module of your online course to everyone who stumbles across your website or clicks your ad on Facebook.

That's not likely to work, because "sampling" isn't a substitute for salesmanship—it's just a tool in the salesman's toolbelt.

The right way to use a sample is:

To remove all doubt and risk for prospects who are *nearly* converted.

The sample is the final step in the convincing process, NOT a shortcut to get around the hard work of persuading prospects that your product is better.

Hopkins recommends only offering a sample under two conditions:

1. That the prospect already understands your product—they've read an ad that lays out the benefits, they know that they WANT those benefits, but they're not 100% convinced that you can deliver.

2. You require that the prospect take some definitive action to get the sample, like clipping out a coupon and taking it to a store.

What Hopkins is saying here is that you still have to "sell" your free sample, or it won't be appreciated.

The recipient won't put your product to use—and you won't get a chance to demonstrate that your way is better.

That's why in Michael's case I would *not* recommend offering free access to part of his course as a lead magnet.

The appropriate time to try something like that is after he's spent time with his subscribers to build the case for his Facebook course.

Once they're dying to get in, THEN he can offer the sample—and remove all doubt that the course is worth their hard-earned dollars.

About Josh Earl:

Josh Earl helps entrepreneurs to create a steady stream of sales and income using fun-to-write, educational email courses. To see how to generate this kind of stable, reliable income in your business, enroll in his free 10-day class today.