Why every business should give away free food

Hurry. You have five minutes left before Starbucks closes its free pastry offer in the U.S. at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. But don’t worry, the strategy of sampling is here to stay.

McDonald’s is running a Free Mocha Monday promotion through Aug. 3. Kraft is engaging consumers with a First Taste community to share news of emerging products. Former McDonald’s CMO Larry Light told Ad Age a year ago that studies show 80% of consumers prefer a free sample to a coupon — and about a third said they would come back to buy again. Sampling works because customers who take the trouble to visit a store usually buy something else, the samples are typically inexpensive items, and a lift in future sales more than justifies the expense.

Sampling is worth trying in more complex business models, such as business-to-business sales. Whitepapers, free consultations, assessments, workshops and speeches are all freebies that give a little in exchange for getting a lot. In recessionary times, improving your offer could help attract clients. Make a list: What could you give away to lure future customers to your service?

Photo: He@rt

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