Friday, February 24, 2006

Product Samples - A Customer Asks, Our Challenge...

One of RI's regular customers presented me with a suggestion this morning. As the question and issue has come up from other customers, I thought it appropriate to quote in a blog post. I removed his name for privacy.

"Hi Pete,

I had an idea for RI I thought I'd pass along to you. I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to order the Spin Traps before they come down, and it got me thinking about a marketing idea for you. My biggest obstacle in ordering them is that I have never tried them before. And as awesome (and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word) as your products have been for me, and as great as your recommendations have been, I still can't justify spending $90 (minimum) for a product I haven't tried. And of course there's the dilemma because I know that it probably is an incredible deal I won't be able to find again.

So, I was thinking maybe you should consider offering trial size packets on products for orders over $X (or some other qualifier). You could package 1-3 days worth of supplement for new customers and give people a taste for something they may not have tried otherwise. I realize this is too late to implement for the spin traps, but my decision making process spit out this idea this morning and I thought I'd pass it along. And please don't get me wrong, I'd never presume to tell someone how to run their business (and I'm NOT fishing for free samples), but I thought you'd be receptive to a friendly suggestion.

Be well,
"John Doe"

My response to him:

"Hi John Doe,

Thank you for your feedback, I value that! It is certainly taken in a positive light, no worries. Your idea is good and I appreciate the situation you present.

My challenge is this: Do I want product going out my door that is not in bottler provided safety sealed packaging? Spin Trap is the only exception on the whole RI site in that it is in double heat-sealed bags, but not in packaging from a bottler. Here at Relentless Improvement all of our products are encapsulated and bottled at FDA approved, cGMP bottlers. We do not have any product packaging capability on our premises.

This is also why we do not offer bulk bagged powders.

Furthermore, it opens a can of worms from a labeling, quality control and liability standpoint. In our litigious country, I have to confront those risks. Plus I must conform to FDA labeling requirements. It would be astronomically expensive to actually have samples professionally bottled or bagged. That is why we tend toward larger capsule count products: cost-effectiveness for our customers.

The fewer capsules go into a container, the higher the per capsule cost becomes.

Furthermore, every time we (or any business) have to touch a product it costs money from a time/labor standpoint. Do we invest in time and manpower to develop and implement a sample program? Will the return on investment justify that expense? A good question.

As a consumer myself (of course!) I certainly see your point and understand your desire to try before you buy. I just don't know as a businessman how to address it in proper fashion- maintain quantifiable quality assurance and cost effectiveness? Especially for non-RI branded products.

Keep the comments coming John Doe! This is such a good issue, I am using it on my blog today.