What Are Your “Samples” Telling Prospective Customers About Your Company?

Written by Mike Shapiro | | November 22, 2017

“Samples? What samples? We’re not offering any samples,” you might say.

Well, actually you are whether you know it or not, no matter how intentional or unintentional you are about it. Everything you say, everything you do, every offer, every response to a customer’s inquiry — are all samples of your customer experience. These things communicate a wealth of information about what it would be like doing business with you.

What kind of messages are you sending?

Here are a few examples:

Business Sample Message Intended Message Delivered
Food market Prepared food samples in the stores This is what it will taste like if you buy it. Somehow it never tastes as good when I get it home.
Car dealership Test drive We want you to have the “driving experience” before you buy. I can tell he’s using the “mojo assessment” to make sure I’m a “for-real buyer” before he lets me get behind the wheel.
Software application Free 30-day trial Once you try it, you’ll love it as much as we do. I’m all alone out here, and not sure it’s worth the effort to de-code their unfamiliar terms and navigation conventions.
Credit card Temporary low rate on transferred balances You’ll make a dollars-and-cents decision that you’re better off bringing your balance to us. Suppose someone else comes up with a better deal next month?
Cable TV/Internet package Special low cost for first year When you compare our special rate with your existing rate, you’ll drop them and switch to us. They prefer new customers over loyal existing customers. I’ll be an “existing customer” soon.
Department store Easy returns, no questions asked. If in doubt, you should buy it because there’s no risk. You can always bring it back. They don’t care whether I keep it or not and, if I bring it back, they don’t care about the reason I don’t want it.
Brick-and-mortar outpost for ultra-cool, disruptive online shirt company Special “try-on” shirts so you can find your size. We want to keep our “for-sale” shirts in a pristine condition. That’s persnickety (and actually, kinda creepy). Every store — even Brooks Brothers — lets me try on the actual item before I buy it.
Professional (doctor, lawyer, etc.) office Making an initial appointment We’re not here to talk about your problem. We just make appointments. They don’t care about me.

Customers and prospects view every interaction with your company as a sample– especially in the early stages, before they’ve had a chance to really experience your product or service. It’s well worth your time and effort to think about how these early “messages” are likely to be received and what they say about what it would be like to do business with your company.