Part of my consulting success includes helping clients hit the New York Times bestseller list in three different categories, which is extremely rare. One of the secrets to this success is employing a powerful marketing principle that a business mentor taught me several years ago:
The purpose of an effective sample is to make people think, “Wow – this sample is so good, I wonder how much more value I’ll get if I buy the product.”
Let’s unpack this principle and apply it to two extremes of consumer purchases, buying a car and buying a book. For example, what if car dealerships didn’t allow you to test-drive their vehicles? If so, you’d feel a lot more reluctant to make such a big purchase. There is a lot of money and time wrapped up in such a major decision.
Car dealers understand the fear that consumers feel. That’s why they provide numerous options to ease the buying process, including:
- Look and sit in a car for free in the showroom
- Research detailed car specifications online
- Take the car for a short initial test-drive
- Take the car for a long test-drive before commitment
On the other hand, let’s consider how people buy books. Sure, the buying process isn’t as nerve-racking as buying a car. But, consumers still want to know that the purchase will be satisfying. Many people will throw $10 – $20 at a book without reading a word beforehand and hope for the best. But, the level of competition among book choices is insane. Just like car dealers, authors and publishers can ease people’s buying concerns by making it easier to test-drive their books.
For instance, it’s common to see a book’s first chapter posted for free on an author’s website or a book’s Amazon page. However, I’m convinced only posting the first chapter is insufficient. For most books, especially non-fiction, the first chapter usually describes the problem that the book was written to address. The author’s specific solutions are delivered in the later chapters. That lack of information creates a guessing game for reader. They feel uncertain if the book will be satisfying, so they remain on the fence.
If a book’s sample is limited to just the first chapter, consumers don’t get to see the wisdom of the author’s material. In a car-buying context, it’s like only getting to test-drive a car for a few miles. You don’t get enough time to feel what the vehicle is really like. You need a longer test-drive to provide the confidence for making a purchase.
In light of this reality, I encourage my author and publishing clients to offer additional samples beyond just the first chapter. Go a step further. Select a large chunk of the best material from the middle of a book. I’m talking 1,000 – 3,000 words. Give that content away for free in addition to the sample chapter. Allow consumers to experience enough of the book’s best attributes to help close the sale.
Every time I’ve helped a client hit the New York Times bestseller list, we were overly generous with book samples. During one particular campaign, we gave away 30% of the book’s entire manuscript as a free download. The book sold over 200,000 copies in the first year. Sampling didn’t steal sales; it sparked sales.
Whether you’re marketing books, cars, food, or anything else, be as generous as possible with your samples. In return, you will lead more consumers to think, “Wow – this sample is so good, imagine how much I’ll enjoy the product. I’m buying one today.”