Should you charge for samples?

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Many small businesses that sell products are always faced with the task of finding new clients and distributors to do business with. This does not necessarily apply to retail stores, although it could. However, I am talking about business-to-business scenarios. Small businesses that are selling a product have to let their prospective clients try their product out. To do this, they must provide them with samples. The challenge is that giving samples away for free all the time can cost a lot of money which, for a small business can be tough.

Large companies have little problem doing this as they build in sample giving in to their expense plan for a new product. Small businesses can do this too, but for them it can sometimes be difficult to estimate how many samples they will need to give out in order to reach their goals. This is especially true for new companies. Giving samples for free to potential distributors or clients that are small businesses in their own right can also have another negative side effect. It can sometimes cause those receiving companies to not take the product as seriously as they would if they paid for it. This is human nature and happens in business all the time. It applies less to large companies because they are used to giving samples for free so they expect to receive them in return as well.

When you charge a small business for samples of your product during a meeting it can encourage them to show and/or use them sparingly and only to the right people. Charging them for the samples can also serve as a reminder so they won’t forget about it. It will also bring in some cash flow to at least cover the costs of giving samples for free to some other, larger companies.

The drawback is that some people will think you are being cheap or nickel-and-diming them which can turn them off from wanting to do business with you. It can also send the signal that you are in desperate need of cash flow which is a terrible signal to send anyone in business. Charging business people for samples can also make you look unprofessional in their eyes which is also never good.

So the question remains whether you should or should not charge for samples? Unfortunately, there is no simple cut and dry answer. It requires some consideration for your company’s financial situation and more importantly, who you are talking to. At the end of one meeting with a potential client/distributor, you should have a fairly good idea of how serious this person is. That doesn’t mean you should write people off because you truly never know who will end up being a big account or customer, but you will get a feel for how they do business. This will tell you how they might react to asking for money for your samples.

If you can afford it, you should have a clear and up front policy for everyone that you will give a limited amount of samples to a potential client for free. If they need more than that amount then you can say that you have to charge them for it. If you maintain this policy with all companies small and large, then likely no one will complain or think less of you. Like large companies, you should build this in to the cost of your new product development. After all, without letting people see and try your product, all the work you put in to have it in the first place will be for nothing.