There were likely hundreds of disappointed women, and some men, who approached booth No. 3880 last month at the Motivation Show in the hopes of snatching up a 2-ounce sample of cucumber/melon or sweet pea hand cream only to find that Bath & Body Works was no longer offering samples.
The company distributed samples at trade shows for about 10 years, but has decided that the lines of people and crowds that congest its exhibit booth may be a distraction from its real mission: selling products as incentive and motivational tools to prospective clients.
Cicely Wylde-Oubrerie, the national sales manager for corporate sales, who was at the booth, said the discontinued sampling is a strategy the company had decided to put in place.
One booth attendant said the last straw came when hundreds of people lined up at a recent trade show in San Diego, CA, to drop some samples in their tote bags and that the booth attendees were so preoccupied with handing out samples that they had no time to sell.
Even still, Bath & Body Works had quite a presence at the show. At each entrance attendees picked up one of its branded shopping bags that could be seen all across the show floor stuffed with samples.
The craze for samples at Bath & Body Works is something of an anomaly. Other companies, like Omaha Steaks, can draw quite a crowd when they begin cooking steaks at the booth and the smell of sizzling beef wafts through the air, but even still, not many draw the continuous line of samplers that Bath & Body Works can with its bottles of hand cream.
Many companies, like Bath & Body Works, have employed tighter controls on sampling during the show and put a greater emphasis on generating interest prior to the show.
Bath & Body Works distributed promotions in advance of the show offering discounts on its products.
Elite Corporate Gifts and Rewards, the new incentive division of C&H Clubs in Lake Forest, CA, wanted to make a splash for its trade show debut. It sent e-mails to key contacts prior to the show touting its i-gifts program, a line of six gourmet products and offering one free gift to each visitor to its booth. Home Depot lured attendees with a pre-show offer to stop by and pick up a gift card worth between $1 and $500, the value of which could be determined in store.
Get Up & Go, a Margate, FL-based provider of vacation certificates, invited prospects to stop by and pick up a certificate for a four-day, three-night stay at a hotel at one of 21 destinations, including Honolulu, HI, Smoky Mountains, TN or Orlando FL. And Harry & David sent a postcard, tempting attendees with its chocolate truffles.
“We have the motto, ‘one taste is all it takes.’ Sampling is cost effective and gives prospects a first-hand experience of how superior our products taste over other brands,” said Ken Shiliro, regional sales manager, for Harry & David Corporate Incentives & Promotions, a new division the company created to better address the needs of the incentive and promotion industry. “Although the crowd seemed smaller than in previous years, we had a larger turnout of qualified prospects to our booth. We’re sure the truffle samples played a part in that turnout.”
During the show an array of enticements ranged from free 5-minute massages to Olympic athletes performing on trampolines to blue martinis and dancing tribesman. Elite Corporate Gifts ran a promotion, The Great Gourmet Giveaway, handing out one of its gifts (a $50 value) every 10 minutes. Each hour, a booth attendant rang a (very loud) bell and pulled six names from a bowl to award the gifts— choice of wines, cheeses, chocolates, flowers, beers or cigars.
The company ended the show with more than 500 new qualified leads. It gave out 150 free gift cards of which 39 were redeemed within the first three days following the end of the show.
“Coming in as a new company and a new line it was extremely important for us to find some innovative ways to create awareness for our company name and our products,” said Jerry Bower, CMO, Elite Corporate Gifts and Rewards. “We wanted to do something different and out of the ordinary, yet meaningful and exciting.”