By mgieva • March 24, 2011

Local Businesses & the Power of Sampling

"What do you guys do for marketing?" was definitely not the question our tour guide was expecting to receive. After all, we were there to learn how their factory produced chocolate. But after a brief pause, he shared what the main instrument of marketing was for Taza Chocolate Factory.

Sampling, the tour guide said. And no wonder! The place offers eight tours a week, in which visitors can find out more about the magic of chocolate-making. You not only get to touch the coffee beans and examine the old roasting equipment, but can also taste the spicy chocolate bars. In this way, sampling defines the experience of product learning, enjoyment and sharing—a very holistic marketing system, indeed.

The Power of Live Events

Local businesses now have the opportunity to easily organize group activities around their products. Much like musicians at live concerts, companies can build a following by giving out something of value and turning their employees into rock stars.

That's why the concept of ticket-buying is not unfamiliar to Taza Chocolate Factory. The company uses eventbrite to facilitate the tour registration process, and guess what-- their events get booked pretty quickly. (We had to call a week in advance to book tickets for a Sunday afternoon tour.)

Showcase Your Business Quirks

The one-hour tour I attended was fascinating. I learned that one of Taza Chocolate's founders used to be a scuba-diver. I learned that one of the factory's coffee roasting machines was imported from Europe and pieced together here, in Somerville, MA. I also learned about the concept of direct trade (not the same as fair trade). All these stories made me really appreciate the final product I was about the experience. So, if you are a local business, think about ways in which you can showcase these types of quirks and fascinate your customers.

Do the Math of Sampling

Let's check out the math behind this type of food sampling:

I invited my friends to sign up for the Chocolate Factory tour, so we can enjoy this activity together. +
I paid $5 for my tour ticket. +
I attended a "behind-the-scenes, guided tour" and learned cool new stuff. +
I ended up buying some chocolate. +
I told more friends about it. +
I would love to go back! =

= A pretty holistic marketing approach.

The idea here is that this type of sampling defined an experience beyond the product purchase. It is not just marketing; it is a thread of stories that begs to be shared.