Saturday, September 03, 2005 11:21 PM
The financial pain of demo travel; last night's dinner
I do a lot of demos of my products at grocery stores where my products are carried. If I’m the broker, my client usually pays for the cost of sampling materials. But for things I import, I pay for the samples I give out. The cost of sampling is by itself quite painful.
The theory of doing demos is not that you will sell a lot of product the day of the event. Demos are a way of introducing products, getting feedback, and hopefully, getting such products in the mind of the customer. A few people buy something right away, and some people buy on their next trip to the store, and some people will remember the item when just the right occasion comes up. And, of course, quite a lot of people won’t take any action at all, but this is true of any promotional method.
The advantage of conducting a demo is the immediate feedback, the rapport you can establish with at least a few customers, and the potential for building long-term repeat customers. It’s very hands-on, and very much a way of telling the story of a product.
Alas, thanks to the ever-increasing gas prices, my occasional trips to Portland are never very financially rewarding. I’ve averaged about two trips per month to the Beaverton Uwajimaya, at a cost of about $30–35 per trip in gas, without considering any additional impact on my car’s lifespan or maintenance needs. Yesterday, when I fueled up in anticipation of this trip, I spent almost exactly $45 for 16 gallons of gas. When I got home tonight, I had to fill it up again, and away went another $42 or so.
On the one hand, this is a very difficult way to build product recognition. On the other hand, if I don’t do these demos, my products may not move at all, because people don’t get to know anything about them.
Of late, I have substantially increased my portfolio of products that I sell at wholesale, so I believe that these challenges are really just a matter of scale. But it’s still very frustrating to look at money disappearing so rapidly.
Last night I made a late bit simple dinner for three. It included a vaguely greek salad (feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumber, atop lettuce) with a garlic-citrus dressing, some hummus which I adorned with some olive oil and mild chili powder, some grilled mushrooms with garlic, some roasted red peppers, and some decent pita I found that is made in Seattle without the use of any scary additives or unpronounceable ingredients, and still happens to be moderately pillowy for something obtained at a supermarket. I also did some nice roasted potatoes again.