We’ve all probably done this: a business that sells to business customers offers a special deal or promotion to attract new business or to liquidate inventory, and then is unable to convert those bargain hunters into loyal, repeat customers. For example, a restaurant supplies store offers a great bargain on coveted cookware, hoping to lure new customers and/or to sell additional products, but only the bargain hunters show up. Or an event organizer provides free or highly discounted booth space at an undersold trade show in order to make the trade show more appealing to business customers, and the organizer only succeeds in alienating his current exhibitors; not attracting new ones for the next event. Or a software firm offers unlimited use free software with a premium upgrade, but nobody opts for the upgrade.
Luring New Business Customers with Evaluation Kits. One of my favorite examples of offering “free samples” or “at cost samples” to B2B prospects was National Semiconductor’s evaluation kits and boards. When Phil Gibson was running Web marketing for National Semiconductor, he developed a very sophisticated software toolset, known as WEBENCH®, which design engineers could use to design one-off evaluation units. (National Semiconductor was acquired by Texas Instruments—in part because of the value of these tools and this marketing approach.) National would then ship either a kit for the engineer to build the prototype board, or the company would assemble the one-off custom board and ship it out the next day—at close to cost.