Marie Chevrier is the founder and CEO of Sampler, a revolutionary sample-distribution app. She sat down for the following interview with LORI’s Stephen Friedrich at Montreal Startupfest 2016.
STEPHEN FRIEDRICH: So tell me a bit about Sampler.
MARIE CHEVRIER: Sampler helps brands distribute product samples to the right people, so we’re kind of like a product sampling CRM. Brands can go onto our app and they can set up offers that they can distribute digitally to consumers. By bringing sampling online, they can create more targeted and measurable sampling campaigns, so we’re really going against the old way of handing out samples on street corners or even grocery stores.
Which leads me to the question I’ve been asking everybody – what problem are you solving?
The problem is that traditional sampling strategies like brand ambassadors handing out samples on a street corner, or even in-store, give brands very little insight in terms of exactly who they are reaching with that sample. It’s hard for them to actually say it’s to a targeted customer. And then most importantly, I think they lose touch with the consumer the moment they walk away with the offer, so they never know if the consumer had a positive experience or if they actually convert it to sales.
And you do this how, primarily – gathering data on the people you give the samples to?
We work in a couple ways. Sometimes we seek out the audience for the brands through targeted ads. Sometimes the brands have an audience that they want to leverage using digital sampling, so [our strategy] could be helping them do a peer-recommendation campaign where people who already love their brand can share a sample with a friend. And then the last one, which is super new, is the Sampler Audience Network. That’s launching very soon so I’m not going to say too much about it, but it definitely is an opportunity for us to have more of a direct relationship with the end consumer and understand who they are so we can connect them with brands.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the role of data in marketing and the difficulty of seeing the signal in the noise when you gather that amount of data – how do overcome that?
Totally, that’s a big problem. One of the things we saw initially when we started working on Sampler, we would gather a lot of data for brands and give them a data dump and they would not use it because it was so complex. So [now] we actually have an analytics dashboard that allows them to make qualitative conclusions on the data, not just quantitative.
What led you to create Sampler to begin with?
So I actually handed out samples on street corners before, that was my first job. I worked for Mosaic Sales Solutions. I did that quite a bit through college. I always thought it was silly. But then I had the opportunity to work in an agency and fell in love with marketing, and then I became an entrepreneur-in-residence for Rocket Internet, which is a big venture firm. That was in New York City. So at this point, when I decided to come up with Sampler was – I really wanted to find a product that would allow me to merge my passion for both marketing and technology. So I came up with it that way. But I had a ton of conversations with consumer-packaged goods brands that saw the value in the product, so I knew that [Sampler] was going to be a necessary thing.
So what led you to marketing before that?
You know, I studied theatre, so I don’t really know.
That’s kind of a theme with people I’ve been talking to. They start off in psychology or theatre or music and wind up doing something completely different.
Yeah. I mean, I think theatre and entrepreneurship makes a lot of sense. I feel like every day you’ve got to put on a show and really believe in what you’re building. I always loved the thrill of theatre and I love the thrill of building companies.
So other than the Audience Network, what’s next for Sampler?
Well, we’re closing a round – we’re here announcing the closing of our second round. So now we’re just building a team. The team’s going to grow to twenty this summer, so that’s super exciting. Putting all of those dollars to good use quickly!
Anything else you’d like to add?
No, just if anyone that is reading is in Toronto and wants to meet some fellow female entrepreneurs, I’d love to meet you!