Today is National Donut Day and all throughout the country, the scent of glazed and sprinkled deliciousness is flooding our nostrils. These lighter than air confections are available from tasty donut shops like Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme for the low, low price of zero dollars today. As in, FREE! On a Friday?

Now wait just one minute. Why is today free donut day? Why did companies decide June 3rd was the best day to give away free donuts? And how late is my Dunkin’ open till again?

National Donut Day isn’t a day created by marketing pros or companies looking for more exposure for their products. The origins behind the day comes from the Salvation Army who used the concept of free goods to assist those in need in 1938 during the Great Depression. The donuts were also provided to soldiers fighting overseas. The Salvation Army established huts in France that offered helpful female volunteers who would offer writing supplies, sewing and clothing mending assistance, and baked goods to enlisted soldiers. Definitely a plus, but transporting the baked goods from the huts to the front lines proved to be more difficult than it seemed (imagine carrying dozens of pies long distances without a car and no way to keep them getting crushed…) Two volunteers thought up the idea of doing donuts instead and the idea struck gold: the soldiers loved the donuts and came in droves to visit the huts.

Today, donut shops honor the original fundraiser by giving away free donuts once a year. For all businesses big and small, it’s an tremendously successful tactic for generating both new business and ensuring the loyalty of regular customers. If you are debating on whether or not to incorporate freebies into your line of business, consider the 5 biggest benefits of doing so:

1) Sample Products

Looking to try a new recipe or new formula on an old familiar product? Need to share with the world your newest service? Samples are the best way to go about doing so. A sample size is generally small enough to use just once and if you like what how it works or how it tastes, you’re sold and that product is coming home with you. Ever been to Costco or Sam’s Club? These bulk warehouses are notorious for their samples of food and drink products sold under the same roof. It allows curious customers to try out foods that they might have otherwise overlooked or maybe not have purchased altogether because of the fear that it wouldn’t have tasted the way they imagined. Trying out new products is harder than it looks sometimes, as many people are accustomed to what they already like so giving out sample products is a great way to test with the consumer and create a buzz.

And speaking of buzz…

2) Word of Mouth

Something free?! You don’t even have to worry that there won’t be any response- everyone loves the word free. There is no losing on this situation. If you have a solid product, give out the samples, and attract the customers, then most of your work is done. Customers who like the product and the atmosphere from those working within the company will recommend it to their family and friends. The domino effect is born after- great word of mouth travels like a wildfire.

3) Reactions

Not every new product works out (does Crystal Pepsi from the ’90s ring a bell with anyone?) and this is to be expected. Disappointing? Yes. Only distributing the product out in sample sizes and losing a smaller amount of money in the end result? A lifesaver. Rather than invest all of your money into full-sized products that spend more time shelved than purchased and put into use, start with selling and sampling both trial and regular sizes. Offer coupon codes to consumers who used the product and are pleased with the results- this adds to the great word of mouth too!

4) They Don’t Have to Happen Once

One-time freebies can also become a regular fixture. Many companies offer freebies and deals for birthdays and holidays all throughout the year. One of the best examples is the nationwide makeup shop Sephora. Sephora’s website offers free samples with every purchase and even gives consumers the opportunity to choose their own samples from a selected list. They also offer free sample items for birthdays, packaged deals during the holidays, and if you sign onto an email mailing list, frequent insider sales offers and promo codes. With the success of both the stores and the online website as proof, it’s evident that everyone likes free samples no matter what time of the year it is!

5) Building Trust in Customers

This is one of the hardest things a new company or in some cases, even a trusted brand can do. Customers are brand loyalists by nature. When we try a brand and it works and we like it, the transition to trying a new one is difficult. We need to be sold on why this new product can be better for us, what it can do to enrich our lives, and if it is something we’ll want to share with others. Once trust is build, it is not shaken unless the company does something to severely shake it. Good companies and entrepreneurs create new products, sample them out, and get the word of mouth going. Great companies do all of this and listen. Listen to the needs and concerns of their consumer audience. To know that their concerns are being listened to and that change is in the process gives customers every reason to stay with the company and their products.

Care will go the longest way, no matter what industry you’re in.