Most professionals at some point offer complimentary initial meetings or consultations with clients as a “free service”.
It simply isn’t true, and that in itself prevents the right sort of clients coming your way. The fundamental reason why this just doesn’t cut it with consumers is because they don’t believe it. Nothing worthwhile is “free”. There is a cost or a catch or a hook somewhere…you just aren’t telling them what it is.
That is a credibility issue right there.
The first rule of marketing professional services is “tell the truth”, in which case we should be advertising the initial-no-obligation-meeting as being “at my cost”. That is the truth.
Nothing we do in business is free, and consumers do not believe for a moment that they are getting anything from us for nothing. If it doesn’t have an obvious price then there must be a hidden one, right? If that is the case then the very first thing you have created with your advertising is distrust on the part of the potential customer – and that is a barrier to doing business.
It makes no sense to put a trust barrier up to begin with, and particularly not one that is so patently transparent. All the initial effort by the adviser in any customer relationship is focussed on establishing rapport, trust and credibility. Yet advertising yourself as a free service undermines the entire process of achieving that trust.
Be honest in your marketing. While being honest lay the foundations for a truly professional relationship that is based upon trust from the outset, and which clearly values your expertise.
So instead of telling the world that your expertise of services are “free” at the outset tell it how it really is. As a professional adviser you provide no-obligation (on either party) initial meetings “at my cost”. It isn’t free. Using my office, is at my cost. If I come to you, that is at my cost. Sending you the pre-meeting material and disclosure information? That is at my cost too.
It is not at “NO cost”.
Offering information and providing the time and resources to potential customers at the outset is a marketing expense to the advisers business. Why try to hide that?
Give yourself the right professional positioning at the beginning of a potential engagement. It makes perfect sense to offer an introductory meeting at no cost to the potential customer. A no-obligation meeting to begin with makes as much sense for the adviser as the consumer. There are some consumers you just cannot, or don’t want to, help. So there is nothing wrong with telling them there is no cost to them for that initial meeting, but that is simply not the same as saying there is “no cost to the meeting”. There is…it is just that you are paying it instead of the consumer.
Advertising yourself as “free” will only encourage the type of clients you DON’T want: those who shop on price or cost and who do not value the professional.