Monday, 21 November 2011

Why your "FREE" service is a barrier to business

by Tony Vidler.

Most advisers at some point offer initial meetings, or consultations with clients, for "free".

The fundamental reason this just doesn't cut it with consumers is that they don't believe the advertiser.  It simply isn't true, and that will stop business coming your way.

Even at the institutional end of town we find businesses advertising their services as "free" to prospective customers, and most advisory practices fall into the trap at some point.

The first rule of professional marketing should surely be "tell the truth", in which case we should be advertising the initial-no-obligation-meeting as being "at my cost".

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 will 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 free undermines the entire process.

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.  There is a harsh conclusion for the advisers sold on hiding behind "free" - if the adviser cannot place value upon their expertise right up front, why should a consumer?

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.

There are very few potential customers who will ever truly value you and your expertise if the business relationship cannot begin with you valuing yourself.  Advertising yourself for free will prevent the type of business you want coming your way.

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