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Why It's Dangerous to Offer Free Work to Entice a New Client

Aug 17, 2007
Some beginning copywriters have asked for my opinion about offering potential clients a "free assessment" that consists of a free review of a marketing piece along with suggestions for improvement.

First let me say that the idea is not a bad one, and in fact it used to be a somewhat common tactic for opening the door.

But in the last five or six years, I've seen its power slip considerably. Not only have I seen it fail in my own marketing, but one of my early students used it as well, with poor results.

My personal guess is that marketers have become more sophisticated, and copywriters more plentiful. The bar has been raised in the last decade for how a consultant must market.

It's no longer good enough to bait with the offer of money-savings. I think today's marketing decision-makers are stressed for time and are more apt to respond to a campaign that clearly shows that you're right for their niche. (In fact, the success of my students proves this without a shadow of a doubt.)

Good quality clients are not interested in money first... Their first interest is in the "perfect match." Once they ascertain you're the right consultant for them, THEN their thoughts turn to costs.

So offering a money-savings (e.g., free analysis, price reduction, etc.), is not the best entry strategy. However, it CAN work under certain circumstances.

Here's how to use this tactic, if you use it at all:

If your potential client is willing to take you up on your offer, she MUST do some work too. She must be as invested as you are in the exchange. Obviously, people will take free things all day long if they don't have to do any work for it.

And this is the key to a fair exchange. Your potential client must gather relevant materials for you to look at; information on target market, the competition, data on the results of past campaigns, a complete creative brief on the project, and whatever else you need.

This goes back to a simple sales premise (and copywriting tactic), that the longer one stays involved with a prospect, (or mailing package), the more likely that person is to convert.

So you see, when the prospect is required to work as hard as you are in this "free" exchange, then the dynamics will change.

The likelihood that the prospect will take your work, pat you on the head, and push you out the door is greatly diminished.

Point number two: If you put a value on your free offer make sure you don't price too low A typical entrepreneur or a very small business might find a savings of $100 attractive, but that won't motivate the more desirable mid-size or larger companies.

A better way is to present the BENEFIT to the prospect, as in "Free 'Triple Your ROI' Package Assessment." Can you see how offering $100 of your time is "all about me" but offering a "Triple Your ROI" is all about them?

It's a subtle but powerful distinction.

I don't recommend that you offer anything free. Instead, work hard to create information products that SOLVE a problem for your targeted decision-makers. That's what produces results.
About the Author
Chris Marlow publishes a free newsletter for consultants who want to land the high quality, high value clients.
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