11.01.20168 min read

Why Your Free Consultation Offer Isn’t Working

By Carmen Campbell

A short time after deciding to dip my toe into the pool of entrepreneurship, I nervously launched my coaching practice. I crafted my “this will do for now” website, and turned on my virtual “open for business” neon sign. I decided that my irresistible free offer, my lead magnet, would be something quite magical—a free consultation with me.

I will admit that I was nervous about “putting it all out there.” After all, if a lot of people signed up for this free consultation, how would I manage my existing and new potential clients?

Nevertheless, I had noticed that this was something that practically everyone was doing, which meant that I should be doing it too, right?  

Well, yes, and no. As it turns out, I had no reason to be nervous about managing a new flood of clients. While I had expected that I would acquire 2-3 requests for my offer each week, what actually happened was...nothing. I received no requests for my free consultation and no new leads. If you’ve ever wondered why no one ever opts-in to the magical free consultation that you offer on your website, keep reading to see if you are guilty of one of these common mistakes.

Your consultation offer is too vague

Quite often free consultation offers are so vague that the prospect isn’t really sure what value they will receive in return for sharing a slot on their calendar with you. Your prospect may be thinking, “Although your business appears legitimate, and you even seem to be an expert in this field, are you really able to help me with my very specific pain?”  

Even if your website provides insights into your methodology, unless the prospect is able to see how their particular problem is specifically resolved by becoming your client, they may never be compelled to opt-in for the free consultation. If your only call to action is the “Book a free consultation” webform, consider providing a more detailed description of what to expect. For example, “Book a free consultation, and I’ll share my three biggest secrets for…”  

You have no relationship with your prospect

So your prospective client may have landed on your website because she had a problem and decided to consult Google to help solve it. If your business popped up as a possible solution, yay! What happens next is really important to the building of this virtual relationship.  

If we think of the Free Consultation offer as the marketing equivalent of your standard 3rd date-ish dinner and a movie, it’s probably too soon to ask, and the answer will be a polite no thanks. Your prospect doesn’t know you yet, and this level of interaction requires both interest and trust. If that free consultation is the only offer that you are making, you may not even know that your prospect is willing to consider a less aggressive offer.

Give your prospects the opportunity to get to know you by allowing them to sign up for the amazing content that you offer via your blog, or by following you on social media, where you prove to be the most interesting person ever. Being interesting is likely to result in more “dates.”  

This is also the perfect opportunity to position your best lead magnet offer. Ideally, it requires practically no investment from your prospect, but delivers incredibly high value in return. Will she share her e-mail in exchange for the e-book or case-study that you seem to have custom-created for her? The answer is almost always yes. 

Your prospect doesn’t really know you

In the earlier stages of building your business, invest time in establishing yourself as an industry expert by ensuring that you produce value-rich content that you share. Comment in online forums. Do some guest blogging. Participate as an authority in the community that you serve.

If you do this consistently, you will build brand equity and create relationship capital that we all need in order to have marketing that connects.  

So put yourself out there—ask for testimonials that you can post where your ideal target client is likely to see them, request social likes and shares, and provide the social proof that your prospect is seeking. Allow your target market to get to know you through your profound insights and keen abilities. You must position yourself as the problem-solver. The bonafide guru. Become known for how well you do what you do, and eventually, your free consultation lead magnet will be the hottest ticket around.

All of these pitfalls considered, still, there are times when offering a free consultation is the right strategy. Make sure you are considering how to best optimize this strategy for your business needs.  

A free consultation is an excellent lead magnet when…

It’s already perceived as valuable

Perhaps your free consultation is offering me peace of mind by answering my questions before I commit, or perhaps you are saving me some money because I will be able to determine whether or not your business is the right solution for my problem. Or perhaps there is a perceived value because you’ve spent the past few years building a following and creating fans who want to engage with you.  

Once someone already perceives that there is an inherent value in your free consultation because of who you are and/or what your business represents, you are more likely to get opt-ins that actually convert.  

If you consider the typical strategy behind the free consultation offer, it’s no surprise that so many small business owners have leveraged this option as a successful part of their lead generation strategy.

When positioned properly, a prospect that signs up for your complimentary session provides you with an awesome opportunity. You get to engage in in a direct conversation with a person-of-interest. Where your value proposition meets and solves the specific pain that your ideal clients want to avoid, conversion magic will happen.  

It’s not your only lead magnet

Yes, a free consult is a fantastic idea to generate leads and increase conversions for many small businesses, but should it be the only idea you come up with to move contacts from prospects to sold? No.

When you offer a variable range of opportunities to opt-in on your list, you satisfy a more diverse group of site visitors. By engaging your audience with low, mid, and high commitment level lead magnets and opt-ins, I may eventually work my way up to that consultation—your golden-ticket conversation to conversation. By this point, you should know something about your prospect, and your prospect will know something about you to make this a meaningful conversation for all.

It connects to structured process that is proven to convert

Having a free-flowing, open dialogue, and providing no structure for your free session is likely to result in a lot of wasted time and frustration for both parties. Be sure to deliver on any outcomes that were promised on the opt-in form. Keep the consultation relatively short, and prior to the meeting, identify what you intend to accomplish on the call. Taking this approach will ensure that there is an adequate “take-away” for your potential client, while also providing key follow-up points for you to act upon post consultation.

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Carmen Campbell is a Getting Started Coach at Infusionsoft, where she helps small business owners use sales and marketing automation to achieve success. She believes entrepreneurship is the key to economic empowerment that will change the world. A proud veteran of the U.S. Navy and former retail manager, she has traveled the world and led winning teams for top companies such as The Home Depot and Walmart. Carmen loves the ocean, a great cup of coffee, and really nice shoes.

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