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In the retail world, “sampling” is often a very effective strategy. For service providers, some type of “no charge consultation” can be a successful way to provide potential clients with an opportunity to “try before they buy.”  What many people forget, though, is that this consultation is essentially a product in itself. As such, you need to give some thought as to how you’ll market it.


Many service providers routinely provide initial consultations at no charge – either in person or by telephone – as a means to get their foot in the door, qualify prospects, and demonstrate the value of their offering. The question is: what can you do to effectively market this consultation and overcome the perception that it is just a sales pitch? Here are some ideas:

  • State the benefits. Even though you’re not charging for your consultation, it doesn’t come without a price – your potential clients are paying for it with their time. Make it clear that participants will benefit from the meeting even if they do not choose to engage your services. If possible, specify exactly what will be covered during the meeting, and what information or insights participants can expect to receive.
  • Create an appropriate name. Sometimes saying that you’re offering a “free” consultation can lower the perceived value of your services. In this case you can call it an “initial meeting,” “no-obligation project evaluation,” “complimentary needs assessment,” or some other appropriate term.
  • Get others to market it for you. Create a nice-looking gift certificate for your consultation which others can use as a gift to their clients. For example:

    • A home stager can create a certificate that local Realtors can give to home sellers upon signing, offering homeowners advice regarding how to better stage their home for the market.

    • A bookkeeper can create a certificate for one hour of Quickbooks setup advice that local business attorneys can give to clients who are incorporating.

    • A wedding planner can provide a consultation to a caterer’s clients.
  • Make it easy for prospects to sign up. Remember, regardless of what you call it, your offer won’t do you any good if prospects can’t figure out how to contact you to schedule the meeting!

What Others Are Saying

"Each time I work with Linda, I am reminded just how well she understands marketing. Linda understands the principles of marketing on a psychological level. She sees the bigger picture. She is pragmatic, insightful and incredibly fast."

Kristine Putt,
Owner and Brand Identity Designer, Paragon Moon