To Be Free or Not to Be Free? Should Businesses Charge for Consultations and Meetings

There are only a handful of businesses, social media marketing included, where prospects seem to have an expectation of a number of free meetings until signing. So, the question BlueJay Social is looking at today is:- “Should Businesses Charge For Consultations and Meetings?”

First of all, we could immediately say that there is a happy medium between the hard border points of:-

  1. “Ongoing and unlimited Free Initial Consultation Meeting(s)”; and
  2. “No Consultations without a contract…”

Certainly, businesses want to be steering away from either of these polarities.

Consequently, if we look at 1., we can see that the outcome of such an approach results in your business’s time being used up in meetings that simply may never become a business relationship where anything of value has been exchanged (i.e. money for services). Similarly, if we look at 2., we can see that this is very unlikely to result in a sale (unless either your product/service is alone in the market place and speaks for itself and the prospect simply cannot acquire what they are seeking without your product/service – a monopolised market. For example, you will buy petrol for your car without any ‘sale’ needed from the petrol dispenser!)

Middle Path – “Everything in Moderation”

So, my view is anything that needs to be discussed before work commences should be covered in an initial consultation in the form of a Get To Know Each Other meeting. Further consultations due to a lead rushing off to another meeting, or not having all the information ready to discuss, could well be chargeable.

After all, on reflection, how many of these second meetings are simply to scrape expert tips and techniques for free? In other words, looking for a business owner’s time and preparation in ‘wooing’ you to work together? The truth is, it’s often not a deliberate ploy on the part of the interested party, it’s just that a the interested party can think that their own time is valuable whereas yours is expendable since you were the one that has reached out to their business. They may well be incorrect there through no fault of their own.

BlueJay Social Meeting
Meeting at BlueJay Social

What is the industry standard in different business sectors?

When we look at what most industries are doing, we can see that most business sectors do not operate a model of offering a free consultation (and if they do it’s a promotion they are offering, it’s certainly not seen as ‘standard’).

  • Accountants? No.
  • Therapists? No.
  • Lawyers? Definitely not!
  • Dentists? No.
  • Private doctors? No.

It’s almost always the case with these business models that you pay an assessment fee / initial consultation fee. These fees are often in the £200+ ballpark.

That said, sometimes, representatives of these self-same businesses can balk at the prospect of paying for a fellow business owner’s time – such a thought doesn’t enter the mind. In conclusion, it must be that they see their own time in meeting ‘their prospects’ as chargeable and valuable, though your time in meeting ‘your prospects’ as negotiable.

Value of your industry : Value of theirs?

On reflection, perhaps it’s a question of value? In other words, perhaps we could reframe the proposition like this:-

“My [lawyer/dentist/other profession] time is valuable as I could be helping others on a retained or chargeable basis, so I must charge prospective clients a fee to meet them and prepare a proposal. I do not, (yet!), see that social media possesses the same value so I would not think it is reasonable to pay for it.”

Analysing this though, it is not at all clear that that is a true statement. In fact, it’s more likely to be an excuse. For instance, in most cases, the professional’s time is only valuable in as much as they are adding value through their advice for that particular discrete issue. Social media has huge amounts of ongoing value for the people we meet. Yes, it’s our job to communicate that value perhaps more so than a dentist needs to. But a dentist also needs to persuade you that his dentistry work is better/cheaper/other ‘sellable variable’ than the next dentist’s.

So where is the difference exactly?

BlueJay Social would LOVE to hear from you. What are your own thoughts?

Should all businesses charge for consultations and meetings as standard? Where does the difference between different industries stem from?

What are your thoughts? Have you got an idea for a future topic of a blog/vlog post? What has always intrigued you about the social media world that you don’t quite understand?

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