Have you ever thought about trying to generate leads by offering free services?
For example, have you posted in Facebook groups or cold emailed somebody offering things like:
- Free site audits
- Free consultations to review your website
- Free web site + paid monthly services
To get clarity on why offers like this are generally a bad idea, let's take a look at three things:
- Why you made the offer in the first place
- What you want to happen
- What actually happens
Then we'll take a look at how to create a free offer that works great for generating leads for high-ticket web design.
Why make the offer in the first place?
Obviously, these offers are intended to generate leads. This is an example of a three-step funnel, right? You try to think of something of value that you can give away for free with the hope of making an introduction, building trust, and winning some new clients.
Let's take a closer look at what's going on in this three-step funnel. Here are the three components:
- Introduce yourself by offering something of value (like a free site audit)
- This builds trust by offering value upfront
- Turn some percentage of these leads into clients
So, what you've done is you have made is simple funnel for yourself. The important thing to understand is that the offer is the compass that sets the direction for the rest of this funnel. The “thing of value” sets the polarity of your magnet – so to speak. The offer decides who you are going to attract and who you repell.
Now that we've looked at the structure of this basic funnel let's compare what you want to happen with what actually happens.
What you want to happen
The goal, of course, is to generate leads for web design clients, right? Simply cold calling or cold emailing people doesn't tend to work very well. People just ignore you. So, in an attempt to improve the chances that someone takes you seriously, you decide to offer a free service.
Create a good introduction
Offering the free service is a strategy web designers use so cold contacts won't think you're just spamming them. Hopefully, they will see you're trying to genuinely help them. That will create a great first impression. So, if all goes as planned, the free offer will set the stage for a good introduction.
Now that you've made a good first impression with your introduction the next step is to prove your value and build trust by doing the free thing. Sometimes web designers will just do the free thing upfront. For example, they might just do a free site audit and include that audit in their introduction email. Other times web designers will just put their offer out there and wait for people to respond. Then they will do the free thing for people who respond. Either way, the idea is to build trust upfront by doing a good job… for free.
Win new clients
At this point, you've done something free and valuable for the client. So you've made a good first impression with your initial connection, built trust, and the lead/client is presumably happy. The next step is to convert this lead into an actual, paying client by offering them something that's not free. Since they saw that you are a genuine person who can do great work, the next step of becoming a paying client is logical and easy.
Or, at least that's the mainstream idea for how all this works. Of course, anyone who has tried this knows that it doesn't work this way. Instead, you end up frustrated, working for cheap, and running fast towards burn out.
What actually happens
If the above sequence of events still worked then web designers would have far more clients than they do. The truth is this is not an effective way to generate leads because the offer isn't something the client actually wants. The good clients, the ones you actually want to work with, are not motivated by free site audits, free consultations, or even free websites.
The problem is NOT that your offer isn't valuable. It's probably very valuable. It's probably too valuable and time-consuming to offer for free. So, the problem is NOT the lack of value you're offering. The problem is that the offer attracts the wrong audience.
The clients you really want to work with are business owners who are running serious businesses and they need help solving major business problems. Let's break this down because we're talking about three things.
The clients who are able to invest in high-ticket, long-term (recurring revenue) relationships are business owners. You're not trying to reach other web designers or other tech enthusiasts. You're trying to reach business owners. I've been doing this 18 years and not one of my clients has ever asked for a website audit. Now, I might conduct a site audit for them at some point, but they are not ATTRACTED to me because I'm offering them a web site audit.
Running serious businesses
Business owners who are running serious businesses aren't hanging out in Facebook groups about web design, WordPress, or social media marketing. If there are any business owners in any of these groups they are just there to post a quick job offer for a cheap project. The business owners you actually want to be working with are too busy running their business to be fiddling around in Facebook groups.
Solving major business problems
If your solution isn't going to solve a major problem for your client then it's not a high-ticket solution. The primary reason a project is expensive is because it solves a major business problem. Business owners will not buy an expensive solution for a technical problem UNLESS solving that technical problem solves a major business problem. Unfortunately, most web designers and web developers are selling technical solutions for technical problems and leaving it up to the client to connect the dots between how the solution creates a desired business outcome. It's very difficult for business owners to make that mental connection especially if they aren't technically savvy.
Why most free offers fail
Here's a quick summary of why most free offers fail.
- The offer is for something technical (site audit, website consultation, etc)
- The offer doesn't attract the right type of client
- The offer doesn't present a solution to a major business problem
- The offer takes too much time to deliver for free
- The lead never converts to a high-paying client
The recipe for a good free offer
It is possible to win web design clients with a free offer. The key is to offer something for free that address a business problem for your client and both GENERATES and QUALIFIES your leads WITHOUT you having to spend your time fulfilling the offer.
You have to make sure you're hitting on three things:
- Address a business outcome
- Generate leads
- Qualify leads
- Scalable fulfillment (you don't have to custom more work for each lead)
Examples of good free offers include things like:
- Informative landing pages
- Lead magnets with an email opt-in for something cool
Again, it's critical that the subject/core of your offer addresses a business problem and that you are showing the path to an awesome business outcome. Of course, your solution will include technical things (web sites, digital marketing, funnels, social media, etc) but those tools/services are just stepping stones to get to the actual business outcome.
Offers like the ones listed above will not only generate leads but will also qualify your leads by filtering out people who aren't a good fit. These offers are also all things that you create one time and then you don't have to invest any more time into them regardless of how many leads they generate. This is in stark contrast to having to conduct a full-blow site audit for everybody that raises their hand even if they have absolutely no intention of hiring you for anything.