The other day I was talking with an executive at one of the largest professional services firms in the in the world. As I often do, I asked him how they get new customers. His answer may surprise you; it would have surprised me several years ago.

I started my career with a Fortune 50 company, and moved to

hammer and nail
Solve a small, but real, problem for your prospects.

successively smaller companies with each job change. By the time I started my own business, I was convinced that there was little in common between large and small companies when it comes to growth strategies. I had seen people with successful large company experience fail miserably as they tried to grow smaller companies.

Yet now with a slight change in perspective, I realize that there is more to learn than I first thought.

Back to my question: How does a global company with an international brand get new customers?

By offering free samples. In this case, they share their proprietary research and interpretation of that research with prospective clients. They don’t go in talking about how much experience they have or list the number of PHD egg-heads they have on staff. Really, what’s the point? Of course they have experience, of course they have good people they are huge and very successful! Oh and so is their competition.

Instead, they help prospects with real issues that concern them. And they do it for free.

Rather than talking about how you work or what you have done for others, free samples demonstrate how you can help prospects and what it is like to work with you.  In the process you either make a positive impression, or you don’t.

Professional service companies of any size can use this same tactic. While you may not have access to legions of egg heads to provide original research, there is something that you know that is valuable to prospects. That's why anyone bothers to hire you. 

Free samples save marketing expense by shortening your sales cycle and improving your conversion rate.

During the trial, prospects will quickly determine if you are credible and a good fit for them. The alternative is that they need to continue to investigate you - and your competitors. The process takes longer, and you will lose more to your competition.

When properly offered free samples allow prospects to skip several steps in their buying process, and jump right to developing a relationship with you.

"We can’t afford to give our time away."

The most common reasons I hear why owners resist providing free samples is:

1. It cheapens our image and makes it harder to charge full price.
2. We can’t afford it (which really means if we give away our expertise we won’t get enough paying clients to pay for the effort.)

Let’s look at each.

The snarky answer to the first objection is that it will only cheapen your image if you let it. When I told you about the multinational company offering a free trial was your reaction that it cheapened their image? Or did it make sense? If you are like most, it makes perfect sense. It allows them to stop selling, and start solving real problems.

The answer to the second objection is to design your free trial so that that it more than pays for itself. Design your trial package to solve a small, but meaningful problem, for your clients. Instead of a free consultation an accountant may offer an audit of a company’s financial controls. A company with concerns about their financial processes would find this very valuable. At the successful conclusion of the trial plan how you will sell them additional services.   

It's important to test the timing of your free sample offer. At one extreme you can make it available to everyone on the home page of your web site, and at the other extreme you can make it available late in the process after you have qualified the prospect that just needs a little push to get them make the final decision.

If you would like help designing a trial offer for your company contact us today.