Service providers, imagine you go to a car dealership. You see a new Cadillac and ask to take a test drive. The dealer says “Sure, that will be $29”. The dealer’s logic: He has a valuable asset. What if you drive the car; and use his resources (including his valuable time) but do not buy? The dealer is just being prudent, after all.
Would you pay $29 for a test ride?
Probably, not. Most people would not because marketing requires goodwill on both sides. That is, if you are a legitimate prospective customer (who can afford a Cadillac and is willing to buy) you expect the dealer to extend the courtesy of a test drive.
Now, let’s apply this idea to the marketing of services. Services are different in that once knowledge is shared it cannot, unlike the keys to a Cadillac, be returned. Therefore, if an entrepreneur shared her knowledge with a prospect, and the customer doesn’t buy the service, in the seller’s mind she has lost value (and the buyer has gained something for free).
To avoid this scenario, service providers often ask prospects to pay (often at a discounted rate) for an initial discussion. Do you see the problem? The seller is assuming the buyer will find value in the knowledge; and then apply it for his/her benefit. However, it is entirely possible the prospective buyer will not see and/or appreciate the value in what is being offered.
The point: A service is not like a tangible product, therefore, should not be marketed like one.
For example, visit a quality college and you’ll find employees will eagerly share knowledge with you. Admissions staff, students and faculty will chat with you to explain the school’s culture and offerings, and how they could help you satisfy your personal and professional goals. The emphasis is not on making the sale. The emphasis is on building a mutually rewarding relationship. Would developing this relationship be made more difficult if admissions officers charged $49 for campus tours? After all, only a small percentage of those who visit a college will enroll. Are colleges being exploited? Hardly.
Here is the lesson for self-employed service providers: Don’t operate in fear of being exploited. Yes, your knowledge is an asset. Share it and you’ll build goodwill, and build relationships. Common sense and goodwill complement each other nicely. If you’re concerned about being exploited, it means you have not narrowed your prospect list well enough.
Stated differently, you don’t want exploiters as customers anyway. Narrow your prospects well and work on the assumption a mutually beneficial relationship will blossom. If a few people take your knowledge without reciprocation, so be it. The vast majority of people will be just like you: Honest, ethical, and interested.