Sunday, April 30, 2017

"'Free' Really Should Be Just That"

When we offer a safety, functional, or usage assessment for free to our clients, it should come as advertised - with no strings attached, no upsell provision in the fine print, no back-charge, no recurring charge, or anything else. Because so many marketers have violated this principle, it's understandable why people may be reluctant to accept our "free offer."

While we may have an opportunity to talk with someone about additional services, and that is a likely next step or outcome of the free evaluations that may go unstated, there should be nothing hidden or couched in the gratis services that should worry the client. We aren't asking for a deposit check that we tell them we won't cash, we aren't asking for a cash deposit that we tell them they will get back, and we aren't requesting a credit card number. None of these are appropriate, but they are done frequently by other marketers and consultants.

We're not offering our clients a trial period either, but this is such a common trap that starts out being "free" to so many people. Be wary of the trial period services that are attached to credit card offers, phone solicitations, emails, and websites that promise a "free service" or "trial period." There is nothing trial about these services unless we are ready to use it once and then immediately cancel. They hope (and actually count on) us forgetting that we signed up for it and never use it or that we will like it and forget to cancel it. Either way, we keep paying for something monthly that started out seemingly free.

Occasionally, we will like the product or service and intentionally desire to keep it. The free couple of weeks or month's introductory period was just a nice bonus. However, the fine print often blurs our intent on many of these offers. They sound great when hurriedly - and enthusiastically - explained to us over the phone or presented in a video or online sales message. We figure we'll give it a try since it's free, but ever notice that nearly ever time (not always but nearly every time) they ask for our credit card number - on the off-chance that we'll decide to roll the trial period into an actual subscription.

If something is free, then it's free - or at least it should be. Because of the way these offers are and have been presented over the years, our clients are understandably a little hesitant to believe us when we tell them we want to perform a free evaluation. We actually mean that there is no charge. They don't know this. Based on their experiences with other companies, they expect there to be a hidden charge somewhere that we haven't disclosed to them.

This makes working with older individuals a little trickier because they may feel that we are trying to take advantage of them. This is where testimonial letters and notes (for people who may not have that much confidence in computers and electronic images), or posts on social media or our website will help to convince them that we are honorable and that when we say something is free, it is. We should also tell them that we will discuss our findings with them, and if they desire to take some action based on what we suggest that we will be happy to discuss it with them. That is a second action. The primary action is indeed free.

Similarly, we may decide to include a free feature or upgrade in a renovation project we are doing. Regardless of what it costs us or what the retail value of the item might be, if we really are installing or including it for free, and not just hiding it somewhere in our proposal, we need to make a solid point of what we are doing.

Remember that trust and credibility are two very large and important items when it comes to doing home renovations. 

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn