When I first started my business many years ago, I used to offer free consultations. What happened next was – I met so many businesses and gave free advice.
At the beginning, it was fun. I listened carefully and discovered all their problems faced in their business. From sales issues to marketing failures to even HR problems! I learned a lot about various business models of different types of industries.
Felt like Aunt Agony – the ones you read about in gossip columns.
After doing this for close to 7 years, I discovered the profits and margins of these businesses and whether their business models worked. In fact, I have spent time doing digital marketing work ranging from an international fertilizer supplier to even a niche columbarium business!
I even listened and provided marketing ideas for a software business that sold licences at more than 6-figures.
Some listened and took up my services. Some listened and decided to do it themselves. Some listened and never did anything with the knowledge.
You see – when advice is given “freely”, it is easily dismissed and not taken seriously.
But as time passed, I realized my time was being wasted by doing “free” consultations. This time could have been channeled towards doing solid marketing work for my paying clients or working on my own projects.
The 80/20 rule becomes very pronounced in the business world.
First, I easily saw 80% of people who came for free consultations easily dismiss my ideas and strategies. So I learnt not to give unsolicited advice.
Second, I saw 80% of my consulting revenue came from the 20% of my clients who actually trusted me. They trusted my proposed marketing strategies was the way to go in order to compete in this competitive digital marketplace.
My clients engaged me because they could directly work with me – I have a distilled experience of generating leads for 12 different industries.
The truth is you can easily work with very large marketing firms that has a big team with less-than-experienced junior associates.
To be honest, those companies are not my competitors at all. I have a few former employees that have joined these companies as senior experienced staff members. They have a capacity to serve a large volume of clients.
A Story About Hourly Rates
I used to charge $200 per hour for private 1-on-1 A-Levels chemistry tuition when I was in NUS.
It was easy to get parents to pay this amount to ensure their son or daughter did well for their chemistry subject. A-Levels chemistry was pretty easy for me and my job was to make sure they understood the principles.
But there was not a lot of parents who who was aware of my A-Level chemistry tuition services nor did I publicise my services widely. For me, I was juggling undergraduate studies as well so I didn’t want to have a lot of students.
Doing my own business for close to 8 years now, I feel I have gone through a circle. Marketing is very easy for me as well as generating leads for businesses. I say this with both humility and pride.
Humility – Because I have failed marketing campaigns which I learnt from.
Pride – Because I never stop learning from the best people in the industry.
I recognize this adage very well – “I don’t know what I don’t know.” In fact, I spend more than 10% of my income on learning from other experts and industry leaders.
Scaling Up A Business Does Not Always Require More Full-Time Employees
I have no desire to scale up my business with more employees (did that and it resulted in various companies poaching my trained & experienced staff).
After 8 years, I learnt there are ways to scale up to more revenue and more profits without hiring permanent, full-time staff.
I believe in abundance and clients can be easily gained from other countries. Locally, I am based in Singapore but my clients can be all over the world.
I still provide initial consultations but at $99 for a 60 minute consultation. There are many SMEs in Singapore still trying to find their footing in the digital landscape. I like to continue to help them.
However, I can no longer do it at the expense of my time and my paying clients.
This $99 charge is unlikely to make me rich financially but it has certainly enriched my time. It resulted in 90% less bookings for consultations – and that has freed up a lot of my time.
Finally I actually have time to write my own blog posts!
Who Actually Pays For Initial Consultations?
I currently have more time to ensure that my clients’ marketing campaigns are more successful. They trust me even more and invest in greater amounts of money in marketing. This resulted in greater marketing focus and better ROI.
It also allowed me to eliminate potentially problematic clients that would suck up my time. Best of all, it allowed me to work directly with decision-makers & bosses.
I can tell you that the $99 consultation offer is taken up by people who take their business & their marketing very seriously.
Of course, there will always be people who are skeptical about paying for initial consultations. But then again, they are probably not my target audience.
But for those who do take up the offer, I find they are sincere and best of all – open to new marketing ideas.
Some probably had an epiphany they can’t do it themselves. Some believe they are missing out on a lot of potential revenue by doing the execution by their own.
Looking back, I feel I can probably earn a lot more doing chemistry A-Level tuition especially considering Singapore’s $1 billion tuition industry.
But I have no more passion for chemistry and there is no love lost there.
My greatest satisfaction is still the same when I started my business 8 years ago – to see businesses succeed and grow from marketing strategies I help to execute.
You never know what a pair of fresh eyes can do for the ROI of your marketing campaign.