How To Fix Free Financial Consultations

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Why are free face-to-face consultations the standard opening gambit for so many financial advisors? I guess they seem like a great idea – the chance to interact and engage with potential customers on a personal level, the ability to demonstrate your expertise and, plus, it’s just good marketing. Right?


The Truth about Free Consultations

As a client of an advisor and knowing loads of good people in the business I’ve got to come clean …


You’re all nice enough but the idea of meeting with a new person I don’t know very well to talk about my money, and all my mistakes, is right up there on my bucket list with a double root canal and my next IRS audit. Shivers.

It’s not that the consultation concept isn’t salvageable, but I want to ask you to look at it from my perspective and re-evaluate your own business reasons for doing free consultations. I think you’ll come out the other end of this with a different point of view.

Repositioning In Your Funnel

While they’re not wrong, traditional free consultations often aren’t good business. There is a simple reason: Most advisors mistakenly think of consultations as a prospecting tool that helps fill the very top of their funnel. WRONG.

Unless you’re famous and meeting you fulfills one of my lifelong ambitions, a consultation meeting with you IS NOT ENTICING. Filling the TOp of the FUnnel (TOFU) requires other methods, like blogging, networking (social and otherwise) and client referrals. These activities are meant to attract people who already need what you have to begin a relationship so you can be there when they’re ready.

If Free Consultations aren’t good for TOFU, then what are they for? Meet MOFU, Middle Of the FUnnel. MOFU, is about developing relationships by moving people through a process to get to know you well enough to make a commitment. In other words, MOFU helps people move down the funnel. This is the point at which a traditional free consultation can work.

With that in mind, the role of a free consultation is to reduce conversion friction at the stage in the funnel where qualified opportunities become new clients. At this point in the marketing process, a free consultation simplifies the decision to work with you by removing the cost and commitment of a becoming a client.

Free consultations can still be used to great effect done traditionally, given you’ve got your expectations set correctly. What’s really exciting are all the ways advisors are now combining new technology and new thinking with the idea of a free consultation and seminar marketing to completely redefine what is possible in Financial Advisor marketing. More on that in a future article. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.

John is the co-founder and CEO of Blueleaf and is an active startup advisor. He is also an experienced entrepreneur and senior executive. As part of 6 founding teams, he has led the product management, marketing, and finance functions. His background in banking and wealth management has shaped the vision for Blueleaf.
  • Russ Thornton November 23, 2011, 1:57 am

    Great post, John.

    Agree that free meetings & consultations aren’t a “top of funnel” marketing activity and they typically belong further down the funnel as advisors work to nurture their leads and opportunities. I think a free consultation could be a good offer or CTA as part of an automated or semi-automated email nurturing campaign for a lead list.

    Of course there is no right or wrong way to go about this which is simultaneously a challenge and an opportunity.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • John Prendergast November 23, 2011, 2:42 am

    Thanks Russ. Great thought. It seems like the core question is ‘Where in the funnel does a free consultation increase the conversion rate?’ and that is likely the point where I already want to work with you and i need to get over the hump.

    To me the good news is that all of this is an objective question of fact. That’s because it is all testable. Anyone who is serious about building their business will make testing and marketing analytics a cornerstone and we’re looking forward to discussing way to do that in future posts.

  • Bill Winterberg CFP® November 23, 2011, 5:26 pm

    Before the Internet (if you can think back that far), free face-to-face meetings were just about the only thing to introduce a prospect to the advisor and to the firm’s value proposition.

    But now, as you said, advisors have all sorts of tools to communicate their values, services, and principles to prospects today. Blogs, social media, YouTube; they all generate inbound marketing opportunities to fill the funnel. Then for those interested prospects, they move into the consultation meeting to address specific needs and formally engage in an ongoing relationship.

    The problem today is that advisors are just too slow in embracing many of these new tools to help fill the top of the funnel.

  • Stephanie Sammons December 7, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Good thoughts here John. I can tell you in working with a number of financial advisor bloggers through our professional blogging platform at Wired Advisor, we can get great insights into what converts and what doesn’t. What we’ve found is that there really needs to be a compelling offer to capture the lead from the blog, and from there you can cultivate the relationship via email, phone, events, and/or face to face. The format that works well currently for that compelling offer is a complimentary ebook with interesting content that resonates with the specific target market. Happy to do a guest post on this topic and offer further insights! It’s my favorite thing to talk about 🙂

    Stephanie Sammons
    CEO of

    • John Prendergast December 7, 2011, 9:33 pm


      We’d love to have a guest post from you, particularly if it included metrics etc. Let us know when you’d like to do it and we’ll put it on our editorial calendar.

      John Prendergast
      Founder & CEO