Why Free estimates work

While leaving my house the other morning, I noticed a truck with the name of a local tree-trimming service painted on the side parked across the street. Below the name of the company in large lettering was the words “free estimate”. It being before coffee, my first thought was “huh, ya know I have a tree that needs to be trimmed up, I should call them”. Being a marketing snob, my second thought was “psh, free estimates, how original.” My third thought was “hmm, I should write a blog about this.” So here we are.

I have zero proof of this but I’ll bet the “free estimate” or something like it is one of the oldest tricks in all of marketing. Why does it work? It removes buyer friction; it greases the skid of a potential customer converting into an actual customer.

There are only a few reasons people don’t buy stuff. It’s either (a) they don’t want it, don’t need it, or can’t afford it or (b) they don’t know or trust you.

These tree-trimming guys, I didn’t know the name of their company until they parked their giant shredding truck on my street, so that takes care of (b) and my thoughts of price and affordability (a) will be quickly answered by this free estimate.

The annoying thing to people like me is that — at least on some level — the phrase “free estimate” works. A trite phrase, yes, but even if your campaign is the second coming of “Just Do It”, your viewers won’t convert to customers unless you have this kind of stuff.

Look at your business and industry and put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. What would you want to see before you could buy? What would stop you? Is there some “free estimate” equivalent within your industry? Make the path between marketing and sale as smooth as it can be by finding the bumps and tossing in free estimates.

Here are a few examples of the free estimate concept from other industries:

  • Test drives 
  • 30 day returns 
  • Free return shipping 
  • Software demos
  • Service trials 

Whether you’re cutting down trees or selling Teslas, the concept is still the same: remove buyer friction every place you find it. Customers will appreciate it, and so will your creative agency.