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The Overwhelming Case for "Try Before You Buy" Conversion Events [Article]


One of the best ways of bringing in new paying customers, is to offer ‘try before you buy’ or ‘conversion’ events. These could involve anything from a free consultation, assessment, open day, treatment or education event. Your imagination is your only limit. There are SO many advantages to these ‘open’ events, it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t embrace them, but some people are vehemently opposed to them because they don’t feel they should devalue themselves, by offering their services for free. In this article, I’m going to explore the pros and cons, and let you decide.

What is a ‘try before you buy’ event?

A ‘try before you buy’ conversion event does exactly what it says on the tin! It gives people a chance to ‘meet’ you and try your services, preferably for free, before they commit to booking a fully paid appointment.

Some therapists feel that offering free trials, devalues their profession, skills and qualifications and makes them look cheap and desperate for business. And this is an understandable concern. We’ve all seen it, as restaurants, desperate to stay open, make increasingly ridiculous offers, most of which end up failing ultimately.

And I tried really hard to find more to say about the disadvantages but struggled to come up with anything else. If you’re reading this and starting to feel that I haven’t given the cons their due justification, then please jump on the discussion panel below the online version of this article, and share those cons with me and I will happily update this piece of content. But honestly, I couldn’t find any additional legitimate cons.

The pros of ‘try before you buy’ conversion events are overwhelming. Before we explore them in more detail, let’s look at what I mean by ‘try before you buy’ events.

Examples of ‘try before you buy’ conversion events

  • Free consultations – telephone/Skype/in person
  • Education events – evening lectures/presentations/seminars
  • Mini-assessments/injury screening – muscle balance, gait analysis, bike fit
  • Topic-specific events like running injury clinics, ski fit, headache prevention, back pain, etc
  • Open clinic days – range of free events/trials
  • Webinars – online presentation with Q+A
  • Free treatments – free 20-minute massage – great if you’ve got therapists with free appointment slots or students in for work experience
  • Packages and discounts – ‘buy one, get one free’, 50% off your first treatment

That’s just a handful of ideas. In reality, you can do whatever you want. The key is to pick something you’re good at and that you love doing because you’re likely to be more passionate and that will come across strongly to your attendees.

Why are ‘try before you buy’ conversion events great?

From a prospective client perspective

  • Meeting you/your therapists and becoming familiar with your clinic, parking options, how to get there, etc, will increase familiarity and reduce barriers to booking.
  • You will get qualified leads so you know who to focus your attention on. For example, if they visit your clinic you know that (a) they are local (not something you can ascertain from your social media followers without using paid ads) and (b) they’re interested in your services.
  • Potential customers will know exactly what to expect from you/your team moving forward.
  • They are a great opportunity to help answer any questions that are holding potential clients back from booking that first appointment with you.
  • A physical visit gives you a chance to show off facilities and equipment and communicate much more than what’s on your website – let’s be realistic, very few people have the time to pour over a website anyway, however pretty it might look.
  • A face-to-face meeting, even a telephone call, can help you build a level of rapport and trust that is much more difficult to build through digital methods.
  • It gives you the opportunity to learn more about your prospective clients, where you may be able to help them most, what specific problems they need solving and how that can impact what’s important to them in their daily life ie. identifying the ‘so what’ factor is (see Andy Byrne’s presentation on p45).
  • You will reach a greater diversity of potential customers who may not have even known that they needed what you offer.
  • Offer special deals and incentives to sign up to a package on the night.
  • Use it to reward loyal customers, people who have referred friends to you, anyone who stands out and who you want to encourage to keep spreading the word.

From a therapist/team/clinic/business owner perspective

  • It helps you get your business in front of people (the first goal of marketing).
  • It helps you collect new email leads.
  • Team-run events boosts morale as you can work on something as a team rather than always working individually
  • It can be a great way to say thank you to existing or regular clients which boosts client retention.
  • If your competition does not offer free trials, this could be a competitive differentiator. And if they do and you don’t, you’re at a disadvantage.
  • And even if they don’t convert to a paying ‘service’ or product on the night, you can still benefit by: o Asking for Google/Facebook reviews if they’ve found the evening useful o Handing out ‘refer a friend’ offers o Asking for feedback about anything relevant to their experience, the clinic, your therapists, etc.
  • It’s also an ideal opportunity to try out new things before you launch them on your paying customers, like new sessions.
  • You could use it as part of your interview process with new staff and new therapists
  • Why not forge connections with a local university or college and take on students for work experience (just make it clear to your prospective clients if they’re on work experience). If you don’t have a reception or admin person, they could be useful in a ‘meet or greet’ or administration capacity (make sure they know what they’re doing so they reflect well on you/your business).
  • It gives you a chance to ‘split test’ appointment types and learn what your audience wants. As Vicki Marsh says in her previous article, do they prefer your Chronic Pain Clinic or Mobility for Athletes sessions? You could even test different names for the same session and see which gets more bookings.
  • It’s a great way to fill up appointments that would otherwise be empty and unused.

Last Thoughts

If you start thinking about it, you’ll probably find lots more uses for ‘try before you buy’ events. As you can see, the benefits are not limited to your clients, they can also be incredibly useful and informative for you and your business. The more you can squeeze out of these events, to help inform your business moving forward, the better use of your time investment.

Something as simple as Google Reviews can have a surprising impact on your findability on Google and on people making a decision which clinic or therapist to visit when the search for osteopathy services in Melbourne or Manchester for example. If you’ve got 100+ Google reviews, you’re going to stand out head and shoulders above your nearest rival and no prizes for guessing who Google is going to show at the top of the local search results, the one with 3 reviews, versus the one with 100 reviews.

Further Resources