Free Estimates vs. Consultations: Why Choosing the Right Call-to-Action is Important

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Is the "free estimate" a good idea? Probably not.

By Chuck Winkes

As a kitchen and bathroom remodeler, our website acts as an important marketing tool. It’s designed to help potential customers understand who we are, what we do, and how we’re different from our local competitors.

For many years, we’ve had a prominent call-to-action on our home and service pages that encouraged visitors to contact us for a “free estimate.”

Last year our company received some negative feedback from a homeowner who called us to schedule a free estimate for an emergency bathroom remodel due to a leaky pipe.

Soon after the call, we sent our designer out to the residence to evaluate the damage and overall scope of the project. She came prepared with a camera, notepad, and measuring tape and began to document everything that was needed to get started on a full written proposal. Once she had the details she needed, she let the homeowner know the cost of a full proposal.

A week or so after our visit, we received an online review that was less than flattering. The homeowner was upset that the “free estimate” we were advertising on our website wasn’t free!

After responding to the review and apologizing for the confusion, we decided that we needed to do a better job at making the distinction between an estimate and a full proposal. This wasn’t the first time there had been confusion and we knew that it wouldn’t be the last.

Estimates vs. Proposals

As construction professionals, we understand that an estimate is a rough range or more of a “guestimate.” Based on information we can get over the phone, we’ll provide a price range that we believe the project will fall within.

A full proposal however includes measurements, photos, pictures, 3D renderings (we use 2020 Design) and takes hours to prepare. Because of the amount of time that goes into them, we do charge for full written proposals.

Request a Consultation

We’ve been serving homeowners in California’s Central Coast since 1979. It took us 37 years, but we finally reached the conclusion to update our call-to-action to “Request a Consultation” for the following reasons:

  • It takes time to visit a property and complete a detailed estimate. Time is money
  • By offering a consultation, we can spend more time pre-qualifying the prospect to protect everyone’s time
  • It helps eliminate any confusion between a proposal and an estimate

You can view our updated calls-to-action on our website here.

Since we’ve updated the calls-to-action on our website, we’ve seen the following benefits:

  • A sharp reduction in the number or requests to visit a home and provide a free estimate
  • We’re able to do a better job of pre-qualifying leads to see if an estimate is warranted
  • We’re bringing more people to our showroom which is our primary goal. Our showroom is a big part of what separates us from our competitors
  • The bottom line is that it was costing us a lot money to use “free” in our calls-to-action. By changing some text on our website, we estimate we’ve saved hundreds of hours.

If you’ve gone through a similar situation, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Chuck Winkles is the president of New Life Bath & Kitchen. For more than 37 years, New Life Bath & Kitchen has provided quality craftsmanship and outstanding customer service to residents in California’s Central Coast. New Life Bath & Kitchen was recognized with the 2016 Best of Houzz Award. You can learn more the company by visiting their profile on Houzz.

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