I just posted a new article over at Duct Tape Marketing about the use of free offers in printed advertisements. Remember that the goal of a printed advertisement is to get the recipient to do something that benefits you. Whether it is contacting you or using your website, you are asking them to do something for you. The free offer is the way that you do something for them in return.
One of the points in the article that I find particularly important is the fact that the free consultation is not enough. Free consultations have been the standard practice in advertising for decades. However, the practice is so prevelent that customers now expect to get the free consultation. An advertiser needs to give something more to get their attention.
One of the best things you can offer is knowledge. A majority of potential customers do not know the basics of most professions in which they seek service. For example, how many people, outside of accountants, really understand how to do taxes? A simple short handout or web page containing basic information is a great way to not only entice customers to visit your site or store, but its also a way to show your knowledge of your profession, without giving the customer your full service for free.