7 Quick Tips for Generating Leads With Free Information Offers

October 13, 2010 by

I’ve written several times on the value of free information offers (white papers, case studies, tip sheets, etc.) for generating leads. So today, I thought I’d give you seven quick tips on how to use those offers more effectively. Here they are:

1. Select a narrow target audience and focus on their needs.

People with different job titles have different concerns. And those concerns will vary by industry, size of company, and other factors.

"To put it in concrete terms, if you're selling a CRM system, the VP of sales probably has to raise his hand and say, 'OK, I agree.' But so does the CIO,” says Jay Habegger, former CEO of Bitpipe (now TechTarget).[i] “And the criteria they each use are completely different. So you need to influence both of them with different messages. And the person sitting down to write that document needs to understand that."

So don’t try to be all things to all people. Before you decide on a subject, decide on the target audience and the objective of your free information piece. Then make the content relevant to the needs of your target audience. Otherwise they’ll simply ignore it.

2. Give your offer a compelling title.

The title of your free information offer, or “bait piece”, is of the utmost importance.

Your title is probably the first thing your prospects are going to see when they encounter your free information offer. It will figure prominently in any promotions you run for it. Chances are, it’ll be the first line in any search results that turn it up. And because your prospects are in a hurry, that will make your title the most important factor in their download decision.

So your title has to grab your prospect by the eyeballs. It must stand out from the crowd when competing with other titles for your prospect’s attention. It must be both relevant and compelling to your target audience. And it should imply a benefit the prospect will get from reading.

Think about it. If you were an IT manager, which white paper would you sooner read:

Optimizing Corporate Wireless LAN Security

or

What Hackers Know That You Don’t

I think if you're like most, you'd choose the latter. It makes the threat of a cyber-attack seem more probable... and the risks more personal.

So don’t just settle on the first title someone comes up with. Take some time to play with ideas and craft a headline that really hits home with your target audience.

3. Don’t put the name of your product or service in the title.

A product name in a title smacks of a sales pitch. Period.

And a sales pitch is NOT what your prospect wants from your free information offer. "We find that any white paper with a product name in the title does anywhere from 50 percent to an order of magnitude worse than if the title contains an educational or benefit statement," says Habegger.[i]

Instead, focus your title on a problem your prospect has (which your product or service can solve) and the promise of a solution. Your prospect’s problem is what’s relevant to him. And the promise of a solution is what’s compelling.

4. Sell the bait piece, not your product or service.

Many companies include a free information offer in a promotion for their product or service. Their thinking is that the valuable free information will get a response from a prospect who is interested in their product, but has no immediate need.

This is often the wrong approach, for three reasons.

First, it only attracts prospects who know they’ll have an eventual need for your type of product. That's fine if your product is commoditized. But not if you offer an innovative solution whose advantages may not be immediately obvious.

Second, tacking your offer on the end of a product advertisement lowers the profile of your information piece, thus lowering its perceived value. Makes it seem like an afterthought. Or worse yet, a bribe.

And third, it doesn’t give you enough room to “sell” the the value of your information. All your ad space is taken up by your product promotion.

A far better approach is to make your free information offer the focus of your promotion. Detaching your bait piece from your product reduces your prospect’s fear of a sales pitch while increasing your free offer’s perceived value.

Sell the benefits and value of the information you’re offering. Show your prospects how your information will solve their problem. Leave it to your bait piece itself to make the case for your product or service.

Giving value first is the key to information marketing. Make the value of your free information offer shine through in your promotion.

5. Promise delivery by email rather than immediate download.

Fulfilling requests for your information piece by email gives you several advantages.

First, it assures you’ll get a valid email address from your prospect: If you don’t get a valid email address, your prospect won’t get your valuable information.

Second, email fulfillment builds anticipation for your offer. This increases its perceived value. Plus, your prospects know they’ll be receiving an email from you, so they’ll be sure to open it.

And last but not least, you get the opportunity to make additional marketing touches, increase your brand recognition, and start building a relationship with your prospect.

First, you send an order confirmation. Then a personal thank you note. Then, perhaps, an offer of a second valuable report for accepting a complimentary subsription to your newsletter. All this before you even deliver your bait piece!

But, of course, you don’t stop there. After delivery, you can send an immediate follow-up email with a download link in case your piece didn’t arrive. Then, after a week or so, you can send an email to remind your prospect of your gift, ask for feedback, and suggest other steps he might want to take. And that’s not to mention any future emails you may send him, for as long as he doesn’t opt out of your list.

6. Make it quick and easy to register.

A registration form that looks like a lot of work creates barriers between you and your prospects. They immediately start to ask themselves:

  • Why is all this required?
  • Am I going to be bombarded with sales calls?
  • Is this really worth my time?

And those doubts can cause many prospects to choose NOT to register for your content.

The solution, of course, is to keep your registration form small, and require only the minimum data necessary to maintain contact:

  • Name*                    (* = required field)
  • Title
  • Company
  • Email address*
  • Business phone

Remember, you don’t need to qualify your prospect all in one go. Build trust first. Other data can be collected when the prospect shows additional interest.

7. Close your bait piece with a strong call to action.

Once your prospect has finished reading the information you’ve provided, you need to suggest the next step he should take in order to capitalize on it.

Remember, your prospects are busy. They’re distracted. They don’t have time to think about what to do next with the information you’ve given them. If you don’t tell them, they probably won’t act. They’ll just go away…and forget about you.

So, figure out exactly what you want your prospects to do when they’ve finished reading. Do you want them to:

  • Visit a product page on your website for more information?
  • Download a 90-day trial of your software?
  • Call to schedule a demonstration or discuss their needs with a sales rep?

Be very specific about the next step you want your prospect to take. Then, at the end of your free information piece, tell your prospect exactly what that next step is, and exactly how to take it.

And if I can help you take your next step – by developing your next free information offer, or the campaign to promote it – call me at (+39) 011 569 4951 for a free consultation and no-obligation quote. Or email me at info@CopyEngineer.com.

Sources:
[i] Graham, Gordon, How to generate leads with a white paper: tips from TechTarget execs, SoftwareCEO, CompTIA.

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