13 Ways to Generate Leads with a Sales Letter or Email

May 11, 2010 by

One of the most effective ways to generate leads in B2B is with a brief letter or email offering valuable information to a well-targeted list of prospects.

Here are 13 different ways to use this technique to generate leads for your company.

1. Offer a free white paper or special report

Studies consistently show white papers to be among the most sought-after, most influential and most viral forms of technology marketing content. These trends were re-confirmed just last year in a survey by Eccolo Media(1). The 501 technology buyers they questioned rated white papers highest for both purchasing influence and frequency of forwarding to co-workers.

Eccolo also found that white papers were especially influential amongst executive decision makers, compared to more technical purchasing influencers. Fifty-one percent (51%) of decision makers surveyed rated white papers as very to extremely influential in their purchasing decisions.

Another finding was even more interesting: the influence of white papers continues to grow. Respondents reported their white paper consumption up nearly 12% from the previous year. This in spite of the explosion of social media influence during the same period.

The sum of these findings prompted Eccolo to call white papers, “the ‘über-collateral’ in the marketing toolbox,” and to recommend that “marketers’ best use of their collateral budgets is to develop high-quality white papers.”

So in spite of their wide-spread use, white papers are still one of the most effective offers for generating leads in the technology sector.

Tip: When offering a white paper in a lead-gen letter or email, sell the white paper, not your product or service. Business buyers generally seek out white papers in the early, information-gathering stages of the buying process. They’re not yet ready for specific solutions at that point.

2. Offer a free tip sheet

A tip sheet is a series of short, practical tips on a particular subject.

Tip sheets are quick, easy and inexpensive to produce. They can usually be printed on one or both sides of a single sheet of paper, so they also make convenient hand-outs.

Tips should be written in a product-agnostic fashion, so they are useful in and of themselves. They must be practical, not a sales pitch for your product or service. If your product has been designed to facilitate the practice of some of your tips, however, it is perfectly acceptable to point this out at the end of your tip sheet.

A tip sheet may not seem like much, but if it offers solutions to problems that cause your customers pain, it can be a very enticing lead-gen offer.

3. Offer a free pamphlet, booklet or e-book.

Pamphlets and booklets are just extended versions of tip sheets. They offer room for more tips and a more in-depth treatment of each. They can also be offered in electronic format as e-books.

An easy way to produce a booklet is to take two or more related tip sheets you’ve produced, flesh out the tips with more details and examples, and combine them into one document.

A booklet has a higher perceived value than a tip sheet. You can take advantage of that, to make your offer more enticing, by putting a price on your booklet. Print that price on the upper right corner of the booklet cover. Then in your letter, be sure to point out to your prospect the value he or she will be getting, absolutely free, just for filling out a brief registration form.

4. Offer a free “how-to” article or guide

If you’ve published a good “how-to” article in a trade journal, consider re-packaging it as a “guide” or “special report” on the subject.

Ask your graphic designer to add an attractive cover and put in additional white space and illustrations to make the article seem more substantial, but also more reader-friendly. Showing the cover as an illustration in your letter adds credibility to your offer and tends to lift response.

5. Offer a reference manual or selection guide

If your company produces a range of components or tools, consider producing a “selection guide” or “design reference manual” that helps your customer choose the product that’s right for his or her application.

Make it clear in your letter that your manual includes valuable “how-to” information your prospects will want to keep on hand for frequent reference. There are two reasons for this. First, it will increase response to your offer. And second, if they do hang onto your manual, every time they use it they’ll be reminded of your company and your products, which will make them more likely to buy from you.

Providing solid information that helps customers do their jobs better, and make better decisions, builds trust in your company. That trust will make them more likely to choose your products when they need to make a purchase.

6. Offer a free case study

In Eccolo Media’s technology collateral study(1), 79% of respondents rated case studies as moderately to extremely influential in their purchasing decisions. Thus, case studies ranked second only to white papers in their power to influence technology buyers.

Yet few marketers use case studies as lead-generation bait pieces. Possibly because they feel prospects won’t register for them. In a survey by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa(2), only 44% of technology marketers required registration for a case study.

Yet in that same survey, 63% of tech buyers said they would be willing to trade their contact details for access to a case study. Buyers ranked case studies second only to white papers (79%) in registration value – far ahead of both demo software (38%) and webcasts (31%), which marketers had rated higher.

Business decision-makers love reading about how their peers have overcome problems similar to their own. If you have case studies that show off the benefits and ROI your customers get from using your products, consider using them in direct mail and email promotional offers.

7. Invite prospect to a free, live teleseminar or webinar.

Some prospects prefer to listen, rather than read. And some want the chance to interact and ask questions. Teleseminars and webinars are ideal for this. And they’re easy and cheap to set up.

Very important: Your webinar or teleseminar must be educational – not just a sales pitch for your product. You want your prospects coming away from your event feeling they have some new insights that will help them solve their problems.

Also bear in mind that you need to promote your free event almost as strongly as you would a paid seminar. Your letter or email should make it clear to readers what they will learn and how important it is. You need to convince your prospects that it will really be worth their time to register for this event and fit it into their busy schedules.

One more tip: Promising to provide a recording and transcript of your seminar after the event will increase response. It lets you encourage those who can’t attend the live event to sign up anyway, so they can listen to the recording later.

8. Offer a free podcast, podcast series or recorded webinar

Podcasts and recorded webinars are another way to appeal to prospects who prefer to listen or watch, rather than read. Plus, they address the time issue: prospects can download audio and video files and play them whenever (and wherever) they wish.

Podcasts are also a great way to re-use content. Recorded teleseminars and webinars can be promoted to those who missed the live event – for as long as the content remains relevant. Articles and white papers can be turned into podcast scripts, as well.

9. Offer a free resource guide.

A resource guide is small directory of information resources for practitioners in a particular field, grouped into categories. These make effective bait pieces for three reasons.

  • They don’t have to be big to be attractive. One or two pages of websites links with short descriptions can be extremely useful to professionals who need the information such sites offer.
  • They’re easy to pull together. Your engineers probably have a host of such links stored in their web browser “favorites” lists.
  • They can drive traffic to your own website. Since your guide naturally pertains to your company’s area of expertise, it’s certainly fair and justified to include links to information resources on your own website – even product information. Just be sure these constitute only a small portion of the total resources listed.

10. Offer a subscription to your company newsletter

Does your company newsletter or e-zine offer technical tips, case studies and other helpful information?

Why not send prospects a subscription invitation? Newsletter subscriptions make great offers: Not only do you capture leads, you get them to opt-in to receive further messages from you.

When offering a subscription, your letter or email should describe the types of informational content subscribers will receive. Perhaps highlight some recent articles.

You may also want to package a few, related “how-to” articles from past issues into a special report, and offer it as a sign-up incentive. Such incentives tend to boost response.

11. Offer a free trial download of your software.

For software companies, one of the most effective tactics for influencing technology buyers is to offer a free trial download of the product. In a recent survey by TechTarget and the CMO Council(3), 87.7% of tech buyers rated trial software either “very effective” or “somewhat effective” in helping them with purchasing decisions.

Offering a free trial gives you the opportunity to “sell” the prospect on the features and benefits of your software without applying any sales pressure.

12. Offer a free “information kit”

A good way to get your product brochure into your prospects’ hands – and get them to read it – is to package it together with other valuable educational materials.

Nowadays, an offer of a brochure by itself has “sales pitch” written all over it. So even if you have a terrific brochure, using it as a bait piece can be a very hard sell. But put it together with a white paper and a case study, or any of the other materials listed above, and you have yourself an “information kit.” These make a very attractive offer for a number of reasons:

  • A kit or package of different materials has a higher perceived value than a single report. The higher the perceived value of your offer, the higher the response you’re likely to get.
  • An information kit lends itself to a high-value title. When asked to create a promotion for a line of hand-held computing devices for in-the-field employees, copywriter Steve Slaunwhite put the client’s brochure together with some application notes, checklists and other useful information and dubbed it a “Field Force Mobilization Kit.” Response was very strong.
  • You can offer your reader a choice of media: either an electronic download, or a physical package – preferably including a CD- or DVD-ROM. CDs and DVDs have a higher perceived value than either print media or download. So even though most respondents will choose the download, your offer of a CD or DVD will boost response.

Showing a picture of the various pieces of the kit adds credibility to your promotion and makes your offer seem more substantial and tangible.

The sheer variety of solid information in your offer – along with the other reasons just listed – makes it much easier to craft a compelling message that entices prospects to take action immediately.

13. Invite prospects to visit your trade show booth

According to another recent TechTarget benchmark report(4), nearly a quarter (24.9%) of marketing department budgets in the technology industry goes toward conferences, seminars and trade shows.

With so much at stake, you need to make sure these events are worthwhile for your company. So, how can you improve the odds that likely prospects will show up at your booth?

Send them an invitation.

Personalized invitations are probably the best way to get prospects to visit your stand, view the presentations you’re making, and attend any special events you’re hosting. They’re also a great way to draw attention to new products you’ll be unveiling – even if the recipient can’t attend.

For sending invitations by mail, your best list is key prospects and customers within a 100-mile (160-km) radius of the exhibition hall. Be sure you can filter you mailing list by country, state or province, and postal code.

Consider including a carry card in you mailing. A carry card is something your prospects can carry to the expo, that reminds them to visit your booth. You might enclose a personalized invitation to a hospitality suite, executive briefing or networking event. Or a numbered entry in a live drawing. Or a coupon that can be exchanged for a free gift. The important thing is that it gives prospects a good reason to stop by, so your staff has a chance to talk with them.

Finally, make your mailing do double duty. Since many recipients won’t be able to attend your trade show, give them another choice. Piggy-back a second offer onto your mailing. Invite them to sign-up to receive a recording and transcript of your presentation, for example. Or offer them a free trial download of the new software release you’ll be unveiling. Just make it clear how the recipient can take advantage of this secondary offer, so you can capture the lead.

Take-Away Points

As you can see, when it comes to generating leads with mail and email, you have a lot of options.

But regardless of the offer you choose, it must be something your prospect finds valuable.

And you must present that value effectively in your letter or email.

Sources:

(1) Eccolo Media 2009 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, Eccolo Media, September 2009

(2) Content Distribution – Where Information Intersects with Demand, KnowledgeStorm/MarketingSherpa, May 2007

(3) TechTarget and CMO Council Technology Buying and Media Consumption Benchmarking Survey, 2007

(4) TechTarget 2008 Media Consumption Benchmark Report: Perception Versus Reality of the IT Pro and the IT Marketer, Survey 1, January 2008

2 Comments

  1. Pets

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    or copyrіght infringement? My website has a lot of eⲭclusive content I've either authored myself or ⲟutsourced
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    • John

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