Step #1, The Offer or Lead Magnet


Make an Offer They Won’t Refuse

Create special offers that get your readers to take action.

Take action. Isn’t that what you want your readers to do when they receive and read your e-mails? You may want them to buy a product, pay for a service, come to a special event or volunteer for your organization. Whatever your goal may be, you’re looking for a “direct response” from them.

When you e-mail the people on your list, you engage in some level of “direct response” marketing–marketing that requests an action from the recipient. One element of good direct marketing is an offer that engages the reader (or watcher, or listener) to take action.

Why is the offer so important? The 40/40/20 rule of direct response marketing says that the success of a campaign (in this case, an e-mail communication) is based 40 percent on targeting the right audience, 40 percent on the offer you make, and 20 percent on your creative execution (including copywriting and design). Here’s a summary of the different types of offers and the common characteristics of all great ones.

Offers that Prompt an Immediate Sale

Before you consider what to offer, ask yourself, “Is my product (or service) one that I can sell directly?” Do you sell a product that people can pick up the phone or visit your website to buy immediately? If you sell jewelry, clothing, pet supplies, a workshop or a host of other products, then, yes, you can expect direct sales as a result of your e-mail. Also, if you want to get people to sign up for a special event (fundraiser, golf tournament, summer camp, etc.) then you can expect a direct response as well.

In these cases, the appropriate offer should sweeten the purchase; it should super-charge your readers’ desire to buy or sign up now. In a perfect world, it creates a sense of urgency. Examples of direct sell purchase offers are “Buy one, get one free,” coupons, or giveaway items with a purchase: “Buy $75 worth of flowering plants, and receive The Handbook for Gardeners by award-winning gardener and author, Bob Greenthumb.”

If you need to promote a special event, you might offer an “early bird” discount or provide a price break for multiple registrations. Giveaways also work well for events. Some example offers are, “Sign up for the 5K run and receive a free T-shirt” or “Purchase the VIP package today and receive a coupon for a free limo ride to the show.”

Offers that Identify Interest and Generate Leads

If your products or services require more consultation and nurturing before someone decides to buy, then the two-step lead generation approach is right for you. With this method, you make what is known as a “soft offer,” with the goal of engaging your receivers, building their trust, and moving them closer to an eventual sale.

Example offers include a white paper–a brief article about a topic that is of interest to your readers and helps educate them about topics related to your product or service. If you’re a public relations consultant, you can offer a white paper on the “10 Tips for Getting Great PR.” Or suppose you are a nutrition counselor; you can offer a white paper on “The 7 Healthiest Foods You Should Eat.” Other offers include a free consultation or a free sample of your product. “Call today and receive a free 2-pound bag of our new organic dog food.”

Organizations that aren’t in commercial business can use the two-step lead generation approach as well. To create interest in an upcoming class or workshop, a church may offer a brief article or a podcast on a related topic to engage its members and pique their interest in the event.

Three Attributes of a Great Offer

When you’ve decided on your offer, run it through this checklist to make sure it’s as effective as can be.

1. Does your offer have a high perceived value? “Perceived” is the key word here. The good news is that an effective offer doesn’t have to cost much. It just has to be something of value to your audience. If you’re a professional dog trainer and you have an e-mail list of people who just got new puppies, a valuable offer would be the downloadable article, “How to Train Your New Puppy.”

2. Is your offer easy to understand and take action on? Have you gotten a direct mail piece or an e-mail that had an offer that was so involved, so convoluted, that you just said, “Forget it!”? You don’t want people to be overwhelmed and forget your offer. Make it simple. Don’t add a lot of conditions or steps. If you can, stick with one step: Call this number, click here to download this white paper, type in this discount code or register here.

3. Is your offer relevant to the product, service or event you’re promoting? A great offer isn’t just good for the person who receives it; it’s good for your business or organization, too. Especially in the case of lead generation, you want your offer to tie into the product you’re selling, event you’re promoting or service you’re providing. That way, it will help advance the sale, or–better yet–inspire your audience to take immediate action. A white paper or “10 tips” lists are both great examples of this. They keep your reader focused on areas of your expertise.

How to Create Marketing Offers That Don’t Fall Flat

In marketing, offers are the gateways to lead generation. Without them, site visitors have no way of getting converted into leads. They are also a critical tool for nurturing existing leads into a position that makes them more sales-ready. But gosh, isn’t the word ‘offer’ so utterly vague and abstract? What the heck is a marketing offer, and what are the qualities of a good one?

Because we see so many marketers get tripped up on this concept, let’s discuss exactly what a marketing offer can be, highlight the characteristics of an effective offer, and explain how you can start using them the right way.

What an Offer Isn’t

Sometimes the best way to explain what something is, is to first identify what it isn’t. Unfortunately, many of the things marketers sometimes consider to be marketing offers aren’t actually offers at all. First, let’s clarify. What marketers should classify as an offer is something of value that a website visitor must complete a form to get access to. And yeah, sure — you can put just about anything behind a form. But there are certain things that, when put behind a form, just won’t contribute much of anything for your lead gen or lead nurturing initiatives. We’re not saying you shouldn’t bother with these types of content. What we’re saying is that you shouldn’t put them behind forms or rely on them to effectively generate and nurture leads.

Here are some great examples of things you should never consider to be a marketing offer:

  • ‘Contact Us!’ Okay, so you can put this one behind a form if it’s one that allows site visitors to email you. But this will never bring in leads as effectively as true offers will.
  • Product-Centric Content: We’re talking brochures, product videos, etc. Yes, these can be great tools to introduce to leads who are close to making a purchasing decision, but there’s no reason they should be gated behind a form. You should want your site visitors to be able to access this type of content freely and frictionlessly. And if site visitors are looking at this type of content, they’re likely already in your sales funnel and much closer to making a purchasing decision.
  • Customer Case Studies: Just like product-centric content, customer case studies are likely something you want to make it very easy for visitors to access. Making a visitor or lead fill out a form is unnecessary.
  • Fact Sheets: Simply put, fact sheets and other company-focused content is not lead generation material.

What an Offer Is 

The good news is, you have quite a few great options at your disposal in terms of the types of offers you can, well, offer your target audience…

  • Ebooks
  • Guides
  • Webinars (Live & Archived)
  • Slideshows
  • Kits
  • Industry Case Studies
  • New Industry Research
  • Templates
  • Free Tools
  • Free Trials
  • Product Demos
  • Consultations
  • Coupons

What Makes an Offer a Good One?

While the types of offers we mentioned above are all great options for marketing offers, there are a number of qualities that an offer should possess in order for it to be effective for lead generation and nurturing. Here are our top three:

1. Is High Quality/Premium and Valuable to Your Target Audience

The important thing to remember is that, if you’re requiring a site visitor to complete a form in order to obtain your offer, the value of that offer needs to be compelling enough to convince those visitors to fill out the form. People don’t like to give up their contact information freely, and your lead-capture form will create some friction. So if you start putting mediocre, low-value offers behind your forms, your business will start to get known for bad offers that aren’t worth the form completion, seriously hurting your lead generation and nurturing goals.

In the simplest sense, an offer is valuable if it addresses the problems, needs, and interests of your target audience. This value could also mean different things for offers used in different stages of the sales process. For example, an offer you’re promoting to generate net new leads at the top of your funnel (like, say, an educational ebook or a webinar) is likely valuable because it educates your prospects and fulfills a need. A free product trial, on the other hand, may not be as educational in nature, but it’s still a very valuable offer for existing leads you’re trying to nurture and who are closer to making a purchasing decision.

2. Aligns With Your Business and the Products/Services You Offer

A great marketing offer complements the products and services your business sells. That educational ebook is probably not very focused on how awesome your products and services are, but it should address concepts that align with your paid offerings. For example, HubSpot sells inbound marketing software, so our offers focus on helping prospects with their marketing challenges. These offers help set HubSpot apart as an industry thought leader and educate prospects about the problems our software helps to solve.

3. Targeted to the Right Buyer Persona at the Right Time

As we hinted at before, a truly great marketing offer also takes into account a person’s point in the sales process as well as that buyer persona‘s specific interests and needs. How this really comes into play is in lead nurturing campaigns and how you decide which calls-to-action (CTAs) to place where on your website.

lead history prodIf you use lead management software, you can easily collect key pieces of information (AKA lead intelligence) about your prospects that will help you segment your leads into nurturing campaigns based on their buyer persona, their point in the sales process, and what you can determine their interests are based on their activity on your website. Sending them offers that appeal to those interests as well as how close they are to making a purchasing decision can help you better qualify a lead before he/she gets handed off to sales. For example, if your business is in plumbing and a first-time visitor comes to your site and downloads an ebook on how to unclog a minor plumbing backup, you might enter them into a lead nurturing campaign that then invites them to also attend a webinar about common plumbing problems and how to fix them. As they move further through the sales cycle, you could then offer them a coupon that discounts your services for that (apparently) not-so-minor drain problem they’re having.

The same concept applies to how you choose which calls-to-actionshould be placed on different pages of your website. For example, if you conduct analysis that shows that your blog is typically how new visitors find you (whether through social media, search engines, or another referrer), you can infer that many people who land on your blog are first-time visitors to your website. Therefore, on your blog, you should probably place CTAs for offers that appeal to people who are just entering the top of your funnel and know little about your company (like an educational webinar, ebook, or kit, for example). On the other hand, a visitor on something like a product page probably indicates someone who is much closer to a purchasing decision. What might be more valuable to those types of visitors is a CTA for something like a free product trial, or a demo if you’re a software vendor.

How to Leverage Your Offers Effectively

Now that you have a much clearer understanding of what makes a good marketing offer (and what doesn’t), let’s dive into some offer best practices. After all, you can create a ton of great offers, but if you’re not using them to your best advantage, they’re not going to do much good to generate and nurture leads.

1. Create a lot of targeted offers. First things first. With all that talk about targeting and segmenting the right offers to the right buyer persona (at the right time), you can probably guess that what all that translates to is a need for a variety of offers. Building up an arsenal of offers is the toughest part of the whole process, but it can mean the difference between good results and awesome results. Create a spreadsheet that allows you to list the offers you currently have, highlight the holes in your group of offers (for what topic are you missing an offer that your audience would appreciate?), and map offers to the various points in your business’ sales process. Then slowly work through your offer to-do list, gradually filling in those gaps.

2. Put offers behind lead-capture forms. If offers are the gateways to lead generation, lead-capture forms (AKA conversion forms) are the gateways to your offers. Always place your offers on landing pages, gated by forms. This allows you to collect information that helps you qualify a new or reconverting lead and track what they’ve downloaded from you throughout the sales cycle.

3. Create calls-to-action, and place them appropriately. We mentioned this above, but it’s an important one. Create CTAs for each of your offers, and align them with the pages on your website. In other words, if you’re that plumber we mentioned above and you just wrote a blog post about the best and worst products to unclog a drain, you might place a CTA for your free guide to the best plumbing products of 2012. Once you have created awesome-looking CTA buttons for your site and you’re moving onto ninja status, you can also test different versions of your CTAs to determine which ones generate the best click-through rate.

4. Create blog content around your offers. Take that last best practice one step further, and create content specifically around your new offers to help launch and promote them. So if you just created that ‘Best Plumbing Products of 2012’ guide, why not write a blog article that highlights the top 5 products mentioned in the guide and couple that with your CTA, explaining that readers can learn more by downloading the new guide? Excerpts make for easy blog content, so you’ll be killing two birds with one stone!

5. Promote your offers in social media. The promotion of your offers shouldn’t have to remain on your website. Use social media as a promotional vehicle by sharing links to the landing pages for your offers and briefly explaining their value in your tweets, Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn posts. Spend some time to build your social media reach so you can expose your offers to as large an audience as possible.

6. Use them in email marketing and lead nurturing. As we mentioned above, offers are critical to a business’ lead nurturing efforts, but you can also promote them using general email marketing as dedicated sends. Promote your new offer in a dedicated email send that only highlights that one offer and conveys its value. If it’s a very general offer that every buyer persona in your audience would enjoy regardless of their point in the sales cycle, send it to your entire list. If it’s a more targeted offer, segment your list, and send it only to the people to whom it will appeal.

7. Align offers with prospects’ point in the sales process. This is another one we’ve already talked about, but it’s worth emphasizing. Aligning the offers you use in your lead nurturing campaigns and in the CTAs on your website with a prospect’s likely position in the sales cycle will not only help to better qualify a lead, but it may also shorten the sales cycle, as a prospect will be much closer to a purchasing decision with a ton of knowledge about your business before he/she even talks to a sales person.

landing page analytics8. Track performance with your analytics software. Measure the performance of your offers. This will help you identify which types and topics of offers are successful in generating leads and customers so you can create more offers around those topics or in those formats, helping you become a much more effective marketer. Do your prospects prefer webinars to ebooks? Do they only care about certain topics that your offers are addressing? Use what you know to improve your lead generation and lead nurturing efforts in the future.