To Generate Leads, Sell Your Free Offer, Not Your Product!
When you’re selling your product via direct mail, e-mail or your website, you’ve got to give prospects a lot of detailed product information.
If prospects are going to part with their money, they’re going to want to know all the benefits, specs and nitty-gritty details. When you’re asking for the sale, you simply have to answer readers’ questions and give them enough compelling reasons to buy.
Lead generation is a completely different animal. The object of your direct mail, web page, e-mail or ad is not to make the sale immediately, but merely to get prospects to raise their hands and identify themselves. Once they make themselves known, they enter the sales cycle, and you can convert them into paying customers down the road.
There are many implications of the distinction between selling “off the page” and developing leads. For example, when you’re doing lead generation, you have to pay a great deal of attention to developing a killer free offer that maximizes response. This means you must decide whether to go with an actual free product trial, an information kit, a white paper, an executive summary, a report, you name it.
Another important point is the need to spotlight your free offer and lighten up on product details. You see, many marketers are so in love with their products’ bells and whistles, that they forget they’re doing lead generation. Sure, they mention the offer, but most of the space in their self-mailer, letter, web page or ad is spent extolling the virtues of their product.
This is a serious mistake, and I urge you not to make it! Your lead generation piece should concentrate on selling the free offer, not on providing reasons for buying your product. Remember, all you want people to do is raise their hands! Let me give you an example. I recently wrote a lead generation letter for Chancery Software, whose information systems help educators manage schools more effectively. The letter was mailed to School Board Presidents and encouraged them to request a free Information Kit. Here’s how I rolled into it:
“Allow me to ask you a simple, but extremely important question: Are the decisions you make every day based on completely accurate data you can count on?
Let’s face it. Parents, the press, teachers’ unions, your school district, and your fellow school board members all expect you to have the facts “at your fingertips” and get them right.
If you are concerned about the serious consequences of basing your decisions on unreliable, faulty, inaccurate data, I urge you to accept this free offer …
If you contact Chancery Software immediately, I’ll send you a fact-filled Information Kit that can help you avoid the kind of problems that are confronting School Board Presidents around the country.”
The point is, I didn’t start by talking about Chancery Software or their products. I began by identifying a problem and providing a free Information Kit that could help solve the problem. Later on in the letter, I certainly do discuss Chancery’s products, but briefly. I don’t want to scare prospects off by getting into heavy-duty product features until later in the sales cycle. At the end of the letter, I continue pumping up the offer by adding a sweetener:
“Another important point. In your Information Kit, you’ll also find a copy of Chancery Software’s free ‘Using Federal Funds To Buy A Student Information System – A Practical Guide For School Districts.’ Our easy-to-understand guide strips away all the confusion and clearly explains how YOU can get the most out of federal funds. (The kit is worth requesting for this Guide alone!)”
The take-away message this month? When you’re doing lead generation, sell the heck out of your offer but go light on product details. Like Chancery, I think you’ll be pleased with the results!
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for such companies as Bank of America, Fireman’s Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mails and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for marketers, visit his website at www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at email@example.com.