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B2B Lead Generation and Direct Sales Ideas, Value Propositions, Offers & Content That Bring Conversions: The Comprehensive Guide.

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This Blog Post's Table of Contents

Most experienced business-to-business performance marketing practitioners consider “the offer” just as important to a successful promotion as the prospect list targeted which complies with the 40/40/20 classic rule. Stated simply, a direct response offer is what users will get when they respond. Most offers are associated with a direct response campaign, which proposes something tangible for the prospect, as in both B2B direct sales and lead generation.

But there are also offers that are indirect for campaigns with awareness, reminder, or reinforced selling objectives. For these, the offer is the enhancement the prospect gets from being educated, informed, entertained, or motivated by the message in the campaign itself.

Whatever is offered in any performance marketing effort (e.g. a simple email campaign, a LinkedIn or Facebook ad, a direct mail promotion or a pitch at a webinar etc.), it must have value to the prospect.

Because the quantity and quality of responses are determined by the offer and its value proposition, it becomes the major element of your B2B performance marketing strategy.

You should select the types of offers that could accomplish the direct sales or sales support objective and then go with an offer based on the best guess, or test various versions of them, considering the level of risk.

Determining the Objectives of Your B2B Campaign’s Offer and Value Proposition

For business-to-business performance marketing programs for starters you have to determine whether your campaign has an offer that will be direct or indirect.

For direct sales objectives this is obvious. But for sales support response objectives where your campaign’s goal may be to get a qualified lead or generate awareness, this seemingly simple step in the campaign planning process, when neglected, has probably caused more business-to-business performance marketing efforts to produce disappointing results than any other reason.

This step defines your performance marketing strategy in the context of your overall objectives. A lack of clear-cut objectives often muddies the focus of the offer in a sales support campaign. This can result in fewer responses and higher cost.

And it does happen especially when the lead generation campaign features the product rather than the properly crafted offer.

Case in Point: a LinkedIn Campaign

Here is an actual case example that featured a test LinkedIn InMail Message campaign targeted at 14,000 bank executives by a manufacturer of bank systems and equipment.

The theme revolved around the idea that an efficient system reduces operating errors and costs. InMail Message A highlighted the advantages of the system and presented an offer to send a print booklet in the closing paragraph. InMail Message B focused on a descriptive outline of the print booklet and presented an offer to send it in an identical closing paragraph.

The two messages were on the same layout and were about equal in length and overall appearance. InMail Message B was twice as effective in drawing leads. Message A pulled between 2 percent and 3 percent in different markets. Message B pulled between 4 percent and 6 percent in the same markets with no apparent variation in the quality of responses.

When choosing offer material and value proposition for response generation objectives you have to weigh these basic considerations:

  1. The composition of the audience that ranges from possible prospects to pre-qualified prospects.
  2. The number of responses that can be expected from a given audience with a given offer based on testing and experience.
  3. The cost of getting a response based on the planned offer.
  4. The quality of desired response in the case of B2B sales support performance marketing campaigns, which takes into account costs of lead qualification and sales conversion ratios and costs.

Most B2B sales support response campaigns are directed to nonprequalified lists that can generate anything from raw names to highly qualified leads, depending on the specific lead offer and value proposition and the creative emphasis given to the offer in the landing page or ad.

A key question you have to answer at the outset is, “Will the lead generation offer result in quality responses that can be turned over directly to the salespeople for follow-up, or will there be inquiries that need further qualification by email or phone?”

When targeting a pre-qualified audience the usual lead generation offers -those designed to identify prospects within a large universe – do not apply since highly qualified prospects have already been identified.

The objectives of response campaigns to pre-qualified lists are action steps that move those more highly interested along the prospect-to-customer path. Most of these objectives center around getting the prospect and the salesperson together.

Some sales support offers try to get specific kinds of leads that warrant more intensive and usually more expensive follow-up. That is, the lead generation offer is designed so that those 2 percent or 3 percent who respond out of the broad market can be identified as having certain characteristics.

This follow-up is made by additional email contact, salespeople on the phone, telemarketing agents, personal face-to-face sales calls, or contact at seminars, trade shows, or other sales events, both offline and online.

Face-to-face meetings are often the ultimate objective and take place at the prospect’s office or the your office, or a private seminar location.

Tracking sales conversions on various response campaign offers lets you know which offers produce optimum results for specific products in specific markets.

Indirect sales support offers do not have any follow-up in this way since they have nonresponse objectives.

Ideas for Increasing Conversions to Your B2B Direct Sales Performance Marketing Campaigns

In a B2B direct sales effort, the product is the basic reason for responding to a performance marketing campaign.

In the pure sense, the product and its value proposition (i.e. the promise of what it will do for the prospect for a stated price) is the offer in direct sales performance marketing efforts.

Not surprisingly, you often need to use added inducements to produce enough profitable conversions: an offer for the offer, so to speak.

Premiums, in their broadest sense, are most commonly used as added incentives to get the prospect to convert. These incentives or inducements also are referred to generally in the direct sales field as “offers.” It is in this context that they are discussed here.

Business-to-business performance marketers specialized in direct sales make first-time sales to two kinds of customers:

  • those who purchase only one time and
  • those who make repeat purchases.

To have a profitable ongoing operation, you need to go after the maximum number of first-time buyers who will continue to place repeat orders.

Often, performance marketers secure these first-time purchasers at a loss. Since they make the bulk of their profits on repeat orders, they choose their value propositions and offers carefully to avoid bringing in orders from the one-time-only customer.

So, you have to look for those offers and inducements that are appropriate for your products and target market at an acceptable cost/revenue ratio, taking into consideration the life value of the purchaser over the long term.

These inducements, or added incentives to buy, seem to be most effective:

  1. Pricing
  2. Payment terms
  3. Free trial
  4. Sweepstakes
  5. Guarantees and endorsements
  6. Premiums and gifts
  7. First-step information offers


Because the price of a product or service is an integral part of any B2B direct sales offer, you should focus on pricing more than any other offer or inducement.

There are many ways to state the same price. In its most simple configuration, the base price can be stated as discounted, as a sale, or as a quantity purchase showing a savings from an established price.

Payment Terms

B2B marketers are finding that offering more payment choices for the business buyer has a payoff.

Allowing B2B customers to user their credit cards is an effective inducement to order, especially when smaller companies are targeted (here, executives tend to bill right to their cards rather than following a purchase order procedure as in bigger companies).

Higher-priced products are offered on extended payment plans. A payment term such as “bill me later” works well with a free trial offer by helping the prospect make a faster decision. Problems arise, however, when payment terms are too liberal. More orders may result but no-pays will increase.

Example: Bill me later offers are especially popular in Europe in the realm of B2B education products. If you combine Pricing and Payment Terms inducements it may result in offers like a discounted 30-day trial offer with a automatic renewal at full price after trial period and a bill me later scheme. See below for a German example.

This is a landing page for an educational service for hazardous materials specialists (that is quite a niche!). The offer is a free, 30-day trial, renewing at €29.95 per month. A bill me later mechanism is included.

Free Trial

If you have B2B products that lend themselves to trial use, this inducement can be highly effective. Since business buyers tend to be wary or skeptical, especially of new products, they need assurances before they buy.

Free trials help overcome objections even though some “free trials” require payment up-front. And these inducements continue to pull high responses even though full return privileges are built into most business-to-business direct sales propositions today.

Contrary to the consumer field most often such trials are contract-based, not credit card-based.

Sweepstakes or Contests

Some B2B marketers test sweepstakes in their search for breakthrough results from campaigns to relatively limited business universes.

Sweepstakes have been used successfully by consumer marketers for years but generally are not profitable for most business-to-business performance marketing campaigns.

For a sweepstakes to be practical, the B2B marketplace must be large enough to make the cost per lead affordable.

When planning a sweepstakes it is best to involve a sweepstakes or contest management professional in the early phases, since there are many legal restrictions that could involve expensive problems for you if not followed.

Having an outside organization handle receipt of entries, drawings, and judging also lends credibility to the effort.

The quality of raw names generated by a sweepstakes can be a problem because it brings in too many people who are more interested in the prizes than in your B2B products.

It also attracts more than the usual number of people who do not pay for products received, and as a general rule, there will be fewer second-time buyers. This means further heavy lead qualifying is required.

Sweepstakes, however, are exciting to some business prospects and can incite to action some who would not respond to a different offer.

Many sweepstakes campaigns emphasize the inducement more than the product. They usually include one or a few very big exciting prizes as well as many smaller ones, so most responders feel they have a chance to win something.

Sweepstakes can be worth testing for some business-to-business marketers who sell a large volume of general high-use products (e.g. office supplies).

Guarantees and Endorsements

The clearly described guarantee, usually specified for a definite time period, is vital in any direct sales campaign because it establishes your credibility.

The guarantee should be spelled out in as much detail as practical. In effect, it promises the buyer that if the product does not live up to expectations, all or some of the purchase price will be returned.

Endorsements by industry authority figures and association memberships also make the selling proposition more believable and function much like the guarantee.

Premiums, Bonuses and Gifts

A premium is used as an incentive for a prospect to place an order or to respond to an offer in the first step of a multi-step direct sales effort.

The premium should be perceived by the prospect as having value. The higher the value, the greater the number of orders generated.

However, high-value premiums can get you in trouble two ways:

  • first, by getting an order that costs you more than it is worth,
  • and second, by conflicting with the rules some companies have against their employees accepting from vendors such gifts or premiums.

Any gift must be in good taste and preferably have use in both the customer’s place of business and at home.

In most cases it is not necessary for the customer to return the premium or gift if the product is returned. Moreover, premiums or bonuses may be in an electronic format (e.g. ebooks) which makes them more cost-effective generally.

When premiums and gifts are used in direct sales campaigns there are usually fewer payers and repeat orders. However, the more a premium relates to the product and its marketplace, the better chance you have of getting repeat sales from first-time buyers.

This is BusinessManagement Daily’s offer for Communication Briefings subscription. Three premiums, or free bonuses, are offered. All of them concern communications, i.e. they are consistent with the value proposition of the main product.

First-step Information Offers

Multi-step direct sales promotions that eventually lead to a direct sale by an ecommerce store, a landing page or phone require a first effort that most often uses an information offer to identify what is usually a relatively small, high-potential market segment for the product.

These promotions often involve “big-ticket” products that need elaborate and expensive follow-up by one or a series of mailings (i.e. a simple marketing funnel) and telemarketing campaigns to those who respond to the first effort in an attempt to make the sale.

A simple sales funnel for direct sales performance marketing efforts.

Marketers of $500.00+ marketing courses for small business owners often offer a free training webinar via a Facebook ad as a first-step information offer and then by means of aggressive, fully automated follow-up convert users into buyers.

Ideas for Increasing Conversions to Your B2B Lead Generation Campaigns

Offers or incentives to convert to a lead for direct-response sales-support objectives in business-to-business performance marketing are different from those for direct sales objectives.

For sales support lead generation, the offer is not your product since the objective of the performance marketing campaign is not a direct sale that comes in by your ecommerce store, landing page or phone.

The offer in this case:

  • identifies those prospects who show an interest and who may buy later, or
  • brings buyers and salespeople face-to-face.

In either case the offers in these performance marketing efforts aim at whetting the prospect’s appetite to learn more or to take overt action leading to the next step in the selling process.

The main purpose of a lead generation value proposition is to identify a select number of prospects from the target market who have an interest in a specific subject, as highlighted by the lead generation offer.

If you pitch only the product, you may miss a great many people who may have a need but are not aware of it. Once you have the names of the leads, you can move the qualified prospects along in the customer development process with planned follow-up by telemarketing, additional mailings, and face-to-face selling by a salesperson.

Business prospects in any universe at any given time are at specific stages in their buying behavior cycle. Often, prospects lock in their vendor preferences at an early stage for high-tech, complex, and expensive products and systems.

For this reason you must identify from the total target market those prospects who are in the part of the cycle most compatible with your sales development strategy.

You can make the identification of appropriate prospects more effective by using following sales support offers, inducements and promises in your lead generation efforts:

  1. Free information
  2. Gifts and premiums
  3. Sweepstakes and contests
  4. Free trials
  5. Samples
  6. Seminars and webinars
  7. Product demonstrations
  8. Sales representative’s calls
  9. Free cost estimates
  10. Free analyses and surveys

Free Information

The most widely used offer in lead generation programs is free information. And most performance marketers have a large array to choose from: literature, reports, survey results, and other materials in formats that describe, illustrate, or reference different aspects of their products or systems. Some of these potential offer materials are more elaborate than others.

The specific type and the way this offer is described to the prospect determines the quantity/quality response ratio.

The material is usually in the form of ebooks, powerpoint slides, print booklets and folders. The title given to these offers in the lead generation campaign will determine whether they will be perceived by the prospect as interesting and important.

For instance, an offer of a 12-page print booklet on “state-of-the-art robotics in assembly operations” will trigger responses only from those prospects who are concerned with this subject.

You should not design a lead generation campaign around an offer of existing literature unless it coincides perfectly with the objectives of the campaign. If not, new offer materials should be created.

Free information offers for B2B lead generation fall into the following categories:

  1. Chapters in a current business book
  2. Short ebooks or booklets on generic subjects
  3. Article reprints that are industry generic
  4. Information packets
  5. Case studies
  6. Industry authority ebooks or booklets
  7. Management reports on specific subjects
  8. Trade and business article reprints
  9. Basic product/application materials that are product-specific
  10. Feature/function product folders and brochures
  11. Educational newsletters and magazines
  12. Buying guides
  13. Technical papers
  14. Company lab test and survey reports
  15. Requests to get on a mailing list

There are two classes of free information offer material. The first, industry/product generic, generally produces responses that are of higher quantity but of lesser quality.

The second, company/product specific, generates responses that are higher in quality but fewer in quantity.

Generic Free Information Offers

Generic material has a broader acceptance by business prospects. Since it is written without a vendor’s promotional bias, it is perceived as more credible.

Generic materials include:

  • Chapters in current business books
  • Article reprints that do not mention the marketer’s name or product
  • “Helpful hints” industry booklets

Generally these lead generation offers are used to identify prospects from broad suspect lists. They usually pull more responses but resulting lead-to-sale ratios are not as good when compared to conversion based on company/specific material.

They come from leads far back in the buying behavior cycle as well as from some not yet in the cycle.

Chapters in Current Business Books

Every industry has its share of noted authors. They write about industry developments and new concepts. Their highly regarded opinions are often found in newly published books.

Very often you can find excellent selections in various chapters of these books. Once you select a chapter or two, most of the time you can readily get permission from the publisher to reprint the material in booklet or ebook form.

(Most publishers readily give permission, even at no charge, since this represents free publicity for their book.)

Businessmen and businesswomen never have enough time to read all the current periodicals and books that help them keep up with trends and new ideas.

When this specific material is in the reader’s interest and is highlighted and offered in a lead generation campaign, busy business prospects tend to want copies of these excerpted chapters.

These reprints can pull high response but, of course, the title of the book and the chapter heading must describe the specific subject well enough to draw responses from those prospects you want to identify.

Example: a B2B marketer may want to find within a vast retail marketplace those who would be interested in talking to a salesperson about retail theft surveillance systems. Offering a reprint of the chapter, “How to Eliminate Employee Pilferage” from a recently published book may be ideal for generating responses from those retailers who have such a problem and need help.

Leads from this type of offer material usually require further qualification before a salesperson can profitably follow-up with a personal call.

Article Reprints Industry-Generic

Article reprints that do not mention your product or company, offered as having an industry/generic emphasis, generally produce a high quantity of responses. But further qualification is most often needed before responses can be labeled “live” sales leads.

Even though business men and women subscribe to trade publications to stay current in their field, many often miss an individual article. Since average readership of a publication is less than ten out of twelve issues (or less for digital subscriptions), and since readership within an issue is often less than half, there is a good chance individual articles get missed, especially when there are several different trade magazines competing for readers in the same industry.

You should have no problem getting the publisher’s permission to reprint articles for use as performance marketing offers.

Short Ebooks or Booklets on Generic Subjects

Some companies contribute to the knowledge base in their industry by publishing ebooks or booklets on generic subjects. Most ebooks or booklets include a page or two of promotional material about the sponsor company.

The more promotion included in such booklets, the less valuable they become to prospects. Yet, without some mention of the sponsor company and its products, such booklets would be in very short supply.

Most users/readers/prospects who are “just looking” will respond well to offers of materials containing solid and useful general information.

Some may be close to taking buying action but as a rule the quality of the average lead will be lower than those responses from prospects looking for product-specific material.

Offers of material on generic subjects do, however, produce leads that are useful for identifying large numbers of potential prospects from broad suspect lists as a first step in a multi-step lead-building strategy.

This can be valuable to you because there is much evidence to indicate that larger numbers of less-qualified leads can produce more sales conversions overall than smaller quantities of highly qualified leads.

Industry Authority Ebooks or Booklets

Each industry has its own gurus – outspoken authorities who are often quoted on important industry issues. These people are frequently found on the platform at international or national trade shows and conventions.

Many are consultants in the industry. They are information purveyors and are often involved in research.

You may contract with one of these industry figures to write an article, with the author’s byline, on an agreed upon topic for the sole purpose of being used as a lead generation offer piece.

The intent of the article may be to highlight a specific subject that would be of special interest to a segment of the audience you wish to identify.

This document becomes, in effect, a third-party endorsement of a concept or point of view that coincides with that of yours. Readers benefit by learning something from an independent authority about a particular subject.

Quantity and quality of leads produced from this lead generation idea depend on the title and subject matter chosen.

Company or Product-Specific Offers

Prospects responding to offers for free information that is definitely from the B2B marketer’s point of view get specific company and product promotional material.

The offer in your ads, landing pages, emails etc. in this instance is often generalized by the wording, “Send for more information” and is described briefly so the prospect does not know exactly what kind of information will be sent.

Marketers who do this have the built-in option of choosing, after the response is generated, specifically what they will send to the lead from their bank of available printed or electronic materials.

However, the number of responses generated will be more qualified if the offer is described more specifically.

Information packets

The information packet, often called a fact kit, is an array of printed materials containing specifics about a product or system. It is usually offered when the products, systems, or services promoted require detailed and complex explanations.

Print materials often receive higher conversion rates as they seem of higher perceived value. Moreover, readership studies suggest such print materials receive more attention, are read more thoroughly and improve recall.

If you are new to a B2B marketplace also include in the packet company information that presents a positive image. The packet may include several pieces of promotional literature in an envelope or a folio with pockets that hold the material.

It should attempt to tell a more complete product or system story than can be provided in only one piece of literature. When practical, the packet includes product samples.

Because a packet can be expensive to produce, it is usually not offered to marginal prospect lists. It can appear attractive as a lead generation offer because the user perceives it to be more valuable than a brochure or just another ebook in PDF format.

The information packet often generates higher quantities of leads than most other company or product-specific offers.

Example: One of consulting colleagues tested three offers in a search for leads that would most profitably convert to sales of video surveillance systems: an offer of more information, an offer of a free demonstration, and an offer of a systems information kit.

The more information offer was least productive. The demonstration offer pulled the most qualified leads in terms of the ratio of conversion to sales when compared to the systems information kit offer, which pulled a greater quantity of leads.

However, the systems information kit won since the number of sales conversions in total was much larger.

Case Studies

Just about all performance marketers have among their most valuable assets proud customers who are enthusiastic about the products they have purchased.

Very often, these satisfied users are more than willing to provide the marketer with testimonial statements that form the basis of a case history of their experience with a product or system.

Because the statements are highly positive, the case history offer in a performance marketing effort has advantages similar to a typical trade publication article highlighting an ideal application of a product.

Most satisfied customer companies approached by a vendor marketer for a testimonial know that a case study, promoted and publicized by the marketer, gives the customer company the chance to publicly enhance its image.

Case studiesrange from a brief one-page summary to elaborate multipage ebooks or booklets. A brief story of the user is spelled out and comparisons are made between the new and old product or system.

Case studies are most effective as offers when product applications are in the same line of business targeted for the performance marketing effort.

When prospects request this information, they identify themselves as having a product application and need similar to the one described in the offer.

For instance, a marketer’s offer of a problem – challenge – solution case study detailing a bank’s use of artificial intelligence software in customer service and compliance, when used as an offer in a campaign to manufacturers, will not pull well at all.

When used as an offer in a campaign to credit unions, it will produce more leads. But, it would be most effective if it were offered to other banks.

Case studies as offer material are popular in business-to-business performance marketing, both outbound and inbound.

They tend to bring in large numbers of responses from appropriate lists of firms in similar areas of business. Further qualification of these leads is usually required before passing them on to salespeople for personal follow-up.

Management Reports

Perceived by B2B prospects as valuable information, the management report is one of the more popular formats in the B2B marketer’s hierarchy of lead generation ideas.

Management reports have a personalized one-on-one appearance as though prepared for a select few. And many are. The prospect thinks of them as special, unique, and somewhat personal.

The typical report often consists of a dozen or more non-illustrated pages in typewriter type. This sheaf is usually affixed to a plain cover that has minimum company identification. Often a die-cut rectangle on the cover permits the title of the report to show through from the first page.

The inexpensive format of a management report eliminates your risk of stocking large quantities of elaborate printed materials that may never get used, or stocking too few that may necessitate an expensive small quantity reprint. Management reports can be produced practically overnight, affordably, in quantities of 50 or 100 at a time. They may have a PDF format as well, of course.

The reports can be written or edited by your staff copywriters or editors as part of the lead generation campaign.

Technical literature, management speeches, and engineering and lab reports provide the basis for the reports. Higher response results from lead generation offers of management reports described in an lead-building campaign as new information that includes breakthrough thinking and updated product concepts.

To get maximum quantity response from any management report lead generation offer, you should avoid report titles and descriptions that make this offer appear like an advertisement.

Trade and Business Publication Article Reprints

Some business-to-business marketers send product publicity releases to the trade press with a view toward using a reprint of the published article as offer material in direct-response campaigns.

The prospect tends to find the article reprint, in trade or business publication layout, more credible than if the information was in a layout produced by the marketer, since such articles carry the endorsement of an authority in the industry – the publisher.

Product-specific article reprints usually will not generate the high number of responses associated with industry-generic article reprints.

However, those article reprints that contain case studies, testimonials, or announcements relating to your products should produce more qualified leads precisely because they identify the serious prospects, those closer to taking buying action.

It is only logical that the closer prospects get to making a buying decision, the more they seek specific product information.

Basic Product Application Material

Basic product application material describes in paragraph form the user advantages of the product features. It consists of factual data about a product, system, or group of related products, and does not contain elaborate graphics but does include product photos.

Content for this type of material comes from the systems engineers and sales-oriented product developers. Like the case study, this literature lead generation offer presents the product in one type of application only.

This makes it more selective in identifying qualified prospects since leads come from prospects seeking specific product application information.

Yet such offer material, if described correctly in a lead generation performance marketing effort, can appeal to those prospects who are still in the early stages of learning about the product.

This lead generation idea should take prospects from the developing interest stage to the next step where, through additional information and offers from follow-up campaigns, a phone call or a salesperson’s visit will be requested by the prospect.

Basic product application offer material should give prospects insights into what the product can do for them. You have to make sure that this offer material performs that function if it is to succeed in directing the prospect to the next step in the prospect-to-customer development process.

Product Feature/Function Material

Specific product facts that apply to any application are spelled out in product feature/function ebooks or booklets. It is a fairly complete, although not technical, explanation of a product or system and how it functions generally.

When you release a new product or want to expand product distribution into new markets, product feature/function ebooks or booklets are often best lead generation ideas.

The offer singles out from a broad array of industry classifications specifically those businesses interested in the product highlighted in the campaign.

These identified prospects could be the most profitable for future targeting. This is a form of research, but the offer can also produce valuable leads as a by-product of this research objective.

This lead generation tactic can also identify prospects in your present B2B marketplace who are ready to study your product details and therefore may be close to wanting to talk to a salesperson about those details.

Whether this product feature/function offer is used for research or strictly for getting more business, the responses are fairly well qualified.

Company Thought Leadership Newsletters or Magazines

Company newsletters are one of the most frequently used contacts between business-to-business marketers and their B2B customers.

The most helpful newsletters contain valuable generic product and industry information. Because of their periodical format they commit you to a program of continuing communication.

When written in the interest of the reader, and promoted as a performance marketing lead generation offer, the free newsletter can pull healthy quantities of responses.

Newsletter content should be 90 percent generic and not overly promotional to be of value to the prospect.

Some purported newsletters are little more than a list of promotional links with a newsletter masthead. If such an offer has been oversold in the lead generation promotion, those who receive it will be disappointed not only once but each time a new issue arrives, producing a long-range negative effect.

How a leadgen offer of a newsletter is described in a performance marketing promotion will determine how many prospects will want to get on the email list to receive it.

Those who respond will have a higher interest in your products than those who do not respond. Responses to this offer are of low quality and will have a low ratio of conversion to sales.

But this higher-interested, semiqualified group can be very valuable as a next step in a prospect development program.

Buying Guides

Business-to-business marketers, especially those who sell staple products in their industries, maintain buying guide catalogs that include product specifics.

Those catalogs that get revised more frequently contain prices whereas others include separate price sheets. Purchasing agents and other industrial and business buyers often purchase directly from these catalogs or ecommerce stores even though the vendor company’s salesperson routinely calls on the buyer.

Third-party sellers, influencers, consultants, and dealers also use buying guides.

These guides are of value to those prospects who have a need or feel they will have a need to purchase products represented in the guide from that company.

These can be an effective leadgen idea when the strategy calls for developing a list of serious leads who can, with further follow-up contacts, turn into good customers.

Technical Papers

B2B marketers in some industries have employees who have written technical papers. Their contribution to the general knowledge within an industry is encouraged and recognized by associations, publishers, learning institutions, and the government.

These academic, nonpromotional treatises make good lead generation offers when the appeal is to the technically oriented prospect. Technical papers are also ideal offers that generate leads from prequalified lists, especially when used in campaigns to influencers and approvers in larger companies where decision making is a joint process.

Company Product Performance Tests, Lab Tests, and Competitive Comparisons

Factual data about a company’s product presented as a test report can have great credibility with the prospect because it implies nonpromotional objectivity.

Information for the report comes from test or research results and is usually described in a management report format but with heavy emphasis on charts, graphs, and diagrams. For some products the reports can be highly technical.

As an idea for a lead generation material test reports interest prospects who are looking for ways to justify a purchase to themselves and others in the approval line who need hard facts to be convinced.

Quality responses come from serious prospects interested in analytical comparison.

Virtually any survey or test report circulated by a company shows its products in a superior light. And there are times when you will design a performance test or a competitive comparison survey with the specific idea of using the results as offer material to identify specific groups of qualified prospects. In most industries these survey reports are well accepted and make good lead generation content.

Getting on a Mailing List

Offers to place the prospect on the company’s mailing list to receive new and valuable information as it becomes available are rarely used as the only offers in a business-to-business lead generation effort.

Yet, such offers single out a specific category of interested prospects. These offers identify, aside from competitors, those who show an interest in getting more informational mailings. These prospects are more likely to respond to specific offers in future mailings.

Gifts and Premiums

The role of the gift or premium in lead generation promotions is a secondary offer or inducement to get the prospect to act on a primary offer, such as a free product demonstration, a free analysis and survey, a free seminar, or a salesperson’s call.

If the gift or premium is perceived as having high value, responses will increase – especially those from nonprospects. In this case, the use of gifts and premiums as an adjunct to a primary leadgen offer may not be affordable if targeting marginal prospect lists.

However, when the premium is deemphasized by being buried in the message, those who respond to the premium offer will be better qualified prospects.

This technique could make the promotion pay off. When mailing to the audience of prequalified prospects, the gift or premium cost per sale will be lower.

Here the same gift or premium can have a better chance of cost effectively maximizing response, since everyone on the list is prequalified and is a potential buyer.

In any event it is not the cost of the premium that decides the response, but rather the interest a prospect may have in a particular premium.

You can spend $100 on a premium and get poor results in terms of conversion whereas a $10 premium may have gotten the job done. Gifts or premiums that relate to the message, the product, and its user benefits generate more qualified responses.

Also, if the gift or premium is unique, new, and exciting, even more responses will be generated.

Because the integrity of your company is at stake, items selected for these inducements should not in any way be interpreted by the prospects as bribes. This is why the gift or premium should preferably relate to the business environment.

Sweepstakes and Contests

A secondary offer or inducement that has been known to hype response for lead generation campaigns is a sweepstakes or a contest. However, because most business-to-business marketers have small target markets and cannot cost justify the effort, the use of these inducements is rare.

Sweepstakes can also be put to work in awareness, reinforced selling, and reminder sales support campaigns in an effort to build prospect involvement.

Because these campaigns have indirect response objectives and are sent to highly qualified prospect and customer lists, usually no attempt is made to follow-up those who send in contest or sweepstakes entries.

Free Trials

In lead generation campaigns the offer of a free trial generates one of the highest-quality responses of any business-to-business offer. The free trial of a product or system is a powerful prospect incentive because it immediately establishes value and the your company’s credibility.

Unfortunately, it is not practical for most high-cost industrial products.
The free trial offer for sales support objectives differs from the free trial offer in direct sales, mentioned before, because the products involved are more complex, more technical, and of a higher unit price.

Most industrial products require high levels of explanation and installation procedures can be complex. Often the personal efforts of salespeople are required to arrange shipment as well as installation.

Once a product or system is installed for the trial, marketing, and engineering personnel if needed, follow-up with the prospect should be made to assure that the product’s performance will be successful. This ensures a very high close ratio.

The free trial offer is often used to introduce new products or to clear inventory. For certain products such an offer may not be cost effective. But some marketers, who want to quickly build a base of users with longer-term profits as a goal, promote the free trial offer when introducing new products even though they may incur a loss from the trial installation.


Not every B2B company markets products that lend themselves to offers of samples. But where they are applicable and affordable, the free sample offer almost always gets good response.

The relatively high costs of samples limits their use as offers to narrowly defined target markets.

The quantity/quality response mix is related to the application of the sample to personal or business use. Generally, if the sample does not have functional value to the user, those who do request it will be better qualified.

For instance, an offer of free personal stationery as a sample from a business gift manufacturer of exclusive, personalized leather-bound notepads may produce high-quantity, low-quality leads.

But an offer of a sample valve fitting from a machinery manufacturer could generate low-quantity, high-quality responses.

Sample offers are effective partially because of the sense of obligation felt by those prospects who respond to the effort.

Some awareness campaigns are built around offers of samples. But the sample in this case is designed into the awareness campaign itself with an objective of getting greater prospect mind-share, leading to buying action at a later date.

Seminars and Webinars

Businesspeople continually seek information that relates to the roles they play in carrying out their specific business responsibilities. They are always interested in opportunities to learn more about advanced systems, procedures, and methods in their industry.

This is why professional seminars and webinars run by associations, universities, training companies and consultants on business subjects of all kinds are well attended.

This predisposition can work to your advantage if you learn how to use the seminar/webinar offer in your sales support response programs.

And this is the reason that company-sponsored seminars/webinars can be successful in spite of the natural reluctance of the businessman or businesswoman to interrupt a busy schedule to attend a vendor marketer’s seminar.

Offers of seminars are perceived to be helpful when the subject matter is relevant to the target audience and is persuasively spelled out in the response-building promotional material.

Companies well known in their industries, those that come up with leading-edge products, usually have no problem attracting prospects to a new product demonstration billed as a seminar/webinar.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of promotion as long as prospects are informed beforehand and they get what was promised in the description of the lead generation offer.

Very few businesses can afford to sponsor industry educational seminars/webinars without some self-promotion. However, an offer of an educational seminar/webinar that turns out to be strictly a sales promotion event can turn off some good prospects who may have attended.

Seminars/webinars sponsored by companies and promoted as educational in content should have at least 75 percent of generic information.

The quality of response from a seminar/webinar offer is usually dictated by:

  1. The emphasis given in the promotion about how much information will be generic and how much will be about your products or services.
  2. The degree to which the target audience you use for the campaign is prequalified.

The objective is to seek out the maximum number of the right kind of prospects.

One approach is to promote a seminar or webinar lead offer only to lists of prequalified prospects. This is not practical for many B2B marketers because such lists may be too small to produce adequate seminar attendance.

Another way is to target a sufficient number of potential prospects from within the marketer’s universe (e.g. by LinkedIn ads), choosing those who would appear to have appropriate characteristics that would reflect a positive interest in the subject and even location of the seminar if you would like to conduct it offline.

Since response rates for seminar or webinar offers to broad universe prospects lists are historically low, unless the offer is directed at highly qualified segments, fairly large blocks of names are needed for the campaign to result in an acceptable number of attendees.

For instance, for a high-ticket CRM software marketer, a mailing to 3,500 prospects in a broad universe may produce 80 acceptances. Only 55 of these may actually attend.

Qualification questionnaires, filled out during the event by those who attend, might single out about 20 highly qualified prospects who should be followed up by salespeople.

The fact that a B2B marketer offers a seminar or webinar implies to the prospect that the marketer has substantial industry product knowledge. This helps the marketer establish authority in the field.

Product or System Demonstrations

Some products cannot be sold without a product demonstration, especially if the product is new or the marketer is not well known.

Many B2B marketers are using online videos to demonstrate their product, especially in the earlier stages of prospect’s interest cycle.

But some complex products still require a live demonstration, either online or offline. A demonstration is usually held either at the prospect’s or the marketer’s place of business or at the location of one of the marketer’s satisfied customers. It may also be a video teleconference or a webinar.

It may be a multiprospect demonstration or simply a one-on-one talk between the prospect and the demonstrator.

When several prospects are involved in the demonstration the individual prospect feels less obligated to buy.

A demonstration offer can be made to low-, medium-, or high-potential prospects, because those who respond to that type offer will most likely be high-quality prospects.

Very few businesspeople will sit through a product demonstration unless they are serious about making a purchase. Highly complex and technical products – such as computer software, computers and business equipment, heavy machinery, and electrical systems – lend themselves to a demonstration offer.

Secondary offers of a premium or gift may help you get more prospects to respond to a demonstration offer. However, overall quality of response falls off as the perceived value of the premium increases.

Sales Representative Calls

Businessmen and businesswomen who check a box on a landing page that requests a salesperson to call are serious about buying. This offer is usually used in tandem with an offer of information but it may also be the primary and only offer in your promotional campaign.

Some marketers who use this as the sole lead generation offer are disappointed at the low response rate. There is well-established evidence that a general information offer will outpull a sales call offer 15 to 1 when both are used in the same promotion to a broad universe audience.

An offer of a “request for salesperson to call” should allow space for the prospect to indicate the best time to call.

Free Cost Estimates

When prospects can get a free estimate of a planned purchase without obligating themselves to a sales representative, they are tempted to respond.

Cost estimates can be good ideas:

  • for those B2B marketers who have new products or systems to introduce and
  • for those whose selling strategy requires close contact with and detailed knowledge of a prospective customer’s needs.

When you can get into the prospect’s place of business to assemble information on which to base the estimate, they have a better chance of making a sale.

When used as a primary offer, responses will be few, but highly qualified. Also, it can be a solid idea when paired with a free information leadgen offer.

Free Analyses and Surveys

You can use the free analysis and survey lead generation idea as a device to get your salespeople in to see qualified prospects at an early stage in the prospect’s buying behavior cycle.

It permits the sales representative to be involved with the prospect on a continuing basis over a preset span of time. The representative is then exposed to the prospect’s real needs. With this information the salesperson can recommend the best product configuration possible.

In many sales organizations this idea is actually often used by the sales representatives themselves as a step in the personal selling process.

This idea, in an online or offline campaign or telemarketing effort, enables you to identify those prospects among a larger group who are ready to take the next step.

Generally prospects responding to this lead generation offer feel they have a weakness in an operational system, method, or procedure, and are ready to learn more about how at least one vendor company would attack the problem.

Their hope is that without cost they may learn something they do not already know.

Keep in mind that prospects who accept such an offer are opening their doors to you, often divulging proprietary information. The prospect will usually not do this for an unfamiliar vendor.

Analysis and survey lead offers can be costly but they generate excellent responses, since in the analysis process the prospect becomes a highly defined sales target for you.

The prospect gains from the survey results factual documentation and justification for a major purchase. The sales close rate on leads that develop from this offer is very high.

Hierarchy of Lead Generation Ideas, Value Propositions, Offers & Content

This is the list of the described ideas that generate a range of responses from low to high quality.

  1. Gifts and premiums
  2. Sweepstakes and contests
  3. Chapters in current business books
  4. Short ebooks or booklets on generic subjects related to product
  5. Article reprints, industry-specific
  6. Information packets
  7. Case studies
  8. Industry authority ebooks or booklets
  9. Management reports on specific subjects
  10. Reprints of product-specific business magazine articles
  11. Basic product application ebooks or brochures
  12. Feature/function product ebooks or brochures
  13. Company thought leadership newsletters or magazines
  14. Prospect’s name on mailing list
  15. Buying guides
  16. Technical or scientific papers
  17. Reports on laboratory tests, product performance, and surveys
  18. Free trial
  19. Samples
  20. Seminars or Webinars
  21. Product demonstration
  22. Sales representative call
  23. Free cost estimate
  24. Free analysis and survey

For most sales organizations chances are that the sales-support response-building offers in the upper portion of the listcan be classified as generators of raw inquiries that need further qualification before they can be categorized as true leads.

Some sales managers of higher-priced products give these raw inquiries directly to salespeople, asking them to perform the qualifying function.

These managers believe this stimulates more prospecting and sales call activity by the salespeople. However, in the more successful sales organizations today, these prospecting and prospect-qualification functions are handled by automated marketing follow-up, lead nurturing and scoring, telemarketing, and other multistep promotional efforts.

This can be ten times less expensive and, of equal importance, it saves the salesperson’s time for the more cost-effective field functions of presenting and selling.

The ideas hierarchy begins with the classic high-quantity/low-quality offer of free information of a generic nature. Moving down the list, each offer tends to be less general and more specific. These more specific offers generate higher-quality responses that have a greater chance of being converted into a sale by a salesperson.

As you do more and more campaigns, it will become easier to choose the right lead generation idea for a desired objective. All the different offers will earn their places on the hierarchy depending on the performance marketing objective and the quality of the prospect’s pool.

Establishing a wide range of lead offers to choose from is especially critical at the early stages of planning, since use of various offers facilitates the fine-tuning necessary to get optimum quantity/quality results.

Other Type of Lead Generation Ideas

Breakthrough Offers

The breakthrough offer implies something unique and perhaps never done before. Breakthrough offers are often needed for new product launches to provide greater impact to counter a competitive surge, to enter a new B2B market, or simply to give sales a needed boost.

Ideas for breakthrough offers do not come easily. Specific reasons for their need, relative to the product and market characteristics, guide the development of the creative effort.

They are custom created around individual situations in targeted markets, and usually result from new combinations of old ideas generated by brainstorming and its several variations.

Stretching your thinking beyond the normal range of affordable lead generation ideas does not always guarantee good cost/revenue ratios in the short term.

But breakthrough offers, on the average, attract long-term customers, making them highly cost effective. An example is a so-called shock & awe package by a corporate and commercial photographer sent to 300 pre-qualified prospects as presented here:

A shock and awe package in the B2B realm.

Ideas for Awareness, Reinforced Selling and Reminder Campaigns

Indirect response performance marketing campaigns are usually referred to as advertising. In indirect response campaigns, the response that is sought is attitude or opinion modification. With this type of promotion no overt action is required of the prospect.

When the sales support objective calls for an indirect response program, such as awareness, reinforced selling, or reminder campaigns, the message becomes the offer.

The offer in this sense is the reward readers or users will get as a result of reading your content. That reward is immediate: more knowledge, understanding, or information about a subject in their interest.

The creative task must be approached with the idea that every sentence must pull its own weight in enhancing a prospect’s knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of a product, company, or issue.

This challenges you to come up with the most appealing approach and helps eliminate the common problem of ineffective brag-and-boast messages.

With some indirect response objectives, a simple email or letter may get the message across. For others, more elaborate videos or print books may be added to the mix.

Example: A B2B marketer may be interested in building customer loyalty by letting customers know about some solid commitments made in product development as described and illustrated in a new print booklet. A personalized, signed by hand letter from the president of the company accompanying such a booklet may be mailed to a list of key customers.

The function of the letter would be to set the stage for getting the readers interested in the message and to direct their attention to the enclosed booklet, to assimilate its contents, and to enhance their understanding of the message.

Example: A B2B marketer who plans to release a product in a new market one year from now may choose to design a direct mail campaign series of 12 soft-sell mailings – an indirect action program aimed at building a group of believers in that marketplace who will be receptive to the new product when it is released.

Materials that can be used to enhance the offer/messages of indirect response promotions consist of the same or similar information offered in direct response programs, such as article reprints, ebooks or booklets on subjects related to the product, company thought leadership newsletters or magazines, case studies, management reports, product feature/function materials, product application ebooks, technical papers, product performance tests, survey reports, industry authority articles, and gifts or premiums.

Common Mistakes

Some B2B marketers make the common mistake of including many lead generation offers, value propositions and ideas in one campaign.

Their thinking is based on a belief that the more things there are, the better the chances of interesting the prospect in at least one.

But in the great bulk of cases, just the opposite is true. The rule to follow is: the fewer offers in a campaign, the better. Campaigns should have one primary offer to prevent prospect’s confusion.

When several offers are combined it usually means a B2B marketer wants to – naively – minimize the expense and maximize the value of a promotion while accomplishing several sales support objectives.

For example, a laundry list of lead offers attempting to identify specific groups of prospects, set up meetings, and arrange for sales call appointments might include three different software product brochures, a computer hardware booklet, an article reprint, a product demonstration, and a calculator wallet as a gift for attending the demonstration, plus an offer to have a salesperson call the prospect.

With so many choices, it may be easier for the prospect not to make any choice at all.

In this example, the real problem lies in the marketer’s trying to do too many things at the same time in one campaign.

If, for instance, an objective is to identify prospects from a broad universe list who have an interest in a specialized software package, the offer of a software information ebook should be the main focus of the lead generation promotion.

If three ebooks are involved, they should be discussed and offered as a set of three, not offered individually.

If an objective is to identify those who want to attend a product demonstration, the entire campaign should be designed around the benefits of a product demonstration for the prospect.

Some marketers attempt to justify combination lead offers in a single promotional effort as a way of getting leads identified by varying degrees of interest.

The problem with this strategy is that the copy, graphics, and format emphasis are rendered ineffective when they are spread over several offers.

The lead geneartion landing page, for example, may not be read beyond the headline or the first sentence because it is too difficult to promote several offers appropriately in one landing page.

The more pinpointed the value proposition, the easier it is for prospects to relate what they are reading to their specific needs.

When there is a combination of lead generation offers, value propositions and ideas, fewer responses result, which can make this a costly method for setting up future targets.

There are some combination offers that do not have conflicting objectives. These can actually increase overall response.

Example: A B2B marketer designed a LinkedIn ad that directs the appropriate audience to a landing page that is designed for the primary purpose of generating leads by using an information offer of an ebook on a specific subject.

Yet a secondary lead generation offer on the lead form could provide an option to have a sales representative call. This will identify those prospects closer to taking buying action.

However, responses from this subordinate offer, although valuable, should be secondary in importance when establishing a measure of effectiveness for the campaign.


  1. The business-to-business offer is what prospects get when they reply to a direct response effort. For direct sales the offer is basically the product and what it will do for the reader at a price. Inducements such as price terms and premiums are added incentives often necessary to increase response to these promotions.
  2. Offers used to get responses for sales support objectives, or lead generation, identify prospects who show an interest and may buy later or bring buyers and salespeople together face-to-face. Both direct sales and sales support direct response offers propose something tangible that require fulfillment by the marketer. Basic considerations when choosing an offer include the composition of the audience, predictions of response, and costs.
  3. The quantity/quality ratio of response to a performance marketing sales support effort is determined by the offer selected. Most direct response promotions offer free information. These materials fall into two classes: industry-product/generic and company-product/specific. Other sales-support offers that have a place in B2B programs include gifts and premiums, sweepstakes and contests, free trials for products, samples, seminars, product demonstrations, sales representative calls, free estimates, free analyses and surveys.
  4. If you have an ongoing sales support program you should establish a hierarchy of ideas and offers from which to choose, which will facilitate the quantity/quality fine-tuning needed for best results.
  5. The business-to-business lead generation offer is also defined as increased knowledge, an enhancement prospects get as they read awareness, reinforced selling, reminder, and other forms of indirect response performance marketing. Some indirect response programs use the same or similar information materials offered in direct response efforts.
  6. To maximize effective response, any single promotion should focus all creative aspects on only one primary offer.

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  1. […] B2B Lead Generation and Direct Sales Ideas, Value Propositions, Offers & Content That Bring Conv… […]

  2. […] Each performance marketer must test different offers because markets, products, and sales conversion ratios vary. See the 25 lead generating offers I listed here – make sure you test them. […]

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The expert's thoughts on direct response - growth hacking - performance-based marketing activities - DIRECT MARKETING

About Me, Rafal Lipnicki.

the direct / performance marketing consultant with a strange sounding name


Not your usual "guru" but a real-world performance marketing & innovation consultant based in Europe and an experienced senior executive at leading multinational companies.

What and Where.

I am a consultant for hire, working remotely and on-site all over the world (but Europe is always preferred). See my consulting services page for details.


Contrarian advice most of the time. Document-based audits, workshops, one-off projects, mentoring programs, and more.