If you like this blog post and want more expert advice on performance marketing, direct marketing, direct response advertising, please share it. Thank you!

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

This Blog Post's Table of Contents

The Short Guide to Lead Generation Ads & Valuable Free Gifts: How to Make Them Work Both Online & Offline.

If you like this blog post and want more expert advice on performance marketing, direct marketing, direct response advertising, please share it. Thank you!

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

This Blog Post's Table of Contents

Lead generation (a.k.a. inquiry advertising) is simply advertising designed solely to elicit leads (inquiries) from individuals. These inquiries then become sales leads, in the case of those enterprises where each such inquiry is to be followed up by further marketing touches (this could include each and every performance marketing medium) as well as the individual efforts of a sales representative (usually a “big ticket” sale such as home modernization or an business training).

This is often the best way to build highly responsive prospects database, if the leadgen ads have been well designed.

How to Maximize Response to Leadgen Ads

Well-designed lead generation campaigns are those that produce inquiries from those truly interested in – truly good prospects for – whatever you sell, so the response to your sales efforts following up the inquiries should be quite good.

The objectives and criteria for leadgen ads are, therefore, that you not only get a good percentage of response to the advertisements but that the respondents are good prospects for you – qualified prospects, in fact.

Lead generation advertising does not have to be costly. In fact, many effective campaigns are carried out with simple Facebook ads, Google search ads or even your current organic search engine traffic alone.

The “secret” of effective leadgen advertising is to offer something that is attractive but is free or available for a most nominal cost, and to advertise in the right media – those read (or watched and listened to) by the kinds of people you want to reach.

That is, to maximize the response to leadgen advertisements you must offer some effective inducement – a special report, a sample of the products, or a free webinar, for example, or perhaps a useful online tool or an assessment test.

Even when what you offer is free, you must “sell” it to your readers. The more attractive the special offer, the bigger the response, of course.

First, Qualify!

On the other hand, lead generation advertising must be designed to draw inquiries from only qualified prospects. There is nothing but grief ahead for you in generating inquiries from and spending marketing money on idle curiosity seekers, children, and freeloaders.

You can draw a large response to your leadgen ads and a disappointingly small response to your follow-ups to those inquirers if you do nothing to control the kinds of responses you get.

The way to avoid or at least to minimize this problem is simple enough, in principle: qualify leads. There are several ways to do this:

  1. The inducement should be such that it is likely to appeal to or be useful for only those who are good prospects. That should rule out such generally useful items as calendars and notebooks. Offer highly specialized reports, newsletters, webinars, tools, for example. Few curiosity seekers will be interested in those.
  2. If your appeal is to professionals or business people of some sort, require that respondents submit their work email address, company name etc.
  3. Advertise only in media that reaches the right people, the ones you want to reach.
  4. Make a small charge, possibly stipulating that it will be refunded or credited to any future order. (In fact, some of my experiments many years ago indicated that a small charge actually increased response because the small charge increased the perceived value of the offer.) You may use a “bill me” scheme here as well (and possibly not even follow-up nonpayments as there would be not much to gain from it).

Case in Point

The lead generation campaign I devised for the European edition of Harvard Business Review (a premium-priced, subscription-based magazine for senior executives) consisted of full-page print ads in nine non-competing business magazines as well as several email lists rented by business-oriented web portals.

All the leadgen ads offered a free 50-page special report in print form as well as an “information package” (i.e. a stack of sales literature) on how to be a better leader.

To further qualify the prospect (apart from the source-based qualification), he or she had to fill out a quiz on managerial expertise and submit both the work email address as well as a full mailing address for the print report delivery.

This highly successful campaign included a multichannel follow-up with sales representative calls included. The products sold were premium HBR subscriptions as well as its publisher’s premium training programs for top executives.

What Valuable Gifts Can You Offer?

Although a free gift of some kind is an excellent gambit for eliciting responses from prospects – words such as FREE, BONUS, and SALE seem to never lose their appeal – it is not always necessary to offer a literal gift item to induce prospects to respond.

Information is itself a valuable commodity in the right circumstances, and can often be made an even greater inducement than a fancy free notebook or other such item.

That is, the information may be itself a gift, whether it is delivered to the inquirer as a print book, a brochure, an ebook, an audio CD, a video training, or information in some other form.

All of these have been and are being used today. For example, one firm has been placing ads in print magazines worldwide which invite senior citizens to call a toll-free phone number to receive a free DVD guide and a free brochure on home stair lifts.

A leadgen ad for Acorn Stairlifts. This one come from a magazine from New Zealand but similar ads are placed by Acorn worldwide, including the US.

Everyone has personal problems, fears, and aspirations. And those in responsible positions in organizations, whether they are owners or executives, all have also problems, fears, and aspirations related to the organization.

The “special report” – free information – is always welcome, but especially so when the reader perceives it as something that correctly identifies his or her problem, fear, or aspiration and appears to offer directly related help.

The hazard is in overgeneralization – trying to do too much and promising a panacea. It doesn’t work well. What works best is the information focused sharply on a specific problem or aspiration.

Moreover, in many circumstances, if you plan carefully enough, you can make the offer of information appear to be unique, which further enhances its value.

Examples: Free Information With Personal & Business Appeal

Consider the examples of below, offered to illustrate how free information can be offered to attract prospects for given items. Note the change in orientation or slant of the free report offered, according to the kind of customer-prospect: individual consumer vs business owner or executive.

Items for SaleFree “Special Report” for IndividualsFree “Special Report” for Executives
Tax manual15 little-known tips for saving up to $10,000 extra in income taxes15 little-known tax-saving tips even few accountants know about
Personal giftsThe idea book of gifts for every occasion and every pocketThe idea book that solves the problem of what to give special clients; for every occasion
Business trainingComplete list of jobs and typical salaries you can qualify for after trainingHow to use training to increase productivity and reduce costs: three case histories
Healthy diet program27 ways to get healthier and full of energy27 inexpensive ways to reduce employee absence due to health issues
Investment advisoryNew ideas every month to make the safest investmentsInvestment ideas every month that can be applied to your company cash flow

It is essential to always remember that you are addressing people, not numbers, not demographic abstractions, and not even companies or other organizations.

People make the decisions, and it is people who must be motivated to respond with inquiries. If the proper motivators are not there, the responses will not take place.

More Examples

The simple worksheet below is designed to make you think a bit about this. It includes a number of examples of good and bad lead generation advertising – good or bad in terms of whether the advertising includes a sensible motivator.

All examples are taken from actual leadgen advertisements, specifically inviting the prospect to send for more information.

They are paraphrased or rephrased and abridged, but enough information is retained to identify the item where the copy does so identify it or the headline is represented, along with the invitation to get more information.

The motivational strategy may or may not be clearly apparent, but may have to be inferred.

In passing judgment on the quality or effectiveness of the copy (in copy, effectiveness is quality!) consider both the clarity of the copy (what is the offer all about?) and the motivational effectiveness of the invitation to inquire further.

INSTRUCTIONS: Rate each item from 1 to 10, 1 the lowest mark and 10 the highest for effectiveness of the copy in eliciting response.

CopyYour Rating
NEWSLETTER FOR WRITERS. Sample $3. Free details.[ ]
GET A GOVERNMENT JOB. Call for current list.[ ]
WRITER TRAINING COURSE. Sign up for free writer’s aptitude test.[ ]
WRITER TRAINING. Become published. Claim your free access to “Writer’s Guide to Publishing” webinar.[ ]
NECKTIES AND SCARFS WITH YOUR CORPORATE LOGO. Get free brochure and claim free $200.00 voucher [ ]
TELEMARKETING SERVICES. FREE book “22 Ways to Stimulate
Your Marketing Promotions.”
[ ]
FACEBOOK ADS. Free video training on how to get maximum income from your social media presence.[ ]
BECOME A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR. Call for free brochure.[ ]
ECOMMERCE BUSINESS PLAN. Free ebook and sample website.[ ]
PUBLISH YOUR OWN BOOK. Free e-booklet and manuscript report.[ ]
BE A MONEY BROKER. Sign up for free details.[ ]
BECOME A LIFE COACH. Be in business for yourself with our step-by-step program. No fees. Free training.[ ]

Although Facebook, Google, email and print advertising is commonly used for lead generation, other advertising methods can be and are also used for the purpose – radio and TV commercials, YouTube ads, and even PR, especially press releases.

The principles are the same: offering something that is likely to induce readers to respond to your invitation to send more information or some other useful gift.

In fact, designing a press release to generate leads can make the release even more acceptable to the editors because it offers something to their readers. And this was the case for a series of press releases I had done for Harvard Business Review mentioned before.


  • Qualify by the medium / traffic source.
  • Qualify by the type of free gift you offer.
  • Qualify with the consumer data you require.
  • Qualify with your copy.

If you like this blog post and want more expert advice on performance marketing, direct marketing, direct response advertising, please share it. Thank you!

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

1 comment

  1. […] See: The Short Guide to Lead Generation Ads & Valuable Free Gifts: How to Make Them Work Both Online … […]

Leave a Reply to the Article

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.