Category: Lead Generation

Five Tactics for Offers in Your Direct Marketing Campaigns

In an earlier blog post Using Offers in Your Marketing Strategy we talked about the direct marketing offer: “What we’re gonna give you.” The offer can be a product or a service, and it can cover price, discounts, demos, upgrades, guarantees, shipping, and premiums – free items to lure prospects in.

Here are some tips on using offers in your B2B direct marketing campaigns:

  • Offers must create involvement – both physical and emotional. By physical involvement, we mean: get their hands moving. Make the prospect take action. Whether it’s clicking a link, tearing out a coupon, keying in info, calling an 800 number, completing a reply card, or sending a text… the ultimate purpose of the offer is to generate a response.
  • Don’t get trapped into thinking that businesspeople are a different species. Certainly, offers must be geared toward their thinking in their job function, but they still want to save time, reduce effort, eliminate stress, and look good in front of their peers. Does your offer fill at least one of these motivators?
  • Consider when to use a soft offer, and when to use a hard offer:
    • Soft offers don’t require a purchase now – they’re used in a two-step approach. Examples are free gifts, more info (like ‘Click to this landing page’), or a limited-time trial.
    • Hard offers ask for the immediate order: Save $75 by ordering online -- get free shipping with a 2nd item -- save 10%.
  • Do the math! Offers must make profitable marketing sense, so you need to do a break-even analysis. On a higher ticket item ($995 software) you can afford a $50 premium. But on mid-ticket items, while a $50 premium would generate plenty of response, would you spend more than you’d gain?
  • On that note – be careful your offer isn’t too good and either attracts the wrong audience or turns off the right audience. For example, a niche software company once ran a campaign offering a free iPod, simply for requesting more info. They spent a fortune sending the expensive offer to unqualified prospects, and their sales force quickly burned out after wasting time with uninterested prospects. On the flip side, something that appears to be ‘too good to be true’ can also deter someone from responding, since they might think there’s a catch in there somewhere.

As you develop the offer as part of a B2B marketing campaign, use these tips as a checklist in both development and as a final check to develop an effective campaign. By considering your entire process of nurturing prospects, including in-depth industry knowledge and vocabulary, competitors, and pain points, you will be able to develop an offer that benefits the right target and supports the sales cycle.

Have you ever seen an offer that you thought was unbelievable because it was too generous? Or too insignificant to be bothered with? Or, how about offers that you’ve jumped on right away and have been pleased with the results? How do your own experiences reflect the tips above?

The Offer is 40% of Direct Marketing

Direct marketing experts isolate three vital components in developing marketing campaigns: Creative, Database, and Offer. Yet contrary to the popular image-advertising notion, ‘creative’ should not be the dominant factor. In the book Direct Marketing: How You Can Really Do It Right (1990), late marketing great Ray Jutkins introduced the formula that is still considered the standard today for campaign success:

  • Database accounts for 40%
  • Offer carries 40% weight
  • Creative is only 20%

In other words, great design and brilliant copy crafting won’t do much good without an offer and list optimization for the right people. Here's how to relate offers, as part of a complete process, to the other two components of your direct marketing campaigns:


When developing offers, relate them individually to the targeted database. If you were to sell a piece of custom software to dentists and lawyers, you would offer different promotions to each, tailored to each industry.

But that's not all – be careful when you’re addressing different targeted job functions within the same industry. For example, you would want different campaigns targeted to decision-influencers (at the fabrication shop level), decision-makers (mid-managers), and decision influencers from the top (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs). You wouldn’t want to make the same offer to the big boss that you’re making to the lathe operator.

Once your database is segmented into different demographic groups, you also need to keep an eye on psychographic (different perceptions about the benefits or value of your product affecting motivation) considerations. That means taking note of the place each individual – and his or her mindset – occupies within your database or sales cycle.


Certain phrases will mean more to the machinist than to the quality control chief, so you should use different language in approaching them. Overlay the offer onto the creative. For example, for the end user, a free trial means a chance to get a feel for the product and determine if it is useful, while for the middle manager, the trial is a way to mitigate risk and/or cut expenses. For both individuals, the free trial is the same exact offer, but subtle changes in copy can calibrate the benefits of the promotion for the right audience.

Once you’ve specified the lists, determined the offers, and created the creative, it’s time for one final overhead look to make sure each piece works well with the others. This may sound simple, but you’d be amazed how many times a good list, seemingly-good offers, and good-looking creative fight with each other – because they weren’t developed with the others in mind. The three components of direct marketing, when developed as a complete process, work together to make a campaign a success.

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Using Offers in Your Marketing Strategy

With all the marketing messages bombarding our senses these days, it’s interesting that the vast majority don’t contain an offer.

Offer-less ads may serve some purpose in a consumer packaged-goods world, where your branding is your only advertising strategy – but unless you’re positioning Pepsi against Coca-Cola, an offer is a critical component of your campaign.

Offer Defined

An ‘offer’ means: “What we’re gonna give you.”

A one-step offer means a direct sale right now. “Order the device today, get $50 off your next order.”

A two-step offer means generating a lead now (to close the deal later) – such as a free 30-day trial.

Offers can be products or services. They can cover price, discounts, demos, upgrades, guarantees, shipping, and premiums – free items to lure prospects in. Smart B2B offers can leverage the value of information, such as free industry reports (salary or performance data), customized services (assessments, evaluations, or a needs analysis), SIC-specific case studies or white papers, and live webcasts.

An added bonus of info-based offers: they provide a branding benefit. It’s an opportunity to be seen as an expert in your field, since you are providing high-level business intelligence.

Incorporating offers into your strategy

An offer does not stand alone. It should not be an afterthought, or something to just plug into an already-completed copyblock, and it won’t be effective unless it’s considered a crucial element from the very beginning.

Before developing offers, consider the entire process of nurturing prospects and customers: understanding their industry, talking their language, feeling their pain, and providing solutions that benefit them. During this broad-brush process, planning offers makes sense since you’re asking, at each stage, “How does this offer support this strategic step, as it relates to that person’s wants?” In other words, think like your client.

Through this lens, for instance, you’ll offer engineers a custom app to ease their compliance headaches rather than an easy-to-plug-in discount (which may be a decent offer, yet not nearly as strong).

Next week, we'll move from looking at the big-picture strategy behind offers to discussing specific tactics you can use to develop offers for your prospects and customers.

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Getting Started Profiling Your Data

As we’ve mentioned before, profiling your internal data is the best way to build a database of prospects. But before you can start these profiling activities, there are a few elements you should have in place first.

A plan

Keep it simple, but create a plan that addresses:

  • Your Goals – Include where you are today (number of contacts, % with emails, % with industrial codes, etc.) and what numbers you want to hit by when. Include a review of the current fields you have, what you’re using, and what you need.
  • Profiling Activities Calendar – What will you do and when (monthly, quarterly, yearly)?
  • Incentives and Promotions – Are there any special internal/external promotions or incentives you want to offer to encourage others in your organization to keep profiling top of mind?
  • Internal Communications – Once you’ve built the plan and received executive buy-in, you’ll need to regularly report back on your goals and movement toward their goals.

Time and resources

If you have to eliminate another marketing activity to devote more time to profiling – do it.

Executive Buy-In and Support

Data profiling takes a top down, companywide commitment and investment, starting with the acknowledgement that profiling is a critical piece of your business development strategy. Those in leadership positions throughout the company should be on board with this venture, even those who aren't necessarily involved in its execution.

A System to Capture Data

If you’re using anything other than a CRM system for your data, you won’t be able to successfully profile your data. Make sure you budget time and dollars to implement and maintain your in-house CRM system.

Tip: Hire a part-time employee to help profile your database once a year. Summer is an ideal time to reach out to targets, since business might be slower and there may be more interim employees available.

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Building Lists – What Data Should You Collect?

Since specific information about your prospects and customers will affect what messaging they receive, it's important to get as detailed as possible when building your database. Focus on retrieving only the information you need to identify prospects and build targeted campaigns. Here are the different types of information you should use to group your data:


Firmographics includes how large the company is (employee size, sales volume, number of customers) as well as the industry the company is in (SIC code) and how long it has been around. It is also useful to know when the company's fiscal year ends. In addition, be sure to get basic information such as the company's location.

Sales Cycle

Where is this company in your sales cycle? Are they just a suspect or a qualified lead? Have they just made their first purchase from you? Or maybe they're a repeat customer, a past customer, or even a high-value long-term client.


Note the interactions prospects have had with you and your sales/marketing activities. This can include attending trade shows, signing up for one of your webinars, or even opening one of your emails.

Generally, firmographic information will help you determine whether or not a certain company is a viable prospect, while the sales cycle and behavioral information will help you determine which messages to send to which groups. Specific types of marketing content will appeal to prospects and customers in different stages of the sales cycle. Thought leadership and best practices work best during the awareness stage; comparisons, reviews, and pricing information will be helpful during the research stage; and information about your company is most effective in the purchasing stage.

Benefits of Data Profiling

The most important element of a successful B2B marketing campaign is the list. While renting or purchasing lists is a viable option, why not focus on building and profiling your existing data?

Marketing to an in-house, profiled database allows you to send more targeted messages to smaller groups. Over time, this will lead to decreased marketing costs and increased response rates.

Below is an example of how you can separate your existing data into three different prospect groups, and the different types of messages you would send to each for an effective marketing campaign.

Group 1: Likely to Purchase Within Two Years

These prospects are in your target market and have a long term need. Stay top-of-mind with this group by implementing a 12-month marketing campaign to build a relationship with these prospects.

What to include:

  • Lower-cost touches (i.e. email)
  • Messages that establish your business value and qualifications
  • Messages that provide items of value (i.e. educational pieces like white papers or reports, or other offers such as discounts or free trials)

Group 2: Currently Using a Competitive Product/Service

Target these companies with specific competitive offers and information on making the move to your product/service.

What to include:

  • Educational pieces and messages on the benefits of your product/service over the competition
  • Webinars and sales pieces addressing the challenges that come with moving
  • Financial offers to make the move easier

Group 3: Qualified Decision-Makers Ready to Purchase

These qualified leads are ready to purchase soon. You want to send these companies high-value offers and messages that help them feel good about choosing your product/service.

What to include:

  • High-value financial offers and touches
  • Assessments geared toward migration
  • Messages of safety and ease to make their decision easier

Without profiling your existing database, you would have to send a universal marketing campaign to all these prospects – never hitting the right pain points or sending the right message to the right prospects. But if you invest in profiling, you will be able to tailor messages to each data group and yield much better results.

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SWOT Analysis for the New Year

Do you need a leg up in setting some goals for your company as the new year approaches? Consider doing a SWOT analysis beforehand.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are about looking internally, while opportunities and threats are about looking outside your organization.

Once you've compiled an accurate snapshot of your company at the end of 2013, it becomes much easier to set specific goals for 2014.


There's a good chance your biggest strength is people. This could include employees, members of your team, strategic partners, and, of course, yourself. Each person you work with – and the skills they bring to the table – is a potential strength.

Some common strengths might include:

  • Skill sets and core competencies of employees and team members
  • Strong relationships with clients, partners, vendors
  • Team chemistry and communication
  • Your company's identity, brand, and core values
  • Your company's products and/or services and value they provide


This portion of the SWOT analysis might be more uncomfortable to complete than the others. But honesty is important - the goal is to take weaknesses and turn them into strengths, and you can’t do that if you don’t accurately identify specific areas where your company is weak.

Some common weaknesses might include:

  • Lack of resources – money, personnel, or time
  • Weak sales or marketing
  • Lack of a specific skill set
  • Pricing is too low or too high
  • Poor communication between team members


Opportunities don't just mean potential clients – they could also be current clients. Think big – opportunities aren't just limited to your specific niche.

Some common opportunities might include:

  • Selling more to existing clients
  • Identifying potential clients
  • Identifying potential partnerships
  • Moving into a new market, or providing a new product/service
  • Favorable economic factors


You think 'threat' and the first thing you might picture is your competition. But your partners and vendors can be threats as well – maybe even more so.

Some common threats might include:

  • Competitors
  • Partners and clients changing their business model
  • Clients going through a leadership or personnel change
  • Market conditions
  • Unfavorable economic factors

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Direct Mail Writing Tips

Since a vast majority of marketing messaging is email-based, sending old-fashioned direct mail to your clients and prospects is a good way to stand out. Here are some tips for direct mail success, no matter your marketing budget.

Grab them with the opening

Make the letter compelling at the very beginning by asking a question or relating a personal story. A strong opening makes it much more likely that the recipient will read the entire piece closely. But even if you have a great first paragraph, there's no guarantee the reader will pay such close attention, so you need to make sure you…

Make it scannable

If the content allows it, use bolded bulleted lists, as well as headlines and quotations. The idea is to make the letter as fast and easy as possible to read.

Focus on the recipient

Make it about them. Their business, their problems, and solutions that will work for them.

Have a call to action… or don’t

A specific call to action isn’t always necessary, especially when you’re sending direct mail around the holidays. You might use this as a chance to simply thank them for their business, or to offer them something: a gift, a discount, maybe even a referral.

Make it personal

Write the letter as if you’re speaking directly to the recipient. Avoid formal business language and buzzwords. While you’re at it, hand sign the letter and hand address the envelope.

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Characteristics of Suspects, Prospects, and Customers

You want to have a relationship with your suspects, your prospects, and your customers. But what are the specific differences between each group, and how should you modify your tactics to reach each segment the best?


Suspects typically have no pre-existing relationship with you or your company. Most likely, they haven’t even heard of you. More than any other segment of your audience, your tactics need to focus on educating them about your product/service, building rapport, and demonstrating credibility. Remember: suspects don't know you, so they have no reason to believe that you can help them until you show them that you can.


Prospects are “raised hands” – they’ve demonstrated in some way that they might be interested in becoming your customer. They might be in the information gathering stage or the evaluation stage. Prospects want tools to help them in their decision-making process, so your tactics should focus on educating them in-depth on how your product/service works, and how you are different from your competitors.


Customers want, simply, to be treated like customers. They want information that helps them do their jobs, and information that validates their investments (they want to feel like they made a good decision to become your customer.) Make sure you give them support mapped to their products and their processes – not your own.

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Writing Case Studies

Case studies have an advantage over other marketing collateral you might create: they involve a third party proving your message for you. If done correctly, they’re the ultimate credibility builder and deserve to be prominently placed on your website and your other marketing materials.

Case studies are, in essence, customer success stories. So you should write them like any other story. They should have a beginning, middle, and end. The featured client should have a clearly-defined business problem, with obstacles recognizable to your audience. And your company is the hero that swoops in and saves the day.

Keep case studies as simple – and as short – as possible. No more than 750 words is ideal. Use pull quotes, bullet lists, and section headers to make it easier to scan. Instead of stock photos or clipart, ask the client for images that highlight their product or service.

Even if the focus is technical solutions, case studies can still be engaging and compelling – it’s all in the presentation. Charts showing data are great, but don’t go overboard. Ultimately, there should be just enough information to tell the story clearly and succinctly.

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