How to Generate Better Leads

    July 28, 2003

A big mistake businesses often make when they market themselves is the fact that many try to sell directly in every communication they produce. And, as a result, they generate huge amounts of “prospects” that lead to little or no business (or what I call “expects”). They think that by selling themselves right in the ad they will get not only an immediate response but also immediate business. This oftentimes backfires and can even take away customers.

Many clients I’ve dealt with usually get as a result of this type of approach a lot of calls but no clients — or at least no long term clients. They end up dealing with a lot of people who are merely curious but never serious. Because of hypercompetition and the fact that we are constantly bombarded with information, trying to find qualified prospects and get them to buy can sometimes be worse than a needle in the haystack.

It’s frustrating and often self-effacing.

Needs Versus Wants

A concept that’s been around for years but has recently become very popular is multi-step marketing. It’s a process in which businesses seek an immediate response from their marketing efforts by offering a free report, item, sample or service. Little do people know that the immediate response strategy is usually not the true goal of the advertiser. People who come forward are not unqualified prospects. They are indirectly being screened since, once they “show up,” they are pre-qualified. And after they’ve been enticed with free information, products, or services, they are pre-sold and ready to do business.

As a consultant to many cosmetic surgeons in my practice, I’ve realized that this process is obviously essential if not vital. For instance, no one can call a person on the phone and outright ask if that person wants more hair — especially without knowing if that person is bald in the first place! However, doctors will first advertise a free information kit offer, explaining the procedure and the potential results, whereby people who respond will naturally fit into that specific demographic. The important thing here is that, not only are they losing hair, they also *want* to do something about their hair loss.

The doctor then sends a brochure describing the surgery, the possible risks, and the potential results, but without any pricing — it is impossible to determine the cost until the doctor personally sees the patient beforehand in order to measure the degree of hair loss. However, the information package along with its lack of pricing causes patients to come forward once more to arrange for a personal consultation with the doctor. Consequently, those who show up are, by and large, practically ready to have surgery — they fit the surgeon’s psychographics (as well as demographics).

You see, people who need your products or services may fit your demographics. But people who want what you offer fit your psychographics. As in the previous example, a hair transplant surgeon’s demographics encompass those who have hair loss. But psychographics, though, are comprised of people who have hair loss and want to do something about it (since not all of them do, which is a question of priorities). In short, they are not only experiencing hair loss but also suffering from it. This is the awesome power of “funneling” fuel into your marketing and prospecting machine.

Lead Generation

In your case, if you offer a specific product that caters to a target market, find ways to make your market come forward with minimal effort on your part. The best way to do this is to offer a freebie. It’s a “try-before-you-buy” approach. Being in the age of information, I prefer giving away “free reports.” Your free report doesn’t have to be product-specific, industry-specific, or benefit-specific. As long as it targets an audience that fits within your demographics (and eventually your psychographics), you’re ahead of the game.

Let’s say you’re in financial planning. Your product involves investments, mutual funds, stocks, savings plans and mortgages. Rather than place an ad that directly markets these services, you could advertise a small classified ad promoting a free course, seminar or report helping people save money. Let’s say you’re a beautician. You could offer a free kit that may include a free makeover, a sample makeup kit, a gift certificate, a free initial consultation or a free report on makeup styles that will match one’s unique complexion.

Nevertheless, the idea is to have people come to you rather than you to them, and the incentive you offer doesn’t have to relate directly to what you do or sell. In general, the portion of the general public that fits into your product’s demographics consists merely of suspects (you suspect that they might need what you have to offer). When a portion of them comes forward to get your freebie, you’ve isolated the prospects from your suspects. Then, if they want more, they’re now expects (people expecting to do business with you).

The Free Report

I used to work as a salesperson for a music store specializing in pianos. Older pianos usually require considerable repair since the wood inside holding the strings with which the piano creates its sound may be too old and broken beyond repair. Many unscrupulous salespeople will “dope” pianos (such as spraying water on the internal boards so that they expand temporarily, gripping the tuning pegs more firmly and thus staying in tune just long enough for the instrument to be sold). As the water eventually evaporates, the piano returns to its original state — and the problem is discovered only when it’s too late.

A salesperson at the store had a small classified ad. It said:

“Beware parents in the market for a piano!” (That was the headline.) “Many parents usually buy used pianos for their kids because they don’t know if they’ll love music and want to minimize the risk of losing their investment. However, to the unsuspecting buyer many used pianos are internally broken beyond repair and ‘doped’ in order to be sold quickly, only to become broken again when it’s too late. Before you buy any piano at any price, call for our free report, ‘Don’t Let Piano Problems Put Your Bank Account Out of Tune: 6 Ways to Find Commonly Hidden Problems with Used Pianos’.”

His report not only explained the hidden faults commonly found in older pianos. But since he was catering to a target market (i.e., parents), his report went on to explain how used pianos fall out of tune quickly causing the child to learn the piano the wrong way and eventually to lose interest — let alone the parents’ money! Of course, what the salesperson really wanted was to get these parents to buy new or professionally refurbished pianos from him. The resulting effect, though, was that the report not only brought prospects to his door but also instilled in them a greater confidence in the salesperson in addition to the reasons for buying a certified piano rather than a used one.

He made a fortune using this technique!

In essence, look at your free report as a rsum. People often send bulky rsums to potential employers in an attempt to sell themselves as much as possible, when very often their attempts get filed away — the “round” file, that is! Successful career consultants stress the importance of summarizing a rsum as much as possible, include one’s achievements and results (not one’s previous duties and responsibilities), and putting it all on one single page. Simply put, the rsum is not meant to land a “job” but to land an “interview.”

Lead generation should be regarded in the same way. Your free offer must be small, contain a concise message, stress an immediate benefit, and cause the prospect to come forward. What can you offer your prospects to arouse their curiosity and interest? What can you give away for free so to entice them to get more? If you’re giving something away, you’ll realize that what you’re really doing is generating better leads. Nevertheless, realize that the cost of offering freebies is far less than the cost of mass marketing!

Specialized Advertising

Now that we’ve talked about lead generation advertising, the trick to having as many qualified prospects come forward is to have your ad read by such a specific group of people as much, as often and as effectively as possible. General publications won’t do that and they certainly cost a lot of money. Many people have their tiny ads published in an ocean of ads found in large, high-circulation, general newspapers or magazines. In the end and for many reasons, the cost-per-lead can add up significantly.

On the other hand, specialized publications have the distinction of appealing to specific, targeted audiences, which increases the chances of your ad being read by higher quality leads. For example, if one publication has a readership of 100,000 but only 25,000 fit into your demographics, where another has only 40,000 but all of which fit into your demographics, which one do you think will give you the greatest response? In other words, rather than fishing for minnows in the middle of the ocean, you’ll be catching whales in a small pond.

Think of the specialized publication as a sonar that will help you to find the kind of fish you really want. This is due to the fact that not only will the readership match your demographics but also people who buy specialized publications have a tendency to read them from cover to cover — because only parts of a general publication will appeal to any one reader as opposed to a specialized publication, which will appeal to a specific readership in its entirety. Stated differently, unlike a mass-published newspaper that will be skimmed (i.e., it is bought by many but read in its entirety by few), a specialized publication will be read more intensely and thoroughly (i.e., it is bought by few but read in its entirety by many).

Target Your Market

If you advertise a free offer to a specific target market, your per capita hit-ratio will dramatically increase than if you would have advertised your product or service directly in a major publication that’s too general or too vague. Your little ad can easily get lost in a sea of ads. These days, however, specialized publications exist by the truckloads! Occupation-specific, topic-specific, special interest or industry-specific publications can include, among others, journals, newsletters, magazines, ezines, websites, trade publications, newsgroups, special reports, corporate email, directories, specialty newspapers, catalogues and communiqus from specific organizations.

Publications for uncommon or highly specialized topics are out there in some form or another. If you go to a library you will find newsletters for specific home-based businesses, journals written exclusively for corporate executives, ezines purely about cigars, newspapers strictly published for police officers, and even magazines geared for gerbil breeders. As long as the readership logically fits into your target market and, if possible, into your psychographic criteria, this is where you will get the greatest bang for your marketing buck.

For example, an advertising agent specializing in computer-based firms can advertise an offer for a free report in computer magazines or, better yet, in ezines that cater to a same target market. A medical consultant should advertise a free consultation in medical journals, medical association newsletters and medical equipment manufacturer catalogues.

The Newsletter
By the way, having your own newsletter is also a powerful way to attract prospects. Your newsletter may be offered for free or at a nominal cost to cover its printing and distribution costs, but the idea is to have the people who read it want more and come forward to get it. As well, you can sell advertising space in your newsletter to firms also catering to your unique clientele. But the obvious advantage is the fact that you can “swap” ads in newsletters written by other firms that cater to your target market.

Your newsletter can be strictly information-oriented and your ads can advertise your newsletter offer. However, don’t make your free report or newsletter readily available. If you choose to use the multi-step marketing process I described earlier, you want the names and addresses of those coming forward. In this case, have a special application process and a contact management program to mass mail their information to eager subscribers.

Remember, you’re not trying to advertise with the hope of stumbling onto a trickle of suspects. You want an endless stream of pre-qualified, pre-screened, and pre-sold expects. Those who request your free report or subscribe to your newsletter will hopefully want more. But even when only a small portion do, you know that they are much more qualified, which saves you a lot of time and effort than trying to fish in a dried up desert of possible suspects.

Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning,” when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, “The Profit Pill.” See now!