Online marketing is a complex, technologically advanced modern marvel. It allows you to connect with potential customers around the world, in ways that we never dreamed possible just a few short years ago.
The more things change, however, they more they say the same. One thing definitely hasn’t changed – for all of the modern marvels of the web – people still love free stuff.
Whereas that used to mean free samples in the mail or in a grocery store, these days it means creating a high value offer that entices visitors to your website to opt into your list. Same principle, different execution.
Here’s a more in-depth look at what an offer is, and how to get the maximum benefit out of the time and expense it takes to generate one.
Is It (Really) An Offer?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether the item you’re putting on your website is indeed an offer, or whether it’s just something you’d like people to download.
The simple question you need to ask yourself is whether downloading your ‘offer’ will be of more benefit to you, or to your visitors. If it’s the former, it’s marketing material. If it’s the latter, it might be an offer.
Marketing materials are anything you would give away anyway: brochures, data sheets, product information and so on. If it’s something you’d take to a trade show, it’s not an offer.
Offers are something that you develop with your site visitors in mind: templates, sample documents, infographics, e-books, guides and white papers, webinars or courses. Something that offers more to your visitors than it does in terms of intrinsic value, but that they are willing to part with their all-important contact information to get.
After all, if content marketing is the only marketing that’s left, as Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog) says, then online offers are the new trade show business card lottery – a great way to get people to hand over their information.
Here’s how you get the maximum ROI on your offers.
How Offers Generate Leads
As important as it is to understand what an offer is, it’s also crucial that you have a firm grip on how offers can boost your lead generation process – because as Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) the author Unmarketing and marketing game changer says about list building, you don’t need a huge list, just an engaged one.
What he means is that if you get it right, using offers to generate leads can be a laser-targeted method of getting qualified prospects to hand over their email addresses. Once you have those email addresses, and the permission you need to market to them, it’s a matter of lead nurturing time before you can turn at least a fair percentage of those prospects into customers.
Here’s the process broken down into steps:
- Figure out what information your prospects need.
- Create an offer that delivers what they need.
- Use a form to capture their information for your list in exchange for access to your offer.
- Use contact information to send even more in depth, valuable information tailored to their interests and needs directly into their in box.
- Convert a prospect into a sale.
- Rinse and repeat.
The beauty of this process is that it’s easy to recreate. In fact, the average company that uses offers to generate leads will repeat this process roughly every three months – eventually building up a library of offers that is constantly generating qualified new prospects.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Offers
Before you leap right into generating your first offer though, you might want to put on the brakes for a little longer, so you can discover the do’s and don’ts of offers. These golden rules can help you to hit the ground running:
Do: Focus on Quality
If you’re thinking about sharing a cut-price offer that you’ve slapped together from leftovers and cut and pasted from the internet, then think again. If you’re putting your name on your offer it’s representing your brand, and you want to make sure it is the best quality it can be.
Don’t: Forget Relevance
Using offers effectively is about generating targeted, qualified leads, and that means keeping your offers relevant. Don’t just create an offer that gets more download action from random internet users. Create one that is relevant to your business, products and services.
Do: Remember Your Target Market
As much as relevance to your business is critical in offer marketing success, so is keeping your target market in mind, according to Salesforce (@). Consider what they want or need as well as the format that they prefer their information in. Videos, e-books, white papers or templates might appeal to different types of customer.
Don’t: Overlook Your Existing Lists
Matching Offers to Buyer Personas
You probably already know who your ideal customers are, what your target buyer personas are, and what they need. You know their age, their interests, their education level, and all sorts of other demographics.
Note: If you haven’t already, make sure that your ideal customers and your brand ideal – as defined by the iconic Jim Stengel (@JimStengel) – are aligned, or you may be in for an uphill battle. That’s a topic for another post, but it’s worth taking into account when creating your offers.
You probably also know where in the buyer journey you want to start capturing leads. Those are exactly the kinds of things you can use to tailor your online offers to reach exactly the people you want to reach. For example, if you wanted to capture the attention of a professional early on in the decision making process, a high-level white paper about a process might be a good choice.
On the other hand, if you were looking to market a home improvement product to DIY enthusiasts, then a video series offering step-by-step instructions on how to perform a particular renovation might be a better choice.
Let your customers – existing and future – determine the offers that you create.
Offer Creation Hacks
One of the primary reasons that people avoid using offers – even though they are proven to work when done correctly – is that they think it will be too costly or time consuming to create them. That’s not always the case, and here are a few hacks you can use to make it easier:
- Consider using a freelancer off a service like Upwork (@Upwork) to generate e-books, white papers or videos.
- Repackage existing blogs or web content into an e-book format.
- Consider using Fiverr (@Fiverr) to get infographics, videos or animation done quickly and for a very low cost (Caution: quality may vary!)
- Use existing templates or forms that you have already generated for internal use. If they’re useful to you, they might be useful to your customers!
Offer creation can be easier if you think outside of the box, and you’re willing to invest a little to hire a content marketing professional to do the hard work for you.
Leveraging Your Offer
Once you’ve spent time deciding who your ideal prospect is, what they need and how they want to learn about, and you have a slick finished product, you need to make sure that you get the maximum return on your investment. That means you need to integrate your offer into your sales funnel, and there are several important ways to do that:
- If you want to build your list immediately, then putting your offer behind an opt in form is key – but keep it simple, particularly for offers targeting new prospects. If your visitors aren’t ready to make buying decisions, they won’t be ready to share more than their name and email address.
- If you prefer to leverage your offer to grow your social media presence, then consider allowing users to ‘pay with a tweet’ when they download your offer.
- Make sure that your offer includes clear calls to action, links and contact information, including a link to your website. After all, your visitors may well share their offer with others, and this way, you’ll get more free traffic!
- Write a blog post that relates to your offer, and then share it, and your offer, on all of your social media platforms, says HubSpot’s Pamela Vaughan (@pamelump).
- If you already have an email list, be sure to include information about and a link to your offer in your next newsletter.
- If you already know of followers on Twitter who could use your offer, don’t be shy to tweet them a direct link!
If your offer is genuinely high quality and useful, eventually, it’ll be its own viral marketing machine – but it doesn’t hurt to give it a head start!
Remember though – not every prospect will be interested in every offer, so it’s worth creating several different offers that cater to different buyer personas at different stages of the process.
Track. Measure. Obsess.
Most internet marketers are already a little obsessive, so I probably don’t need to mention this one, but I’ll remind you anyway: launching a new online offer is the perfect time to track traffic, conversions, downloads, and other key metrics, like repeat visits to your offers page.
The more data you can collect from this offer, the better prepared you will be for the next, and the one after that.
There are a lot of thoughts and information in this article and it may seem like a lot to take in. If you take the time to, and you implement some of the tips I’ve shared, you will almost certainly find that creating web offers is one of the single best ways to build your opt-in, permission marketing list, and to boost your sales funnel.