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One-to-One Marketing for Consultants – The Offer

By Bob McCarthy
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This is an entry in a series of articles on one-to-one marketing. If you missed the previous one, here it is:

  1. The List

It may surprise you to learn that people don’t respond to award-winning creative, clever prose or flashy design.

All that stuff that people like to talk about – and brag about – has little impact on how many of your prospects actually pick up the phone or visit your website.

In lead generation, you’re NOT trying to get people to buy your services – not yet anyway. You just want them to raise their hands and say they’re interested.

That’s because people respond to offers.

Granted, good professional design is important to your corporate image and it can help to build your brand, but don’t expect it to produce any leads.

For that, you need offers –compelling offers that are appealing to your target market and audience and related in some way to what you do.

What is a lead generation offer?

It’s pretty simple really. The offer is what you get if you respond. Included in that is the price you pay to get it.

Many people think of an offer as some variation of “buy one, get one free” or “10% off.”

Yes, these are offers for retail promotions and direct mail selling – but not for generating leads.

In lead generation, you’re NOT trying to get people to buy your services – not yet anyway. You just want them to raise their hands and say they’re interested.

That’s why lead generation offers typically include educational information – a free white paper, a how-to guide or a special report covering a topic that is closely aligned to the service you are selling.

These are almost always free offers that are made available to your target audience with very little commitment other than turning over some contact information.

How to develop a lead generation offer

If your firm produces articles, reports, research or other helpful information, you likely already have the content you need to produce a number of effective offers.

If not, you should start thinking of developing your first white paper or special report.

Here’s how:

1. Select a topic
You know your business pretty well so chances you already have a good idea of a topic or topics that would interest your target audience.

If not, think about the key questions or concerns you hear from your current customers. Then consider whether this issue is significant enough for people to look for solutions – and whether you can provide enough helpful information, guidance or commentary to demonstrate your knowledge, skill and experience.

Can you offer some thoughtful solutions to those issues? Can you provide a unique perspective that will separate you from the pack?

2. Organize and write the offer
An informational report or white paper normally runs about 10-15 pages in length.

The bulk of this report will be a presentation of the problem and an overview of the solution. This can be presented in a traditional Problem/Solution narrative, but other approaches are sometimes more readable.

For example, you may also want to consider a numbered ways approach (7 ways to improve your cash flow) or a Q&A approach in which you answer key questions your audience is likely to have. You might also consider a series of case studies.

In addition to your main content, you’ll have a Title page, a Table of Contents page, an About Us page, an Author’s page and a Next Step page.

How much you write depends on you. It’s a tricky balance. You want it to be substantive, but also readable for the busy executive. Use a lot of subheads to break up the copy and make it easy to scan.

Use charts and other images to support your position.

Most importantly, make sure your commentary is informative, useful and relevant. Avoid using this space for your sales pitch.

3. Choose a compelling title
While the content of your offer will help to build your credibility and reputation as an expert, the title of the report will get people’s attention.

Remember, no one will read your report – or even request it – without seeing your title first.

So take some time to develop a number of titles, then whittle down to a few favorites.

From a style standpoint, I like to use a short main title with a longer clarifying subhead title. (For example, “Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy.”)

Eventually, you’ll pick one title but keep the others available because you should plan to test the other titles over time.

You’ll find that the exact same report with a different title could produce a major difference in response.

Similarly, different reports on different topics will also produce response variations so it’s a good idea to start a library of these reports.

Using the offer to generate response

Once you have your offer completed, think about how you are going to use it.

When developing your direct mail or email message, make sure the offer is prominent. Highlighted it and repeat it.

Don’t just send it out to people.

Use it as a magnet for getting people to raise their hands and say “I’m interested.”

When developing your direct mail or email message, make sure the offer is prominent. Highlighted it and repeat it. Use a thumbnail photo or sketch to draw attention to the offer. Don’t let your reader miss it.

Make it easy for them to respond. Website landing pages provide an easy way for prospects to sign up and download the offer immediately. But some people still like to use reply cards.

Finally, use your offer with every marketing activity – not just direct mail and email. Use it to generate response in advertising, public speaking, article writing, trade shows and throughout your website.


Next Article in This Series … The Message

Bob McCarthy is a marketing consultant/copywriter and the owner of McCarthy & King Marketing, a Milford, Massachusetts marketing agency specializing in direct mail, email marketing, website development and online marketing.

You can subscribe to his blog, The Direct Response Coach, at Bob can be reached at 508-473-8643 or [email protected]

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