February 14, 2023

Lead Generation: Develop your lead gen offer with the same care and detail you would a new product


A beginner’s guide to generating business leads the sustainable way should include this lesson – develop your lead gen offer with the same care and detail you would a new product.

And frankly it’s something experienced marketers – either inbound marketers or outbound marketers – may need to learn even more (our experience can make us set in our ways).

Read on for an explanation of this concept, along with examples from a virtual team building platform, solopreneur, and glassware company, in this article.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Lead Generation: Develop your lead gen offer with the same care and detail you would a new product

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“Develop your lead gen offer with the same care and detail you would a new product,” Flint McGlaughlin, CEO, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS, taught in a recent LiveClass. Let’s unpack that statement and discover how it can help you optimize your next (or current) lead generation campaign.

Marketers can’t live by brute force alone

I’ve seen too many marketers try to succeed with brute force. ‘If we just get our message in front of enough people, spend enough on ads, send enough cold emails or LinkedIn messages (i.e., spam)! We must, we have no choice, that’s what it will take to hit our number this quarter!!’

Or, as a copywriter, they think I could write them out of this quagmire with perfect words. ‘If we say just the right thing in just the right way! If we could only get the perfect sales copy!’ McGlaughlin calls this flailing about the search for “magic words.”

I can’t say the above approaches never work. I’m sure they do sometimes, in the short term. But what a way to live a marketing life, eh? Just keep blasting and hoping. Burn through one list, move on to the next one. And it certainly will not produce healthy margins. Blasting and hoping is usually followed up by discounting and making unrealistic promises to close a deal.

Of course, there is another way…

Guide your marketing and lead gen efforts with a Customer-First Objective

What if you respected potential customers so much that you strived to serve them before they spent any money with you?

Because your lead gen offer is a product, of sorts. Sure, your prospects won’t spend money on it. But they will spend their time and information and attention and trust. And they have many other options for how they can spend all those things.

So, you have to shift out of the mindset of what you and your company will get (leads, glorious, leads!) Instead think, what can you give? Your lead generation offer should have a Customer-First Objective. How is your lead gen offer helping potential customers? What is your company giving them? And what do you expect in return?

Instead of selling prospects, how about educating them. Instead of adding value only after a purchase, what about adding value initially. Or as McGlaughlin puts it, “Give. Serve. Then reap the rewards.”

Right thinking is right doing

Is this easy? Heck no! If it was easy an AI chatbot could do it. But it is our main reason for existence as marketers, the reason we have a job. And it reminds me of this quote from President John F. Kennedy, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

If you choose to take this route, instead of brute force and magic words and tips and tricks and hacks. If you choose to determine how you can bring value to potential customers at every step of the funnel, even if they don’t buy from you. If you choose the (initially) harder road…

…it will change your way of thinking. It will give you a new perspective. It will ground your organization in success through service. And it will organize the best of your team’s energies and skills around a worthy goal that can bring sustainable business success.

The marketer as product developer

This can also be an exciting and fulfilling way to look at your role as a marketer. You’re not just selling, you’re serving. You’re not just helping to get more products that someone else designed into people’s hands, you’re developing your own products – even if that product is simply a well-written landing page that helps a potential customer make a good decision. You’re not a salesperson, you’re a craftsman.

To help you shift your perspective on your lead gen offers, in this article we bring you three examples from your peers. None of these are perfect, of course. But they exhibit the care and detail we can all emulate when crafting our lead gen offers and all of our marketing. They represent pre-purchase value exchange at three levels. But let’s discuss them in terms of product development:

  • Conduct market research: A product developer must gather information about the target market. Don’t just make guesses about your webpages and marketing funnels, conduct research. To get you thinking, we bring you a homepage and marketing funnel test from a virtual team building platform in Quick Case Study #1.
  • Define the product concept: A product developer must craft a clear and concise product concept, including its features, benefits, and target market. The same is true if your lead generation offer is information – like a white paper or ebook. To get you thinking, we bring you some Facebook advertising tests a solopreneur conducted about her free PDF download. See Quick Case Study #2.
  • Validate the product: A product developer must prototype, test, and conduct user research to verify the product concept and design. To get you thinking about how to validate your brand’s product, read about the lead gen offer from a designer glassware company in Quick Case Study #3 – which shows how is uses free product samples for journalists.

Quick Case Study #1: Virtual team building platform increases leads 11% with website redesign

“Many people who enter our sales funnel first decide to opt into a call with a sales representative by looking at our website and being swayed by our marketing efforts there,” said Lilian Chen, Co-Founder and COO, Bar None Games.

The team decided to redesign its website to increase conversion for its sales and marketing funnel.

BEFORE – Generic copy and imagery

The original website had a busy illustration, a “Book now” CTA, and customer logos to add credibility. The headline read “Virtual Team Building Activities that Wow.”

Creative Sample #1: Above-the-fold of the original website, before testing to improve lead generation

Creative Sample #1: Above-the-fold of the original website, before testing to improve lead generation

AFTER – Clarifying the product and benefit

In the new design, the team went with an above-the-fold image that has real people in an attempt to more clearly convey what the actual service looks like. The headline is more specific about the value being delivered – “Virtual team building events that actually boost morale.” The call-to-action is focused on what people want to do when they get to the website – learn more (they aren't immediately ready to book yet) – with CTAs reading “explore events” and “1-min demo video.” And customer logos have been replaced by a testimonial and graphic showing the 5.0-start rating on Google.

Creative Sample #2: Above-the-fold of the redesigned website

Creative Sample #2: Above-the-fold of the redesigned website

RESULTS – More and better-quality leads

“With these changes to our website, it was much easier for people to understand our service and also navigate to engage with a sales representative,” Chen said. In the first quarter after the team updated the website and above-the-fold design, they increased the number of leads in their funnel by 11%, and the conversion rate also increased by 39%, due to better-quality leads.

BEFORE – Email nurturing of leads

Once a new customer lead enters into the funnel for Bar None Games, the team used email campaigns to increase customer engagement. They would enter everyone into an email cadence that asked potential customers about what products they were interested in, and guide them towards a demo call with a company representative.

AFTER – Email nurturing plus SMS nurturing of leads

A few months ago, they also started adding in SMS campaigns in addition to the email. This was layered on top of the previous email campaigns. They created a series of SMS messages that felt personal and casual to garner a response from the customer.

When a new lead would enter the funnel with a phone number, they started texting these potential customers with a casual text to see if they could help guide them through the rest of the funnel to complete their purchase.

Creative Sample #3: Text message exchange with potential customers

Creative Sample #3: Text message exchange with potential customers

They would send the text out the same day, often within an hour of receiving the new lead. The SMS campaigns were personalized and casual, so the customer felt like they were having a conversation with real people, instead of being treated like a marketing campaign.

RESULTS – Increase in customer conversion

By adding in the SMS texting, the team saw a 25% increase in customer conversions. They also saw that sometimes customers would convert to a sale directly from SMS and didn't even need a demo call (skipping part of the prior funnel).

“You should make your SMS feel personal and action oriented. Ensure that you are asking them questions which garner a response and engage with them in a personal manner,” Chen advised.

Quick Case Study #2: How solopreneur grew an 800-strong Facebook group for less than $5 a lead using lead magnet ads

Jeannine Betts wanted to sell her high-ticket coaching services to insurance agents.

She created a PDF resource called ‘6 Secrets to UNLIMITED Insurance Leads.’ to offer something of value in exchange for her target audience's email address. The lead magnet was meant to help the target audience solve their biggest problem.

“I tested 105 different ads to determine what type would bring in the best quality leads to my Facebook group,” said Betts, Founder, Jeanninesadvice.com. The lookalike audience was the same for all the ads she ran.

Lowest-performing Facebook ad

The lowest-performing Facebook ad had the copy…

Are you tired of buying recycled insurance leads?

If you are fed up with calling people who aren’t interested in buying insurance and want to find high intent quality leads, then download the 6 Secrets to Unlimited Insurance Leads, below.

This was followed by a picture of Jeannine holding up a physical copy of the PDF, with the title clearly visible.

And then the call-to-action Build your own unlimited insurance leads system with a Learn more button.

Creative Sample #4: Lowest-performing Facebook ad

Creative Sample #4: Lowest-performing Facebook ad

This ad produced the following results:

  • 1,079 impressions
  • 749 reach
  • 5 leads
  • Cost per lead: $10.54 each

Upon further reflection, Betts hypothesized that the copy didn't resonate with the target audience because she mentioned high intent quality leads, which isn't a term commonly used by insurance agents. Also, the call to action was about building a system, which may have led the audience to believe it was too much work for them.

She also tried videos and memes, but they did not work well for her. She found that the audience prefers an image of her with her stated solution versus listening to a video of her explaining the offer. As for memes, Betts said, “I could try to be funny in my ad but if it didn't resonate with my audience to get them to stop scrolling Facebook, my intent doesn't matter.”

She turned off the ads that didn't perform well after 48 hours or had a lead cost of over $5 each and put more investment behind the ads that were bringing in leads for under $5 each.

Best-performing Facebook ad

The best-performing ad had the following copy…

Tired of chasing friends and family to buy insurance? Are you officially part of the NFL (No friends left) club?

Instead of chasing your “warm market” there’s a better way to attract fresh leads daily that actually want to buy insurance.

Download my new guide, “6 Secrets to Unlimited Insurance Leads.!”

The copy was again followed by a picture of Jeannine holding a printed copy of the PDF. Although this time she had a more excited expression on her face, and in addition to the title being on the printed copy, she added the words Never COLD CALL again.

The call-to action was FREE DOWNLOAD: 6 Simple Steps To Generating Your and had a Download button.

Creative Sample #5: Best-performing Facebook ad

Creative Sample #5: Best-performing Facebook ad

Here are the metrics for this ad:

  • 23,250 impressions
  • 12,436 reach
  • 206 leads
  • Cost per lead: $2.52

Betts believes this ad performed so well because her photo is exaggerated and eye-catching, the copy resonated with the target market – she promised fresh leads everyday who actually want to buy insurance, which was very attractive to this audience – and the call to action was about a free download.

Overall results

The overall campaign helped Betts build her business. “This campaign led to building an email list of over 800 subscribers, a Facebook community of almost 800 members, and led to selling high-ticket coaching services to the Facebook community at a four-figure sale amount,” Betts said.

We gave you a look at the worst- and best-performing ads to give you ideas for your own lead gen funnel. But in fairness, there was more effort to achieve these results than we have space to report on in this article. “I also learned that constant follow up and reminders to my audience to get them to read the PDF guide, to get them to join the Facebook group – these had to be reinforced through email marketing, Facebook messenger, and inside the Facebook group,” Betts said.

Quick Case Study #3: Boutique designer glassware company offers journalists samples, earns gift guide press placements that help increase sales 30%

Based in northern California, Dragon Glassware is a boutique designer glassware company that offers a variety of handmade, artisan glassware and accessories for the home and kitchen.

BEFORE – Collaborations and campaigns

 “We’ve worked hard to form strategic collaborations with other brands such as Barbie, attended expos in Vegas to introduce our brand and pitch our products, and we’ve done a lot of due diligence and polling to create highly polished, organic marketing campaigns,” said Matt Rollens, Founder & CEO, Dragon Glassware.

But these tactics alone weren’t enough to get the artisan products in front of new prospective customers.

AFTER – Media placements in gift guides

The team learned that gift guides – seasonal publications that showcase relevant products to a particular readership – were a huge boon to its marketing and sales efforts.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand how well our products sell on sites like Amazon after they’ve been featured in a gift guide as part of a major publication. For me, gift guides are ‘semi-evergreen,’ because they give lengthy exposure to your products that often span months, as opposed to TikTok or Instagram posts which tend to be very short-lived. Even when a gift guide is ‘done’ and the publication moves on, our products can still appear in Google searches as part of those historic gift guides, so those media pickups really are valuable from an SEO standpoint,” Rollens said.

Getting products placed there, however, is the difficult part. As a brand, the team felt they knew precisely who their ideal customer was but getting through the media gauntlet and into a publication that would reach those potential customers was another matter entirely.

So, the team tried a media relations marketplace known as Press Hook, where journalists could request samples. “Journalists could simply make a request on the platform and we could respond, effectively cutting out the resource-intensive work that would usually be involved in trying to research and pitch our products in desirable places such as Good Housekeeping,” Rollens said.

RESULTS – Press mentions and sales

Since August 2021, the team received 72 samples requests. The brand got press hits in publications like Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, People, Forbes, Men's Journal, TIME, Food Network, Woman's Day, Food & Wine, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, UsWeekly, and Esquire. Here are some example articles:

The Best Gifts Under $30 That’ll Impress Your Whole List For Less (via Forbes)

50 Best Amazon Christmas Gifts That Ship in 2 Days or Less (via Good Housekeeping)

14 Best Whiskey Glasses For Your Top-Shelf Pours (via Esquire)

In the first six months of getting placements in these gift guides, sales increased 30%.

“The team at Dragon Glassware learned that lead generation had to take a customer-centric approach. The real aha moment came when they shifted away from traditional methods and started investing in customer and product reviews, influencer videos, surveys, and other third-party feedback. The extra care and nurturing ensured potential customers could better evaluate their product, manage their expectations, and empower them to make the most informed buying decision. This investment fosters trust and loyalty among consumers, especially when they purchase online without seeing or touching the product," said Michelle Songy, CEO, Press Hook.

Related Resources

Lead Gen: 4 quick lead generation case studies to give you ideas for increasing demand

Lead Generation Success = Nature + Nurture

MarketingSherpa Quick Guide to Lead Generation – 8 content, social media and webinar tactics to boost lead volume

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