How I Plan a Lead-Generation Campaign


by Robert W. Bly


A potential client recently asked me, “What is your methodology for lead generation?” I have written this short summary in response. For more detail, see my book, The Lead Generation Handbook, published by Amacom.


1.      I start by defining both a hard offer and a soft offer for the campaign.

2.      The hard offer is for prospects who have an immediate need and an immediate interest in talking with the marketer about its products or services. Typically the response mechanism is the phone or Web; the offer, an initial meeting or phone conference of some type. Keep in mind that only a small percentage of your audience is likely to have an immediate need, so only a small percentage will accept the hard offer.

3.      The soft offer is for prospects who might have a need for your product or service some day, but not today. The majority of your prospects fall into this category, and the majority of your responses will come from the soft offer. The reply mechanism is typically to mail a reply card, return a fax-back form, or respond online. The offer is typically information about the product, such as a brochure, catalog, or information package.

4.      Next, identify the problem the prospect has that your product or service can help him solve. An effective way to begin copy for lead-generation promotions is to state this problem in a dramatic way, e.g., “Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?” could be the lead of an e-mail offering energy-boosting herbal supplements.

5.      Also identify an information gap in the prospect’s knowledge about the problem or how to identify, select, and implement a solution. To continue our example of the energy-boosting nutritional supplement, the prospect may have seen products of this type before, but not know how to select the one with the best ingredients.

6.      Create a premium to be used as a bribe or “bait piece” – meaning you offer it to prospects as an incentive to respond to your promotion. A special report, booklet, or other information premium giving how-to advice on the problem and how to solve it (e.g., “7 Ways to Boost Your Energy”) is ideal and easy to produce. Or you may offer some useful tool such as software or a CD-ROM.

7.      Find a list of potential buyers. Or find media (newspapers, magazines, TV programs, radio shows) that reach them.

8.      Create promotions for the available media (e.g., coupon space ads for magazines, 800 number commercials for TV, direct mail for mailing lists, e-mail marketing campaigns for e-lists). The successful promotion identifies the problem, explains why your product or service is the ideal solution, and makes both a hard and soft offer to generate response. The premium is added to the soft offer to boost response.

9.      Copywriting tip for lead-generation promotions: One effective format is to center the copy around a case history of a customer who used your product, had spectacular results, and is willing to say so. Give the customer’s name, quantitative results achieved with the product (if possible), and a testimonial. You need the customer’s permission, of course. Note: If you highlight one customer, name 5 or 6 others to demonstrate that you are not a “one-trick pony.”

10.  Prepare an inquiry fulfillment kit: a package of materials you will send to people who respond to your promotion requesting more information (the soft offer). Such kits typically include, at minimum, a pocket folder, a cover letter, a product brochure, the premium, your business card, and an order form, questionnaire, or needs assessment. Other inserts can include article reprints, case studies, a client list, and customer testimonials. For tips on how to write the cover letter in an inquiry fulfillment package, see my article The Key to Great Inquiry Fulfillment.

11.  Test the promotions in small quantities. Key code them so you know which lists or media produced the replies. Measure number of responses, percentage response, cost per inquiry, conversion rate (what percentage of leads convert to orders), and cost per order to determine which promotions were most profitable. Stop the losers and roll out the winners.