Make Mountain Offers from Molehill Promises

I don’t work in the automobile industry, but I am willing to wager that engineers include an engine when they design a new model.

Unfortunately, many B2B marketing strategies and tactics are less effective. I’ve seen many creative briefs with a fantastic chassis—great messaging hooks, keen insights into audience desires—but without the engine that drives it: a real offer, a promise to do this in order to get that. All the hard work spent on developing themes, unique selling propositions, and brand distinctions is wasted in this flimsy and overused call to action.

For a long sales call, you could just as easily say, “For more information.” “For more information” doesn’t offer anything of value. It’s simply a warning of wasted time. Consider your direct marketing task—mail, email, or even your website—stalled out at the gate. What is the alternative?

In a B2B setting, where products and services can be expensive and the buying process complex, discounts and free shipping are not always appropriate. If you are in your company’s marketing department, you might not have the authority or ability to ask for a free demo, a sample, or a live demonstration.

The right offer must be both compelling and doable. Marketing people should be able to create it on their own or with minimal cooperation.

Here’s how to make the most of your information when you don’t have a standard offer.

1. Tell a Story

Stories are a powerful form of communication. They’re a great way to introduce your children to the world. In society, stories are the most important means of transmitting information, values, and ideas from generation to generation. Stories retain their power even as the world grows more sophisticated.

The story gives you the opportunity to add passion to your pitch. Stories use drama to draw prospects emotionally to your business and, hopefully, to the sale.

Case studies are a classic way to tell a story for business. They’re a short narrative that explains what you did for your customer. Case studies are a great way to cut through the cloud of abstraction and show your success in real-world situations that readers can relate to. They are usually offered to prospects as documents they can request (via telephone, fax, web, etc.). They can be electronic documents that they download or view on your website. All good case studies, regardless of the format, should include…

  1. Background information explaining who the client is and what challenge the customer faced
  2. What would you lose if the problem was not resolved? And what would you gain if the problem is solved successfully?
  3. How did your business/product/service analyze/strategize and ultimately resolve the problem
  4. Success is a happy outcome, whether it’s money saved, increased profits, or greater efficiency.

2. Recycle your old analyses

If your service is analytical in nature (as it is for accountants and consultants, for instance), you might be able to repackage the work done for your client as white papers that offer insight into industry trends. Of course, you would modify the content. Remove proprietary information and add more material to make it more industry-relevant.

White papers are usually much longer than case studies. They can be 8-20 pages in length, but they are sometimes even longer. White papers tend to cover a wide range of issues and are often concluded with an opinion about future developments. They are hefty and suggest a deep understanding of the industry, which strengthens your credibility.

Consider conducting a short survey with your colleagues and customers about key industry issues. This could be the basis of a good report. Numerous electronic survey options are easy and inexpensive (I like, and even busy executives will participate in exchange for a look at the results.

3. List tips, hints and secrets

You can also create bite-sized pieces instead of a full story or in-depth analysis. For example, “6 Secrets for Better Bookkeeping” or “The 10 Best Practices for Just In Time Inventory Management.”

Promising insider tips make it easy to get an instant response. For example, you can send an email to encourage people to visit your website.

It may be easier to fill out the “tips” format. The stories and analyses may require extensive access to one or two very busy experts within the company. You can get a list from your colleagues by sending a quick email or conducting a casual, cubicle-by-cube survey.

4. Request for Information: Transform it

What do you do if you are desperate and have nothing? There’s no time to write an article, no analysis to recycle, and no internal collaboration to compile a list. You have nothing to say but “further info,” and you will have to use it.

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