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Some “Alternative” Lead Generation Strategies

by | May 14, 2009 | B2B Copywriting, Lead Generation, Offers, Trade Shows | 0 comments

As many of you know, I spent a couple of days at the Aerospace 09 Expo in Munich last month. And I came away with an observation I want to share with you today.

On the first day, it seemed obvious that the global recession had had an effect on the show. Fewer exhibitors, fewer personnel at most booths…very few visitors. Fortunately, visitor traffic picked up dramatically the next day. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have made this observation.

What I noticed on Day 2 was that some exhibitors were receiving far more visitors than others.

I wanted to know why.

So I examined several stands that were getting a lot of traffic to see if I could figure out if they had something in common. It turned out they did.

But, it wasn’t the size of the company or its booth. It wasn’t their niche market – there was an engine manufacturer, an interface card maker, an engineering services company – their specialties varied widely. And it had nothing to do with their stand displays, copy or graphics.

(You’ve probably already guessed what it was. It took me a while to figure out.)

What the high-traffic exhibitors at Aerospace 09 had in common was this: They all had plenty of inexpensive merchandise – pens, notepads, gadgets, toys, etc. – branded with the company logo and piled in full view…where anyone could just walk up and help themselves.

They were giving the stuff away free to whoever wanted it. And they were attracting a lot of attention as a result.

Of course, whenever anyone walked up to grab a freebie, a company representative was there to ask if they could answer any questions about the company or their product line.

Free Giveaways…They’re Not Just for Trade Shows Anymore

But the observation I wanted to share with you today is not that it pays to give away trinkets at trade fairs. It’s this: Aerospace marketers know that giving away free stuff can help them get attention for their products and services. But in spite of this knowledge, few of them really use it to its fullest to generate qualified sales leads.

As far as I can tell, very few aerospace companies have an active, ongoing print or online lead-generation program, other than just general advertising and publicity.

By “active lead generation program,” I don’t mean simply posting white papers or application notes on the company website and requiring visitors to register in order to download them. I mean a proactive campaign to draw high-quality prospects to your website, and then entice them to register – make them want to register – to receive content that’s valuable to them.

In recent articles, I’ve talked a lot about the power of free information offers – in the form of white papers — to generate leads. But just like at a trade show, it doesn’t really matter much what you give away for free, as long as it has some value to your prospect.

Heck, I chatted for ten minutes with a sales rep — of a company I knew would probably not be interested in my services – just because I wanted to pick up a Frisbee and a squeezable airplane toy to take home to my 6-year-old daughter. As a father, those toys had value to me.

(And yes, I really did give them to my daughter…though, I’ll admit, I probably like throwing the Frisbee more than she does.)

So this month, I thought I’d offer you some other ideas for information products – alternatives to white papers – that you can offer to prospects in exchange for their contact information. Some of these you may already have in your company. It may just be a matter of coming up with a campaign to leverage them.

White Paper Alternatives for Lead Generation

Tip sheets

Tip sheets are simply a series of brief, to-the-point tips on how to do something. They usually run no more than two pages in length (often only one), so they can be printed on a single sheet of paper.

Tip sheets can also be referred to as “guides” or “knowledge briefs” and often bear a title that indicates the number of tips and the subject, for example, “12 Tips for Accurately Diagnosing Wiring Faults”. Though short and simple, they can be very attractive to someone struggling with the problem that they (and your product) address.

Pamphlets, Booklets and Special Reports

These are, essentially, expanded versions of tip sheets. They provide similar how-to information, but in greater depth.

Pamphlets and booklets are generally distributed in printed form in a compact format, typically 4×8 to 5×9 inches (10×20 to 12×23 cm), and are convenient for use in the lab or in the field. Booklets also have the advantage of being “bulky” – so they tend to get attention and thus improve open rates when they arrive in the mail.

Special reports are usually designed for electronic distribution as Adobe PDF documents, but can, of course, be printed as well. Their larger (letter or A4) page format allows for bigger illustrations, graphs and tables. And there is room to go into even greater detail than in a pamphlet or booklet.


If your company produces software, a demo or tutorial version can make a great free offer, provided it doesn’t require expert set-up. The perceived value is very high, and the prospect gets to take a “test drive” to see if he likes your product.

Offering the trial user assistance via a toll-free phone number can be a good way to build a relationship start a sales dialogue…while avoiding the perception of sales pressure.

Resource Guides

Resource guides are mini-directories of information resources in a particular field. They don’t have to be thick or contain a large quantity of resources to be useful, however. According to B2B marketing expert Bob Bly, even two or three pages listing and describing a couple dozen websites can be very attractive to prospects seeking the type of information these sites offer.

You, or others in your company, may already have compiled such a directory – in the favorites menu of your web browser.


“How-to” articles your company has published in trade magazines or the company newsletter can be recycled as special reports.

Choose articles that discuss solutions to a general class of problems, rather than very narrow applications. These will attract the broadest possible audience and appeal to decision-makers as well as engineers.

Case Studies

A compelling and well-written case study or “success story” can make a terrific free giveaway for lead generation. After all, everyone loves a good story. And case studies ooze credibility, because they show how real-world customers have reaped the benefits your product offers.

Here’s a tip for using a case study as a bait piece. In the title, emphasize the “how-to” nature of the information and the customer’s results, over the names of your company and product. An easy way to do this is to begin the title with the word “How”, as in, “How (a well-known company) solved (your prospect’s problem) and achieved (a highly desirable benefit) with (the new technology on which your product is based). This will focus your prospect on his problem until he’s ready for your solution and reduce the perception of sales pressure.


After you’ve tried a few lead generation campaigns with white papers and some of the alternatives I’ve listed above, you may want to consider packaging some of them together on a CD-ROM or DVD and offering it as a “Resource Kit”.

CD-ROM and DVD-ROM collections of this type offer a number of advantages:

The perceived value of the CDs and DVDs is high compared to their cost.

Packaging a range of high-quality content together creates a strong value proposition for your offer.

Like booklets, they are “bulky” – they grab attention and increase open rates when used in direct mail campaigns.

They are interactive. You can give the viewer menus and choices to find the information he’s looking for, including links to web pages where he can get more detailed information.

Other Alternatives

Of course many other options for free information offers exist – including seminars, webinars, teleconferences, video demonstrations, audiotapes, manuals, books and more – but I’m afraid I don’t have enough time to discuss all of them today. I’ve simply tried to describe the merits of those that are the easiest and cheapest to produce – those you might already have on hand.

Help with Your Campaign

Of course, if you’re looking to start a lead generation campaign and want to develop a new information product as its cornerstone – or the campaign materials to promote it – I’d be happy to discuss the project with you and provide you with a no-obligation quote. Just drop me an email at, or call me at (+39) 011 569 4951.

Take-Away Points

Like the freebies you give away at your trade fair booth, free information offers get attention. And it doesn’t really matter what form of information you give away, as long as it’s valuable to the prospect you’re trying to reach. So look around. You may already have information collected in house that, if skillfully presented, can make an effective lead-generation offer.

A Little Extra Added Value

Mac McIntosh, the “Business-to-Business Sales Lead Expert”, offers a free how-to guide filled with proven B2B sales lead generation tips and techniques. You can download it here.

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