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Call to Action: Separate the “Ready to Buy” from the “Maybe Later” AND Get a Response from Both

by | Jul 13, 2010 | B2B Copywriting, Sales Brochures, Direct Marketing, Lead Generation, White Papers, Offers, Call to Action | 0 comments

How do you separate prospects who are “ready to buy” from those who are “just looking”… AND get both to respond to your promotions?

The answer is simple: with a different call to action – or offer – for each group: a hard offer and a soft offer.

In this article, I’ll explain the difference between the hard offer and the soft offer in B2B lead generation, and why you want to use one of each in most of your promotions.

The Hard Offer: Sending “Ready” Buyers to Your Sales Team

In lead generation, the hard offer is a call to action that results in some form of personal contact between the prospect and the seller, in a situation where some selling can be done. It appeals to prospects who have an immediate need for a product or service like yours, wish to buy fairly soon, and want to “sit down and talk” with vendors.

The hard offer typically reads something like:

To speak with one of our engineers about how KlugePlus can help you solve your software development problems, call us TOLL FREE at 1-800-345-9876.

Alternatively, the hard offer may invite readers to provide contact information, so a sales representative can contact them to set an appointment for a sales call or product demonstration.

The Soft Offer: A Wide Net for Capturing “Future” Buyers

The soft offer, on the other hand, is an offer of free information, which can be requested through a response mechanism that requires no personal contact with the seller.

The free information can be a product brochure, a white paper, or any other information that would be of interest to your prospect and help sell your product or service in some way. The response mechanism can be a reply card or a link to an online form. The most important thing is that the prospect can request the information without having to speak to anyone.

A soft offer will often be worded something like this:

For a free information kit describing how KlugePlus can slash your software development time and costs by 30% or more, simply visit us online at, and fill out the brief request form.

The soft offer gets a high level of response, because it lets the prospect find out more about what you have to offer – and tell you they “may be interested” – without feeling sales pressure of any kind. It attracts prospects who have no immediate requirement for your offering but think they may in the future, and prospects who have an immediate need but want to gather information before speaking to a salesperson.

The Error of the Single Offer

Many B2B marketers severely limit the effectiveness of their lead-generation promotions by employing only one offer (or no offer at all).

Including only a hard offer greatly depresses response. You lose the vast majority of prospects who don’t have an immediate need for your product. They won’t call, because they don’t want to talk to a salesperson at this point. Thus, you lose the opportunity to follow-up and nurture their interest until they do have a need.

In contrast, using only a soft offer gives you no way to separate the “ready to buy” from the “just looking.” You get many more leads, but you don’t know which are ready to hand off to sales. And sales reps DO NOT want to follow up on stacks of leads who are nowhere near a purchase decision.

One exception: If you’re promoting a white paper, you’ll want only a soft offer — the offer of the white paper. White papers are more heavily consumed in the early stages of the buying process, and you don’t want to depress response to your white paper offer by pitching your product or service. You will, however, want both a hard and a soft offer at the end of the white paper, following the blurb about your company.

The Solution: Two Different Offers for Two Different Prospects

The solution is very easy to implement. Simply decide what action you want each of your prospects – your “looking to buy soon” prospect and your “maybe later” prospect – to take. Then, state those actions concisely, one right after the other, at the end of your promotion.

Having both a hard offer and a soft offer lets you funnel sales-ready leads directly to your sales team, while capturing “longer-term” leads for nurturing. Use this technique in your next promotion.

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