Week after week, day after day Bob Bly gives sound advice. Here is what he says about what you get for what you pay
Two people make me feel useless. One – Denny Hatch – is older than me, and really should do me a favour and retire to save me embarrassment.
His Target Marketing column keeps telling me things I have forgotten or never knew.
The other – Bob Bly – is younger, but I have been learning from him for decades when I always feel it should be the other way round.
Here he is on one of today’s most fatuous marketing fads – content marketing.
How the hell anyone in the last few thousand years did any selling without content quite escapes me. Maybe you can explain, but here is Bob on what really matters.
It is well worth reading because, as with almost everything he writes, it is utterly practical, grounded in fact, not fancy.
“Content marketing is one of the big hot trends in marketing
But there’s a dirty little secret the content marketing
evangelists won’t tell you — either because they don’t know or
fear it will reduce their value if revealed.
Namely, the more generous your free content offer, the worse
the quality of the leads your content marketing campaign will
Decades ago, Ed Nash articulated the notion that lead quality
and lead quantity are inversely proportional.
If you use tactics that boost lead quantity, you get all those
extra inquiries at the expense of lead quality, because the
tactics attract responses from people who like the free offer
but are not necessarily potential customers.
Conversely, the more you do to qualify the leads your marketing
generates, the better the quality of those leads, but the fewer
Marketing with freebie offers, whether the giveaway is content
or merchandise, is a tactic that carries with it the danger of
boosting lead quantity — i.e., creating hoards of people who
want your free white paper — at the expense of lead quality.
For instance, I once saw a promotion aimed at farmers to get
them to refer their neighbor farmers to the marketer. The
offer: give us the names of 3 neighbors who buy seed for their
farms and we will send your son a free football.
The marketer was flooded with response. But salespeople
reported that most of the referral names were in fact not seed
buyers nor farmers — and those who were had no interest in
speaking to a sales rep … and in fact resented their neighbor
for giving up their name.
This campaign was submitted to a Caples Award contest in which I was a judge, which was where I saw it. Of course it did not win.
My friend Sy Sperling, founder of the Hair Club for Men (HCM),
said they ran a free content offer on TV where they gave away a $15 book on hair loss. Result: a flood of freeloaders requesting
the book, almost none of whom had any interest in coming into
HCM for a free consultation.
Clearly, free content offers run the risk of requiring you to
give away valuable material to people with no interest in what
you are selling.
How can you make content marketing work better, and get requests for info from genuine prospects instead of deadbeats?
Here are a few suggestions:
>> Make the content of your white paper or special report narrow and specific. Reason: Very few people will download a guide on ”How to Size a Valve” unless they are valve buyers.
>> On the landing page where they can register to download or
request your content, have two boxes to check — one offering
free content and a second offering a free brochure on your
product or service. Those who just request the content without
also asking for product or service information are not good
>> Ask qualifying questions requiring mandatory answers on the landing page. Yes, for each additional field, you will reduce
conversion rate by about 10%. But you will also know from the
answers whether the person is a potential customer or just a
>> In your e-mail or other lead-generating sales copy, stress
the product or service, not the free content offer. Relegate the
free content offer to a secondary position in the copy, perhaps
in the closing paragraphs or a PS. This way, people respond to
your promotion primarily because of their interest in your
product and only secondarily to get the freebie.
>> Conversely, if you build your ad or other promotion around
the free content offer primarily or exclusively, up to 90% of
respondents will be interested only in your freebie, giving you
extremely unqualified inquiries and poor lead quality. However,
this gambit can be profitable with a low cost-per-lead.
For instance, we did a content campaign offering a free e-book
through an ad in an online newsletter. We paid $1,000 for the ad
and got over 100 downloads, giving us a cost per inquiry below
Let’s be ultra conservative and say only 10% of those download
requests were from actual prospects (I believe it was closer to
20%). That would give us a cost per lead (a lead being an
inquiry from a qualified prospect) of $100 — which given the
high cost of the service was still very profitable.”
I would only add one thought, which is that people rarely enquire unless they have some interest, however slight. So it can sometimes pay to get a lot of weak leads because among the dross there may be pearls.
Whether this is the case depends on the profit margin on what you are selling. If you have a big margin you can afford to keep chasing even weak leads. And of course chasing people via email is nigh-on free.