The “bait piece” is an informative booklet, white paper, or special report addressing some aspect of the problem your product or service helps the reader solve. You offer a free copy of your booklet or report to any prospect who inquires about your product or service. For example, you can often increase response with enticements like these: Fala Direct Marketing, a lettershop specializing in producing personalized direct mailings, offers a free booklet titled “Should I Personalize?” to help clients decide whether and how to personalize their mailings.

And Studebaker-Worthington, a company that provides financing services for computer resellers, offers a free sales-training video that shows them how to close more sales by giving their customers the option to lease instead of buy. To avoid attracting only people who just want free booklets, have both a “hard” and a “soft” offer in every lead-generation promotion. The soft one will be the offer of the free bait piece: “Click on this link to download a copy of our free White Paper on Internet Security.” The hard offer might be: “Call us now to arrange an appointment so we can discuss your Internet security needs in detail.”

Prospects with an immediate need will take you up on the hard offer, while those who don’t have an immediate need but might require your help in the future will respond to the soft offer. Years ago, I used direct mail to generate leads for business-writing seminars that I marketed to corporations. The main offer was “Mail this card for more information on my seminar, Effective Technical Writing.” Then I got smart and added a P.S. that read: “Be sure to ask for our FREE tip sheet, ’10 Ways to Improve Your Business Writing'” — which was a reprint of an article I had published in a trade magazine. As soon as I added this soft offer, response rates doubled — and so did sales.

(Editorial Note: Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing”. He can be reached at www.bly.com or via e-mail at rwbly@bly.com.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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