Anatomy of a Lead-generation Device

This blog is intended to be a mini-case study in the thinking that goes behind creating an effective lead generation device for your business.

I've finally come around to implementing my own advice in my practice. Even though I do this all the time for clients, I thought this process would be useful to others who are trying to develop a lead generation device for their business. 

In case you aren't already familiar with the concept, a lead-generation device is essentially "information of value", packaged into a self-contained, portable unit, that gets prospects to identify themselves out of a crowd of suspects by virtue of their commitment.

It's "valuable" because it addresses a commonplace, but acutely-felt problem for which there is an information gap in the existing marketplace of offerings.

You might recognize it as that "Free Report" you see available on so many b2b and professional service websites. They also masquerade as themed newsletters, webinars, and even online courses and, nowadays calculators and "personality tests." These freebies are usually free or low-cost but the price of entry almost always involves the prospect giving you their contact information, with the implicit understanding you might use it to contact them.

Who Needs a Lead-Generation Device?

The benefits of a good lead-generation device are manifold. A good lead-generation device:

  • Addresses an information gap in the marketplace, in a unique way
  • Builds goodwill with your intended audiences by improving their condition
  • Positions you or your company as a thought leader and authority in the space
  • Positively identifies "prospects" out of the crowd of "suspects"
  • Will create immediate demand for your products and services by it's persuasiveness

Believe it or not, presenting this advice to clients is met with some objections:

The biggest objection I hear from clients about creating valuable freemiums is that they don't want to give away so much information to their potential customer that can do it themselves. Having a copy of Photoshop doesn't make someone a graphic designer any more than owning an owner's manual makes someone an expert on cars. These people are missing the whole point of providing a service, which is assisting with the actual execution of a plan. 

The other objection I hear from clients is they don't want to give away trade secrets or have their so-called "intellectual property" fall into the hands of their competitors. This is actually a dangerously selfish way to think. In most cases, your proprietary processes aren't as special as you think they are. In most cases, they aren't, in fact, original – you lifted them from somewhere else. But the biggest reason you need to overcome this objection is because if you don't take the lead in becoming the authority or thought leader, your competition will. Would you rather your marketplace start building a relationship with you or your competitors?

At any rate, if you've read this far, then you're probably in the process of developing your lead generation device, so here's the composite elements:

There are some accepted do's and don'ts for creating a lead-gen device


  • Identifies with the intended audience
  • Addresses an information gap in a unique way
  • Raises awareness of the customer's problems
  • Delineates the landscape of solutions
  • Raises awareness of the solution

Persistent: Portable

Lead generation device works on automatic. Basically, you hire robots to do what you would do otherwise in a personal affair.

You also use them in various ways to take prospects off of other people's database and add them to yours. They are great ways for your ideal customers to sample your expertise and define their problem.

Anatomy of a Lead Generation Device

  1. Define your audience along the lines of your best customers

    1. Your best customers are your best for a reason. What are they?
    2. You need to define the audience for your freemium along the lines of your best customers.
    3. They can be defined by what they do (Demographics), how they think (Psychographics), what they do (Behavior).
    4. The audience for your lead generation device can also be defined by their sense of identity. Identity represents how they think about themselves. Identity is the most important attribute to key in on, as a marketer. An example is a business owners who consider himself pretty good at marketing.
  2. Commonly experienced but desperately felt problem

    1. These are the kinds of problems that keep people up at night, or haunt them by day. 
    2. An example in my business would be business owners who are not generating enough revenue from their online presence.
  3. Specific solution to help them understand the problem

    1. [Get your online presence running on all cylindars]
  4. Usually, but not always, give them steps to implement the solution themselves:

  5. Give it an impactful Name: 

    1. Give it a short name that speaks volumes or
    2. speaks to the identity of your audience
    3. Name plays well with and has positive associations with other brand attributes: colors, taglines, plays on words.
    4. [Maximum Visitor Value: Borrowing a phrase from the esoteric halls of marketing and sharing it with the public]
  6. Right Presentation:

    1. Intended audience identifies with the author and relates to the presentation
    2. You'd think that the content is the only thing that matters however presentation is what helps your audience be receptive to the information contained within. If your brand is the energetic fun-loving kind, this needs to be portrayed in look, feel and modality of your presentation. Same thing if you're cool as a cucumber. 
    3. Visual language and iconography are also important.
    4. The format be properly "framed" for the highest perceived value. This is a bit of an art and I might try to outline a framework for this process in a future article. For now let's just say that calling a newsletter a "newsletter" is low-value. "Reports" are a step up, but no as good as "Books." "Webinars" aren't as good as "Workshops". Whenever you're tempted to call something by it's overused technological label, it's time to brainstorm something better.
    5. [Free Marketing Red Papers]

A Cautionary Word


Four Ethical Ways to Guarantee a Followup Response

We've all been there. You spend what seems like an eternity problem-solving for a prospect, then all communications go dark. Over time, I've evolved four ways to help guarantee a followup response. If you want to grease the slide so no inquiry dies on the vine, read on.

1. The Take Home

Something that hovers around their periphery to remind them of your value proposition. Info-widget, checklists, article, report, scorecard. Similar to the "incentive" in what they get, it's different because you're giving first in the spirit of delayed gratification, with no expectation of reciprocity for the value supplied. If you've ever had a branded notepad from your mortgage person or a calendar from your dentist, you've been influenced by the Take Home. Furthermore, a take-home can be rigged to "close the loop", as it were. The Take Home will probably be effective in as much as it is repeatedly useful in their lives. Many "attempted" Take-Home's are of limited value. Cheap trinkets offering no ongoing utility waste both your time and theirs'. Furthermore, many professionals stop at including their contact information while forgetting the most important elements to remind them about: your value and uniqueness.

Examples of the Take Home:

  • Reference Tools
  • Whitepapers
  • Notebooks andother appropriately branded materials
  • Data Sheets
  • Articles
  • Checklists
  • Scorecards
  • News clippings

2. The Open Loop

Whoah, didn't we just talk about "closing the loop"? Sometimes the Take Home is insufficient to do that – The Loop is still open. Create a subconcsious opening that can only be closed by getting back in touch. This usually involves providing incomplete information but it can also be procedural in design. If you've ever submitted an application for employment you know what it's like to anticipate the closing of that loop. The beating heart of this is asking for qualifying information. I hope you can agree that giving someone the opportunity to respond electronically is a much more efficient way to induce a response than expecting them to fill out a physical respond card.

Examples of the Feedback Loop:

  • College Applications
  • Client Questionnaires
  • RFP's and RFB's
  • Review sessions
  • Confirmation notices.

3. The Ethical Incentive (Bribe)

Offer something exclusive, that isn't available by any other means. This can be relevant content, a better deal or better terms on the deal. Offer a compelling reason, ethical bribe, sometimes time-sensitive or scarce take-away that offers a momentary advantage, window of opportunity or other appeal to opportunity. The focus is self-interest, scarcity and competition.

Examples of The Incentive:

  • Any Kind of "Bonus Material"
  • Value-added information (trade secrets)
  • Exclusive experience (Group Environment, meeting somebody important)
  • Priority status (advanced notice or information or access to stuff)

4. The Multi-point Accountability Card

In the wide and wacky world of business it's all too easy to let down one person. Much harder is it to let down multiple people at the same time. Include a third party in the conversation to create pressure and enforce accountability from adjacent stakeholders in the transaction. In business it's all too common to have an adversarial relationship right off the bat. This problem is endemic in cold-calling and is all-too-common in situations where the lead might already be warmed up to your offerings. 

Examples of The Accountability Card:

  • Involve their family/spouse
  • Involve the decision maker
  • involve the auditing dept.,
  • their inside champions and;
  • direct reports.

By these methods you make the close a foregone conclusion.

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