When you decide to produce any marketing tool, including your website, ask yourself these questions: What result(s) do you want to achieve? How do you want your visitors, readers and viewers to respond? What action do you want them to take?

Your ultimate goal might be: Buy something! Another goal might be: Get them to visit my website!

And another – equally valid and valuable – result is: Give me their names!

Lead generation – getting prospective customers to opt in to further contact by you – allows you to build relationships with them; generate valuable feedback from them; and market and sell to them over time. And again and again.

Both goals require an understanding of direct response techniques.

Lead generation – Four proven ways to get your customers to invite you in to their lives.

Offer your customers something of value – for free – in return for permission to contact them.


Toys, collectibles, buttons, souvenirs – giveaways like this have been around forever, and they can be a great way to build a large list of prospects to market to. They can be cheap (a keychain) or more expensive (an iPod Shuffle). You can find a number of companies offering premiums as sales incentives with a simple Google search. But before you do, ask yourself if the premium narrows down your customer. To build a more targeted list, you need to be more targeted with your incentive.


A newsletter or ezine is a great way to not only give your customer something they appreciate, but it narrows your focus, it provides constant contact, and it’s a venue to build relationships and update them on products, services and offers.

White papers, reports, booklets, or e-books

Special reports offering something of value to your best customers will get you contact info for your best customers. First off, make sure it really does offer value. If someone signs up for something and you don’t deliver, or you just try and sell them, the effect will be the opposite of what you’ve intended. Second, market the report effectively; intrigue them and make them need to have it.

Free courses (autoresponder)

The autoresponder – a way of automatically delivering a series of emails – was made for such premiums as a “free 7-day course”. Prepare and package something of value for your customers into a series of emails, and you’ll be in their in-boxes every day for a week. If it’s valuable, they’ll appreciate it, and they’ll remember you.

Worth a try: You might also consider a low-priced offering, which further qualifies the leads you generate. If they’re willing to pay for it, they truly are interested in what you have to offer.

Note:The ultimate goal is to maintain communication with your list down the road. If the incentive is a one-time mailing or a fixed-series (autoresponder), you should explictly offer them the opportunity to receive additional information from you.

Make a compelling case to get more information

An information-rich, incentive-packed website can make it easy for you to generate leads and sell your product or service. But you need to get people there first. Offering lots of information using carefully chosen keywords; updating regularly; and seeking relevant outside links to your site will go a long way to organically getting you better ranking in the search engines. Use these techniques to drive additional traffic from other sources.


These are the small ads that appear to the right of Google search results based on search terms. You pay only when people click through to your site. These tiny, pay-per-click (PPC) ads are even more distilled than traditional classified ads or catalogue entries. Since you only get a few words to attract their attention, you need to give them a compelling reason to read your ad and visit your site. (You don’t want to give them the wrong reason – “free kittens”, for example. You might attract a lot of traffic, but it won’t be the right traffic and you’ll be wasting money.)

Here are three AdWords ideas to inspire you.

Try to grab people searching for your competition (“Read this before you buy X”)

Offer your incentive – which is, of course, relevant to your audience.

Intrigue them with a question (“Have you made this auto insurance mistake?”)

Online advertising

The venues open to you range from paid ads on relevant sites; “affiliate advertising”, in which you offer a percentage of sales resulting from the free placement of your ad on your affiliates site; and services such as Google’s AdSense, which allow you to place ads on relevant websites, paying based on various fee structures.

With these techniques, as with AdWords, you have a limited space in which to get your message across. But depending on the format, you often have the potential to add graphics.

Print materials

All of your print marketing materials should offer a compelling reason to visit your website, which might include your premium or incentive.

Track them and test

Direct response marketing has always placed a great importance on tracking and testing various formats and offers. In the old days, you’d call a number and ask for “Department D” for one ad, “Department A” on another. Or you’d send your reply card to “Box C”, D, E, etc. If conversions from Department A beat conversions from Department D, you’d know which one to roll out.

You can set up Department D or Box C on your website, with an additional punch. Setting up separate landing pages for various offers and marketing avenues allows you to not only track and test the offers – but you can customize the landing page for the particular offer or marketing piece.

Get them to buy

If your sales cycle requires time and relationship building, then you should be spending the time building relationships, using the techniques we’ve discussed here. And even if your sales cycle is based on impulse buying, relationship building will earn you additional sales down the line.

To get buyers to take that ultimate action, effective direct response pieces should
1) attract their attention
2) Build their interest
3) Transform that interest into desire
4) And get them to take action

These elements are the fundamentals of direct response letters, brochures and ads, and the same techniques continue to generate results online.

Your marketer should also bring these qualities to every direct response marketing piece.

Enough information to make the sale

Providing enough information, and presenting it in a variety of ways, is why long sales letters have always performed better in direct mail. For those who don’t want to read every word, compelling subheads and highlighted sections allow them to scan.

A focus on the buyer

Move beyond features to provide benefits to the buyer. Make those benefits real by painting a picture of a real-life situation which shows your understanding of their lives and needs. Talk to your buyer. The word “you” and “your” should appear in your marketing a lot more than “we” and “our”.

Stories that make benefits real

Illustrate how your product or service will make their lives better. Make your product real to the buyer, by outlining a hypothetical situation that demonstrates a problem and allows you to show how you’ll solve it.

A conversational style

A natural style, as if you’re sitting down and talking to a friend, is the best way to communicate in almost any marketing piece. Even the loftiest CEO will be captured by a good story told in everyday words.

Our 39 years experience in direct marketing arms us with the skill to apply these techniques to all of your print and online materials.

Contact us to learn which lead generation and direct response techniques will help you increase your sales.