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Tried to Generate Leads Using a Free Report? Here’s Why It Works

A free report can’t “live” in the virtual world by itself. To generate leads from any kind of offer (which includes content like a webinar, white paper, ebook, research report, etc.), you need to lay out a foundation for the offer, which is strategically designed to guide consumers down a specific path—a path to buying.

Jeremy Harrison


If you’ve heard anything about content marketing in the past year or so, you know that an effective strategy involves giving consumers the information they want. A unique way to create an exchange between business and consumer involves creating a free report to generate leads. The report allows businesses to discuss their products/services in a non-threatening way, showcasing the benefits consumers get from making the purchase and answering questions they have. For many businesses, creating the free report is the easy part. The difficult part is figuring out what to do next, or rather, how to get leads from the report.

Here’s a strategy for setting up a path to convert people who sign up for the free report into buyers. In marketing, we call this “converting sales.”

A free report can’t “live” in the virtual world by itself. To generate leads from any kind of offer (which includes content like a webinar, white paper, ebook, research report, etc.), you need to lay out a foundation for the offer, which is strategically designed to guide consumers down a specific path—a path to buying.

Here’s what that path should look like:

  1. On your website, set up some text in a sidebar or use a button to tell consumers about the offer; position these on the home page and any other relevant pages. Marketing people call this a “call-to-action” (C2A), which simply means you’re using a combination of tools (color, font, text and graphics or video) to “call” consumers to “action.” Namely, this means clicking on the C2A to get to the free report.
  2. Ideally, your website should also have a specific page, called a landing page, that’s solely dedicated to this free report. Alternatively, some businesses use pop-up boxes that activate when consumers click on the C2A. Use descriptive, catchy text and graphics to sell the report and convince consumers to sign up for it.
  3. Regardless of whether you use a landing page or pop-up box, the next step in generating leads requires crafting a form for getting customer’s personal data—namely, the email address. Here’s where you’ll want to proceed strategically. Ask consumers for too much information, and they’ll be more likely to abandon the form. Balance asking for too much personal data with your marketing goals and the customer persona you’re targeting.
    If you’re trying to build your email list, ask for an email address only, or an email and first name. Keep in mind that consumers at the beginning of the buying cycle are less likely to give up personal information, where as consumers further on in the cycle (and existing customers) will be more likely to offer it.
  1. Keep the communication going and engage consumers who fill out the form to get the free download. This is your first chance to present your brand with a lead that has some level of interest in your business or products/services. You can start the conversation by redirecting the consumer to a thank you page that also houses the download link and another link to send the offer to a friend. Don’t forget to include branding on this page to leave your mark on this new lead.
  2. The last step in the process of generating leads, send an email confirmation that includes a brief message, another thank you, the download link and a suggestion and link for sharing the offer.

Include these strategic steps in your free-report campaign, and you’ll guide consumers down a purposeful path to becoming leads. With concise text, compelling graphics and branding on every communication, starting with the website to the landing page, including the sign-up form and the thank you page, and ending with the follow-up email, you’ll put consumers on the right course, and build your business’ leads to drive conversions.

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