Using Free Reports to Market Offline Businesses: Does it work?

22 replies
I've talked quite a few times about how I think too many offline marketers think too much like internet marketers.

One of the craziest things IMO that I see related to this is how in nearly every thread someone will suggest to offer a free report.

We all know free has value. A lot of business can be made on free.

But in the real world do a lot of the products, services, and businesses being marketed make sense for the free report?

So my question is this. In the real world (not online) have you ever requested a free report from a business?

If you have, did that free report help close you on working with the business?

And finally can you think of any friends in real life that you know of getting a free report?

Myself I can't think of every requesting a free report. I've seen it in offline advertising a few times but in many businesses it didn't seem to make sense. Though some like the local power company did make sense. And I will admit when I had a grab bag and was grabbing freebies that I have grabbed free booklets (same as a report) but I am not sure I ever truthfully read them.

My ex wife's father was a classic example of someone who would take anything free so he has gotten free reports but I don't think he's ever read these free reports or booklets.

I personally think free reports work well in certain niches and those niches happen to have a lot of IMers in them. Thus this advice is handed out in situations where is doesn't make sense.

That's not to say it might not work for certain businesses like tax services, lawyers, and doctors. And if you have worked with clients where it has worked I think we would all love real worlld examples of how it worked, response rates, and ROI.

But I think for the vast majority we simply see too many here thinking like and internet marketer vs thinking like a true offline marketing consultant.
#free #offline #online #reports
  • Profile picture of the author crs30
    Episode 054:The one about lead conversion « I Love Marketing

    Free reports themselves are not the be all, end all. They are simply one way of using educational marketing. You can have reports, but you can also have free information kids (infomercials) or free recorded messages.

    The idea behind all of these things is that you position yourself as an expert or authority in your field. It also lowers the barrier to entry for the average person.

    The REAL purpose of the report is to generate a lead. Get mailing address, phone number, email. Follow up. I'm using this right now for myself. I have a free report I use as lead generation for chiropractors. I'm seeing interest from my target audience. I don't care if they read the report or not. Once I know they are interested, I follow up over and over, perhaps with bits and chunks of the report.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Aaron; I know what you mean about the "free report" crowd. I go to Dan Kennedy events, and you hear "lumpy mail", "3 step mailing", and "free reports" to almost every question.

      Have I seen free reports work outside buying online?
      Yes, By mail order. A printed report/sales letter sent in response to a phone call (usually to a voice mail or answering service), from a postcard to a cold list. Sure.


      I've bought from free reports/sales letters that I requested. Industries are built on it. But this isn't local selling to the consumer.

      Do you mean the local Chiropractor? Maybe.

      I have a friend that advertised locally for a free VHS tape (about 20 years ago) about indoor air pollution. He was selling air purifiers out of his retail store.

      He advertised the free VHS tape, and you had to stop in to pick it up.

      He actually had a few in stock, just in case. But he just wanted to bring people into his store. And it worked like gangbusters.
      When they came in asking for the tape, he engaged them in conversation, and pitched them right there. So did I.

      Highly qualified prospects, for the most part.

      People will send for a free report if they have no real interest, just because it's free. But very few people will drive to a store for a free tape, unless they are interested in the subject.

      But advertising for a free report in businesses where the need is remotely urgent, no.

      Plumber, electrician, locksmith, lawyer, dentist (mostly), anything where you call when a need arises? No. I haven't seen it work.

      I have a lawyer that is a member of my mastermind group. He tried a free book with well written ads. It bombed. We tweeked it for him (some of us are pretty fair copywriters) . Nope, still no response.

      Handing someone a book shows that you are an expert, and will help with fees later. But if someone needs a problem solved this week (or today) a report is the last thing they want. and a report sounds like you will be getting advice on how to solve your problem. Most people just want someone to solve the problem.

      Free reports on something you are likely to buy in a few months, or a year? It think it might apply. A CD or DVD is better. I make a lot of sales mailing free CDs.

      Interesting conversation, I think.
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  • Profile picture of the author jayspann
    Agreed! The market would need to justify the "consumer awareness guide" or whatever you wanted to call it.

    I think the point is to catch people in your bucket, when your adding them to the top of your funnel. Doesn't matter how you do it but you need a bribe, a great bribe, so you can market your services to your prospects and customers till the end of time.

    I worked at a dealership group for a while running the internet department and we had a hard time converting "leads" into foot traffic.

    Remembering something that Dan Kennedy suggested to a real-estate guy at one of his seminars... I had a booklet ghost-written about "How To Get The Car of Your Dreams And Save Thousands Before You Step Foot On The Lot"

    Terrible title? YES but it increased the number of people coming on to the lot 4 fold!

    They got snippets of it thru the CRM auto responder but to get the whole book they had to show up in person. I had it printed and bound so it was a physical book.

    We closed about 1 out of every 4 people that actually showed up for their appointment before the book.

    With the book that % went down slightly but because we had 4X the foot traffic it was a HUGE win.

    So I would say if its a hairdresser or a restaurant... hell no.

    But a carpet cleaner, chiropractor, dealership , etc were (the right kind of) education can lead to increased consumption... Hell yes
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    Jay,

    Thanks for throwing up some real numbers. And for a car dealer. I work in RV sales and would have never expected that to work in a market like ours.

    How much did the books cost?

    How many who came in for the book bought? You said 1 in 4 of none book customers.

    What do you think the sales increase from the book was? (both in sales and percentage) Love the 4x the traffic but curious on how the ROI numbers look.
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  • Profile picture of the author desmond11
    Business owners prefer face to face interaction. In the real world, you won't find too many of them trawling the internet looking for free reports. This may sound good in the latest WSO, but from my dealings with clients, they prefer to deal with people they know or have been referred to.

    I agree Aaron. A lot of these so-called templates are produced by people who have never even sniffed an offline client and lead people down the wrong path with these crazy strategies. Pisses me off to be honest and thankfully people like you can set a few people straight and give them the correct advice. Kudos!
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  • Profile picture of the author shane_k
    I am not sure if this is what you are talking about. But in my day job I sell Gym Memberships, and Personal Training packages.

    But I did convince my boss to allow me to do some internet marketing to generate leads for myself. And I have been so successful at it, that I now have contract work with him to do marketing for the gym.

    So here are some things that I have tested out that have worked.

    Pretty much every gym out there has a FREE 7 day pass that they offer out to potential customers.

    What I done was to convince him to throw in a pdf and video package with that 7 day pass. The reason was no one else was doing it and we wanted to stand out by offering something different.

    These PDF and video packages are changed each month, so one month would be focused on burning bodyfat, one would be focused on increasing stamina, one would be on muscle mass for men, and toning for women, etc.

    And the content for the PDF's and videos come from the other Personal Trainers in our gym. (I am one myself)

    But anyway, obviously to get the pdf and video package they had to opt-in for our list.

    What we found was this added to the value of that 7 day free pass, and we had more people who started joining up before the 7 days was over.

    We also found that it was easier to sell personal training packages as they were already being pre-sold on the idea because they were already recieving "tips" from the personal trainers themselves.

    And the cool thing is that those who bought a membership, but decided not to buy personal training still receive a weekly email on different tips from the personal trainers. And every so often when there are deals on personal training packages they get that to.

    And that has helped sell even more personal training packages after someone has bought a basic membership.

    So anyway, I am not sure if that is something that you were looking for but giving out free reports at least for this type of business has been working.
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  • Profile picture of the author PanteraIM
    The only reason why reports work online is because the visitor constitutes that report as having value.

    A free strategy meeting, consultation, website health check, SEO audit will have more value to offline business owners, so this approach seems to work better.
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    • Profile picture of the author KASWarrior
      Like other Offline Marketers, we generally offer some kind of "free" report - to get them to opt in so we can build the know * like* trust, right? While I could always use more traffic (who couldn't) those that came rarely chose to opt-in to get the free report. So then I decided to add a shopping cart and charge $20 for each report I had in my "free" arsenal. Now they didn't have a perceived value. They had an actual price associated with them.
      Next step- PPC Ads giving 75% off. Or a post card giving a coupon for the free report. Now when they go to the website, they see that they really are getting a deal.
      This definitely increased my number of "takers".
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  • Profile picture of the author GunjanM
    There is no use of free reports. most of them address general things
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    • Profile picture of the author Alex Makarski
      A great discussion here.

      I agree that special reports aren't nearly as effective for lead generation as many IMer would think. However, they make you stand out as an expert, someone who knows what they do and can potentially increase the perceived or real value of the work you do. That's part of education your customer about their problem and how you are more qualified to deal with it than any of your competitors.

      Some 10 years ago there was a popular consulting "franchise" company that used an example of a roofer coming in to do an estimate for the job. Before the guy would climb on the roof, he'd give the home owner a DVD and say something like, "Hey, I'll be up there for 16 minutes taking the measurements and assessing the damage. While I'm there, please watch this DVD, it's 12 minutes long and I'm sure you'll find this info very useful". By the time he climb back down, the client is so sold on this guy's services, he's pulling his checkbook out.

      It's the same reason one would write a book. If your name is not Stephen King, you probably won't make much $'s by selling the book. But the credibility your book will give you will help you remove objections before they arise, close more and better deals, get keynote invitations, etc.
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      • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
        Have you guys noticed a trend? The free reports (Or DVDs, CDs) work if the product/service is not an immediate need. If there is a little "shopping" involved.

        If there is a little time lag between being interested and buying.

        Alex brought up a great example, but the DVD was given after the roofer got there. Not as an enticement to call.

        Although, in the case of a roofer, it may work as "call bait", unless your roof was just blown off. Anyway, I see that the examples fall into two camps. And the successful "Giving information to get a call/visit to a local offline business" depends on when they need your service, and how much shopping is involved.

        At least, that's what I see.

        About having a book. I do, and it helps get me interviews and speaking gigs. I send one to people who book me. I send one to people who may book me.

        What I do not do is say "Let me send you a copy of my book, and after you read it, give me a call"

        See the difference?
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Makarski
    I think someone should swipe this thread and turn it into a special report about special reports
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    • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
      Originally Posted by Alex Makarski View Post

      I think someone should swipe this thread and turn it into a special report about special reports
      Crap you saw through my WSO pre-sell :p
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      • Profile picture of the author midasman09
        Banned
        "A CD or DVD is better. I make a lot of sales mailing free CDs!"

        This post was by Claude....which brought up an "Idea" for one of my products.

        I have a Software Program, on a CD, that provides a "FAIR MARKET VALUE" of any business by plugging in numbers from a Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss Statement and Business Check Book.

        This gives biz owners a "Ball-Park" idea of what their business is worth... not for Selling their biz but mostly for their "Curiosity" or for "Bragging" etc.

        Now...Claude's comment caused me to think about mailing a Large PostCard to small biz owners...offering a "FREE CD Reveals What Your Business is Worth in minutes, in the privacy of your office!"

        I'd ask those interested to Phone a number where they could leave their Name & Mailing Address where the CD can be mailed.

        I'd then mail the CD (at my expense) and...along with the CD I'd include a Sales Letter that explained the Benefits of having this Software AND...I'd also mention that the Software Program is Encrypted and they'd need a Special UN-Lock Code they could get by phoning my "Order-Line"... ordering the Program and the clerk would give them the UN-Lock Code.

        Now....when I first sold this Software Program (back in 1997 -2001) I sent postcards to biz owners asking them to Call my FREE Recorded Message.

        The recording gave benefits to my Software and to receive more info they could leave their Name & Mailing Addy and I'd send a 4-page Sales Letter... ALONG WITH A FLOPPY and the Sales Letter would give the Benefits of "Finding What their Biz is WORTH in minutes in the Privacy of their Office!"...AND...rather than waiting & wondering when the Program they'd receive the Program...I announce that, "THEY ALREADY HAVE IT! IT'S IN THE FLOPPY THEY'RE HOLDING! HOWEVER...IT'S BEEN ENCRYPTED ...AND THEY'D HAVE TO PHONE MY ORDERLINE TO RECEIVE THE UN-LOCK CODE!

        So....fast forward to today, 2012....I've put my "Business Valuation" software onto CD's and....would like to get your comments about the first part of this post where I use the words, "FREE CD"!

        Now...granted...the "CD" is free but...the Software Program INSIDE the CD is NOT! To get the INSIDE...they must Call a Number to PAY for the Software....THEN they get the UN-Lock Code.

        Question: Am I "Stretching" it here?

        I'd like your comments.

        Don Alm....marketing guy
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    Don I think you are stretching it but....

    Just put something of value free on the CD for free and use the software as the upsell.

    Maybe the free version could be a pdf file they print out and manually do a bunch of math to get the value. And the unlocked software does it for them.

    Not 100% sure just some quick thoughts I had based on the model you were suggesting.
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    • Profile picture of the author John Durham
      I know someone on this forum who is a MASTER at generating offline business with reports,.... But I aint tellin cuz he aint sellin.

      Im sworn not to tell anyone what he taught me. So sorry guys, but yes reports can generate offline business.

      Very brilliant marketer this chaeacter.

      I do agree with Aaron however. If you arent using this particular strategy, offline business isnt like offline, and free reports will barely work. The only way giving a free report works is through high probability because most biz owners will never read it in the first place. In that case try giving THOUSANDS away... you may generate a few call ins if your numbers are high enough.

      Ps. Re: Trends....You see all kinds of trends and rehash when people stop cold calling...Lots of talk and few success stories...,one thing to the next, because most of this other stuff will only work for a master marketer....it does work for some, but its not going to work for 98% without practicing for years.

      Cold calling produces success within days or a week... Not plugging, jes sayin the truth.
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      • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
        Originally Posted by John Durham View Post

        I know someone on this forum who is a MASTER at generating offline business with reports,.... But I aint tellin cuz he aint sellin.

        Im sworn not to tell anyone what he taught me. So sorry guys, but yes reports can generate offline business.
        John; You must tell us!...you..must....you..... must...you are getting sleepy...you are feeling a compulsion to reveal everything.....everything....

        ...when you wake up, you will feel refreshed, and remember nothing about this conversation.....
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        • Profile picture of the author John Durham
          Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

          John; You must tell us!...you..must....you..... must...you are getting sleepy...you are feeling a compulsion to reveal everything.....everything....

          ...when you wake up, you will feel refreshed, and remember nothing about this conversation.....
          Lol. I would but swore I wouldnt because thats his gold mine of offline sales.... I gotta keep my word to him. He didnt figure it would hurt to share just with one person, but doesnt want the whole world onto it.

          I havent emulated it yet, but definitely will be in the future.


          Ps. Nice title Aaron.

          Why not emulate something that works?

          Because alot of things work, but you lose ground when you lose focus, if you already have something working. Wait till you hit a plateau where your current thing is self managing.

          Scattered focus even causes failure with stuff that "works".
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    • Profile picture of the author Alex Makarski
      Don,

      If I jumped through all the hoops to get something "free" that works only after I pay, I'd be P.O.ed and I supposed many of your prospects would be so too. So yeah, I'd say you're stretching it.

      Love the idea though.

      How about you give them the software free but take them through a more elaborate questionnaire to collect more info? Then you can turn around and sell them some marketing service based on the answers they give you.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    Ps. Aaron, this thread deserves a more effective title. This is a subject of great interest if people could figure out whats inside by the title.
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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    I know it does John.

    I have a habit of just posting what is on my mind. Then when I look back I'm like "damn that wasn't a good title".

    And open to retitle suggestions.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by Aaron Doud View Post

      I know it does John.

      I have a habit of just posting what is on my mind. Then when I look back I'm like "damn that wasn't a good title".

      And open to retitle suggestions.
      How about: "Claude Whitacre Is A Marketing Genius! Now About My Little Question" Ta DA!

      OK, actually I'm drawing a blank.
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