I'm not in the auto business, but I'm willing to bet that when engineers propose a new car model, they don't fail to include an engine in their designs.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same about many B2B marketers and their direct marketing strategies. I've seen too many creative briefs that had a great chassis—terrific messaging hooks, keen insight into audience desire—without the engine to drive it: an honest-to-goodness offer, a do-this-to-get-that promise. Instead, all that hard work invested in developing themes, brand distinctions and unique selling propositions sinks within this flaccid and all too common call to action: "For more information..."
You might just as well say, "For a tedious sales call...." Because "for more information" isn't an offer of value, it's a threat of wasted time. So, consider your direct marketing task—mail, email or even your Web site—stalled at the gate. What's the alternative?
In a B2B environment, where the products and services are expensive and the purchasing process complex, the classic B2C promises of discounts or free shipping are usually not appropriate. And if you're on the marketing end of your business, you may not have the ability to execute, or the authority to request, an offer of a free sample, a demo model, or an in-person demonstration.
In addition to being compelling to your audience, the right offer has to be doable—something marketing people can whip up, either on their own or with minimal internal cooperation.
When you're stuck without a traditional offer, here's how you can make mountains out of molehills and turn the information you have into material that's desired:
1. Tell a story
Few means of communication are as powerful as stories. In families, they're among the first ways we introduce children to the world; within societies, they're the dominant means of transmitting important information, ideas and values from one generation to the next. Even as our world becomes increasingly sophisticated, stories retain their primal power.