Marketing with "free reports" achieves little, reflects poorly on you

friday, 7 august of 2009

Marketing with "free reports" achieves little, reflects poorly on you

by Trey Ryder

Look in almost any newspaper and you'll see a FR#EE REPORT offered by a lawyer, chiropractor, real estate agent, plumber -- someone from nearly every profession and trade. The marketers selling the Fr#ee Report strategy to professionals have renewed the hope of service providers who have grown tired of a lackluster response from display ads.

On occasion, lawyers have asked me to review these reports. If you're thinking about using one of these reports, here are a few observations and concerns, based on the reports I've seen.

Positives:

1. The fr#ee report gives you something tangible to offer, which you can send to the caller by mail or e-mail. This allows you to identify the interested prospect by his name and address or e-mail address. (This is good, and one of the fundamental principles of Education-Based Marketing.)

2. The fr#ee report is usually quite long. This gives you plenty of time to excite the reader and build momentum, so when the reader reaches the end, he will call for an appointment or take the desired action. (Long messages are usually more persuasive than short messages, so this is good.)

3. The fr#ee report usually explains the subject so the prospect better understands his problem, and sees you as one who can provide the solution. (This, too, is fundamental to the Education-Based Marketing process.)

In short, the offer of a fr#ee report appears to be consistent with the Education-Based Marketing model. But the fr#ee reports I've seen are not at all consistent with the my view of Education-Based Marketing.

Negatives:

1. By its nature, the information in the report must be generic so marketers can sell it to lawyers (or other professionals) who offer a similar service. While generic information can help the reader understand the subject, nowhere does the report say anything specific about you. As a result, the reader doesn't learn why he should hire you over any other lawyer. Competitively speaking, the fr#ee report falls flat.

2. The reports are usually written using high-pressure sales copy. The problem is, high-pressure sales copy turns off most people. It's like a high-pressure salesman, only on paper. The people who respond best to high-pressure copy are those who have little education. The irony is that people who don't have much education are the least likely to ask for information, such as a free report.

3. The high-pressure sales copy reflects poorly on you. Since you offer the report over your signature, the reader thinks these words are your words. Likewise, the reader thinks the letter's sales pressure comes from you. Ask yourself, are you comfortable sending prospects a written report that is filled with high-pressure sales copy? To put the shoe on the other foot, would you respond positively and make an appointment if you called and received this report by mail?

No question, offering fr#ee educational materials works. Every marketing program I create relies on fr#ee written materials as a key component. But you must be sensitive to the exact wording and the tone of the writing. Educated prospects rarely respond to high pressure copy. Instead, educated prospects want clear explanations that make sense. They want you to respect the fact that they have a brain. They want you to explain their options. And they want to make their own decisions without any pressure from you.

Often these fr#ee reports cross that line and try to pressure prospects into taking action. And then, equally as bad, someone follows up by calling the prospects on the phone. When that happens, these prospects regard you the same way they regard other telemarketers

So while educational handouts are a key tool in Education-Based Marketing, the words you choose and the tone you set are critical to attracting new clients. The free reports I've reviewed don't come anywhere close to the essence of Education-Based Marketing. Instead, they're packed with high-pressure copy designed to seize your prospect by the throat. And as a consumer, that's something I've never appreciated.

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© Trey Ryder

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