stick_guySometimes us inbound marketers toss words around as if everybody knows what they mean.

This isn’t conducted in a malicious way, of course, but it occurs because we’re so entrenched deep inside our little marketing world.

Sometimes, we forget that some people (our clients, for example) don’t know what each element of inbound marketing actually... is.

Raise your hand if you have boatloads of clients who simply write checks and walk away, giving you the space and freedom to do whatever you want with their inbound marketing strategy.

Anyone? Bueller? Didn’t think so. That doesn’t happen. We need our clients to know what’s up. A confused client is not a good client.

One particular inbound marketing item that seems to confuse a lot of clients is the offer. We all know what the word “offer” means, but what the hell is an offer in regards to inbound marketing?

Below I’ve outlined exactly what an offer is. My goal is to give you a great starting point for communicating this term (and all of the inbound marketing terms associated with the topic) to your clients.

1) The Offer

The offer itself is something you are giving (i.e., offering) your online visitor, and it’s typically free. An offer can be just about anything, although the most popular type of offer is a downloadable PDF, like an ebook, white paper or checklist. It could also be something less tangible, like a free 15-minute assessment or SEO (search engine optimization) audit.

Whatever form the offer itself takes, the most important thing is that it’s valuable and beneficial to your website visitors. The whole idea of inbound marketing is to publish awesome content that draws people to your website, and that holds true for the offers themselves. Focus on being a utility and a resource for your community.

But your offer cannot stand on its own. It needs support from all of its little inbound marketing buddies, like the CTA (call-to-action), landing page, thank you page, email campaign, social sharing and measurable analytics. Let’s talk about these pieces, too.

2) The CTA (Call-to-Action)

A CTA, or call-to-action, is a clickable image on your website that encourages the site visitor to access and download an offer. The goal of a CTA is to convert, not advertise. In other words, the CTA should be designed in such a way that the prospect knows exactly what will happen if he or she clicks through. It should be clear and concise.  

Below is an example of an effective CTA we created for the Wild Boy blog. It’s not mysterious; readers will see the CTA and know that if they click, they’ll have the opportunity to subscribe to our blog.


As another example, let’s say you’ve built an ebook offer titled “10 Website Design Trends in 2013.” Each offer you build should have a corresponding CTA. In order to direct online prospects to the offer, you need CTAs placed strategically throughout your site so they know the offer exists and can access it. CTAs can reside just about anywhere: on the homepage, underneath a blog post, on each subpage or housed on a specific resource page where visitors can access all offers in one fell swoop if they so desire.

In terms of placement, it makes sense strategically to put CTAs near or within similar content, like at the bottom of a blog post about website design or, if you’re a marketing agency, on a services page that details your agency’s website design capabilities.

3) The Landing Page

After a prospect clicks on a CTA, they are directed to a landing page. The landing page is your last chance at converting a prospect into a lead, so it’s a very important piece of this whole inbound marketing process.

The landing page should be used to demonstrate the value of the offer. Write copy that shows your prospect how he or she will benefit from downloading. A very clear and simple bullet point overview of what’s included in the offer is usually quite effective here. Include social media sharing options so your prospect can let everyone in his or her community know about your awesome offer.

So how exactly do your prospects get access to your incredibly valuable offer? That brings us to our next point...

4) The Form

The form is exactly what it sounds like. Your prospect is only given access to the offer after filling out the form, which lives on the offer’s landing page. It’s an exchange of sorts: they provide their information (i.e. name, email, occupation, or whatever information you decide you want to gather from your leads) and, in exchange, they get the offer you’re providing.

Try to keep your forms short and sweet. Having your form include 3-5 data fields is usually the sweet spot. Any longer, and you run the risk of annoying your prospects. However, longer forms make sense if the prospect is downloading a bottom-of-the-funnel offer; in other words, the offer is something a lead might download when they are getting ready to purchase your products or services, like a pricing sheet or social media assessment.

Now that you’ve captured some information about this previously anonymous online visitor, you can track their movements on your website and see which pages they are visiting. Utilize progressive forms to gather more information from your leads without forcing them to fill out long and annoying forms with way too many data fields.

Progressive forms recognize a lead’s IP address and automatically replace the data fields in a form that’s already been filled out with new data fields. This allows you to gather data from your leads that you don’t already have.

5) The Thank You Page

After filling out the form, your brand new lead is redirected to a thank you page. This is where they actually download the offer.

First and foremost, say “thank you.” Keep the copy short and sweet, but be relevant. If your lead just downloaded an assessment, for example, let them know someone from your organization will be in touch shortly to schedule the next steps. If they downloaded an ebook or whitepaper, let them know how to contact your company if they have any questions.

Include more ways for your lead to engage with your company, too, like a list of relevant blog posts or even another offer. You’ll also want to follow up with an email (pro tip: make the email super simple and use the same exactly copy and imagery you used for the thank you page!) that includes a link to download the offer.

Are We There Yet?

The elements above should give you a good start on a successful inbound marketing campaign for your brand. I’ll be back with a second post to discuss strategies to make your inbound marketing campaigns successful, like nurturing your leads and measuring analytics so you know what’s working and what isn’t.

Do you have any questions about the basic elements of inbound marketing detailed above? I’d love to help you out. Leave your comments below, or look for me on Twitter if you want to start a conversation.

George Thomas is an inbound marketer at Wild Boy, an interactive integrated marketing agency in Massillon, Ohio. He lives and breathes inbound marketing, specializing in social media strategy and business management. For reasons unknown, he has a cardboard cutout of The Biebs in his office.

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Originally published Dec 4, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated January 18 2023


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