During a recent Webinar on content marketing, a speaker blasted “teases” that force the reader to provide their personal information to get to the white paper or other collateral they want. If the prospect can’t immediately get what they want from your site, the speaker said, they’ll just “go to your competitor’s Web site and see if they can get it from there. The more you can give them the better.”

I, too, used to hate registration pages as a waste of time that just lead to clumsy “Hi, I was following up on your recent request for information…” phone calls. The presence of a form makes it much more likely readers will abandon your site or give false information to avoid a follow-up sales call, and less likely they’ll share your information with others.

But as time goes on, I find myself actually more likely than in the past to fill out these forms, if the content looks good enough and the form is reasonably short. As I try to show quick returns for clients looking for leads from Web sites, a registration page is actually a quick way to generate some names, even if those names haven’t been qualified or scored as leads. And a registration page is certainly easier than selling the client on even a low-end marketing automation system, much less implementing it.

So what is better: Free or gated? The folks over at the Inbound Marketing University Blog earlier this year concluded that forms are OK when (for example) you want leads more than sheer traffic, are filling your sales funnel, have already built a reputation and now want to develop relationships, have a complex sales cycle and are offering content for later stages of the buying cycle. If you just want to spread the word and make your reputation, or are selling a simple product or service, keep it free.

They’re on the right track but their neat distinctions don’t go far enough. A registration page won’t filter out the curious journalist or graduate student, or distinguish between the early-stage tire kicker and the late stage decision maker. (I’ve filled out registration pages for far too many products I don’t need or can’t afford.)

Ideally, I’d create content designed to attract prospects at different stages of the buying cycle. Using a marketing automation platform, I’d track their readership of free content early in the cycle and use a registration page only for those whose digital body language – their reading behavior — showed they were more ready to buy and thus more willing to be called.

What I need for my clients is a marketing automation platform that’s easy enough to use and low-cost enough to let me prove the concept without a huge time and money investment up front. Any ideas?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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