Say Please and You Can Read Our White Paper

My recent blog on when to gate content (which requires a prospect to provide their contact info) vs. providing it for “free” on landing pages stirred a lot of back and forth in content marketing circles. Some said IT and other B2B buyers don’t want to encourage follow-up calls from clueless salespeople, while others said readers should suck it up and register. Nothing is free, you know, and we need those names to prove our marketing is paying off through lead generation.

Sure, people shouldn’t expect something for nothing, but they’ve been trained to expect it on the Web. But they will fork over their precious identity info (and, implicitly, agree to a sales call) if the content on a blog or Web site is really good, or if they’re at a point in the sales cycle when they wouldn’t be horrified to get a call from a quality sales rep.

When crafting this part of your Web marketing strategy, think of how you for example, research contract-free smartphones (as I recently did). This may not be a big ticket purchase, but it matches IT purchasing in the sheer complexity and variety of offers. If you want general information about how such a plan works, you shouldn’t have to give your name and information. If you’re comparing the costs and benefits of various plans, you still don’t want or need to talk to a salesperson. Each carrier should provide that information on their ecommerce site as a “price of entry” for being considered.

But when I’m ready I do need help figuring out which of the ten quadrillion combinations of phones and service would save me money, while providing equal service based on my specific voice and data usage. I found such a site, and would have been willing to provide my contact information (they already have my phone number, after all) and would have been willing to talk to smart, reasonably honest salesperson.

The same is true when optimizing a B2B site for IT buyers as part of your marketing strategy. Stephanie Tilton cited a Tech Target report   (registration required!) that showed 53% of IT buyers, too, were somewhat willing to provide personal information in exchange for “expert or editorial information,” but only 19% are very willing. When they’re moved to the point they’re ready to make a purchase, the number who are very willing jumped to 42%. But, the report showed, a full 83% don’t expect or want to be contacted as a result of filling out the registration form – “they want the vendor to leave it up to them as to when the outreach happens,” she said, with 18% of those 83% said they’d be annoyed if the vendor contacted them.

Most of the respondents are using such a two-pronged approach. “If a prospect is interested enough to request product literature, we make it available without gating,” says Dale Wolf. “Only “high value” content is gated when we are running push campaigns. Obviously, no registration if we are in a pull campaign where we want to create social sharing and Web traffic.”

One option was to provide the content for free, but include in it the option to receive further communications or ask a question – both of which I think should be part of every piece of content.

Ms. Tilton made the excellent point that you shouldn’t decide what to “gate” based on the time and money you put into producing it. “That’s hardly the same gauge used by prospective buyers,” she said. “Rather, they are more willing to hand over information as they move further along in the research and decision process.”

That’s why she, like me, favors what some call “progressive profiling” and others call account- based management or content segmentation – tailoring not only your gating policy, but the content itself, to where each prospect is in the sales cycle. Tracking who read what with some kind of marketing automation tool lets you give your prospects only what they need, when they need it, and saves expensive sales calls for those who want them and just make buy something.

That kind of tracking can also help you decide when it’s OK to ask them for their personal information.

 

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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