When is it appropriate to put marketing content behind a registration form? The short answer is “Almost never!”
Gating your marketing content with a registration form to tends to turn people away – and undermines the benefits of content marketing.
When you put a registration form in front of anything (white paper, e-book, webinar, data sheet), it’s like asking for a payment. The cost to the visitor is the time spent filling in the form and the potential loss of privacy.
And if you’re doing this to collect leads for sales, you may be adding the sales team to the mix before the buyer is ready to engage with sales. This can damage your relationship.
So think carefully before putting this price tag on content, because you may lose the very people you want to reach. Your own experience will tell you this is true. I often click away from an e-book or paper that requires registration.
Content marketing is all about getting your content out where people can find it – not putting up walls in front of it. You want to others to share and distribute your content, and come to you when they are ready to engage further.
But sometimes you need a registration form.
There’s a lot of internal pressure (particularly from sales) to get people to fill out forms. Your marketing team might want to be able to point to leads generated from your content.
Use registration forms strategically on selected pieces of content. Good candidates include:
- High-value content – If a paper or presentation includes original research or insight from a third-party analyst, people might consider the ‘cost’ of the registration worthwhile. When you mark a few pieces of content as ‘registration-required’ you can reinforce the perception that this content has particular value.
- Webinars – We’re used to registering to attend webinars, so it’s not much of a stretch to register for a pre-recorded webinar
- Content that is later in the sales cycle – Interest in deployment guides and competitive comparisons indicates a buyer further in the sales cycle who might be almost ready to talk to a sales representative.
And if you must gate your marketing content:
Keep the registration form short. Ask for the bare minimum of information. Each additional field will cause more people to drop off. Marketing automation solutions like Marketo have ‘progressive’ forms that can help you learn a little more each time someone encounters the form without bombarding them with a long list of questions.
(Annoyed visitors are likely to fill in fictitious information if asked too many questions. I’ve never done this myself, of course…)
Don’t ask for what you already know. It seems obvious, but I cannot say how many times I have had to fill out forms repeatedly on the same site, in the same session. (That’s what cookies are for!) If you send me an email offering me an e-book, then you should be able to prefill the information you know about me – like my email address.
Tell people how you’ll use their information. Not going to sell it? Say so right up front.
For everything else, remember the old saying: If you love something, set it free!