Are web forms which capture a person’s name, company name, and email address (and often, additional fields) as a mandatory pre-requisite to downloading white papers, analyst reports, data sheets, etc. a conduit for lead capture, or a hindrance to proliferation of your content? Should organizations open access to reports, papers, and other content by removing these forms?
As this continues to be debated in online marketing circles, here’s an overview of both sides:
Open Up: People are more inclined to access, and in turn share, your content when the barrier of the mandatory web form is removed. You will be able to track the leads most relevant to your selling objectives (i.e. meeting requests, inquiries, trial, etc., depending on your product/service and level of touch required) when the content, standing on its own merit, inspires action.
Keep the Web Forms: This level of sharing, sans any tracking, eliminates a common practice in lead capture, and a crucial step in the sales cycle. Foregoing web forms as a means of tracking all leads could cost an organization the opportunity to reach out to cold leads through the inside sales process.
OK, I can see both sides, and the answer really depends on what you are trying to achieve from your online content with respect to lead generation. In general, I am inclined toward opening up, in conjunction with the ongoing pursuit of community involvement and feedback on the content itself, incorporation of which will serve only to increase its value to customers and prospects.
Regardless of the asset type, incorporate strong, consistent messaging throughout your writing, and always include a strong call-to-action. David Meerman Scott in his upcoming book, World Wide Rave, challenges us to relinquish the fear and lose control of the content in order to make it meaningful.
Go ahead. Remove the web forms. Defy the fear. Open up.