How to Think Through the B2B Marketing Registration Process

How to Think Through the B2B Marketing Registration Process
Michele Linn - Tue Feb 09, 2010 @ 11:06PM
Comments: 77

How to Think Through B2B Marketing RegistrationIf you follow my posts on Savvy B2B, you know that I think it often makes sense to remove the registration requirement from your content, especially if your objective is visibility, the content targeting someone earlier in the buying process, or you don't have a good way to follow up.

Even though I think too many pieces have an unnecessary registration barrier, there are also many times when it does make sense to ask people to register for your content, such as when you need to generate a list AND you have a follow up process in place.

But, even though requiring registration is a completely valid approach, it doesn't mean that you should slap the piece behind any old form on your website and call it a day. Instead, think through the entire process. Here are the questions I ask to think through the registration process.

What will the landing page look like?
I often see something like, "Register here for this white paper" with a title and a pithy description. It's always a good practice to give people some details about what they are signing up for: what will the piece tell them and how will it help? If you are connecting your offer to something like a newsletter or an email series, you also need to be explicit about what emails the person is signing up to receive. Here are some more tips on creating an effective landing page.

What information do you want to collect on the form?
It's common knowledge (although not common practice) that your form should only ask for the information you need; every additional field you require decreases the number of people who will register for you offer.

Ardath Albee recently had a great post on her blog Marketing Interactions about designing forms with your prospect in mind. Here's her conclusion, which I think is spot-on: "What if a rule was made that every field of information collected had to be used to generate something valuable for gaining more prospect attention, creating interactions and propelling conversational opportunities?" Yes, the B2B marketng world would be a better place!

Is there a way for people to indicate that they are simply researching?
Ardath calls this out in her post as well, but this is point is so simple and important that it is worth highlighting. There are many people who aren't looking to buy when they download your offer, so let them tell you that - and, even more importantly, keep that in mind when following up.

Will your offer be available for download or will you send it in an email?
Do you want your offer to be downloaded as soon as someone registers for it, or do you want to send it in an email? I always suggest sending the download in an email; check out one of my first posts on Savvy B2B for seven reasons why.

How will you follow up?
As mentioned, this is key. We are all inundated with emails, and many people, including me, delete any follow up emails that don't have a context (i.e. why I am receiving this?) As I was telling my "Savvy Sisters" on one of our recent calls, I'm a purist when it comes to email follow up. I think it is a bad idea to collect names for a rainy day (i.e. whenever you may need them). Rather, I think your purpose needs to be explicitly stated and your emails need to follow a specific plan.

I'd love to know what else you think it important when designing your registration process. Tell me your thoughts below.

Related posts:

About the author: Michele Linn is a B2B content strategist who helps companies create content and think through how their B2B prospects will consume it (from registration to promotion). You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

Comments: 77

Comments

1. Jeff Ogden  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 10, 2010 @ 01:06AM

Interesting post, Michele. I agree with you and Ardath -- to a point. Giving content away is great if you are established with strong cash flow. But a young startup cannot afford to.

A good compromise is to ask for very little:
First name
Last name
Email

If you have progressive profiling, like is good marketing automation like Marketo, you can collect more as this person returns to your website. Company name, Country, Title, etc.

Jeff Ogden, Find New Customers
Lead Generation Made Simple
http://www.findnewcustomers.net

2. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 10, 2010 @ 06:38AM

Jeff,
I'm interested in your perspective on why start ups can't afford to give away content without a registration requirement. Until your comment, I hadn't considered how a company's maturity would impact registration. But my gut says that start ups absolutely should give away free content - maybe even more so than more established companies because it is critical that they increase visibility. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

Michele

3. Jep Castelein (LeadSloth)  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 10, 2010 @ 07:48AM

If I speak for my own 1-person business (LeadSloth), it's hard to find the time to write an eBook or whitepaper. So once I finish it, I will certainly use a registration form. However, on my blog I already give away a lot of content for free.

I think it's about finding a good balance between free content to attract people, and premium content to get conversion. If you're a bigger company and you have 10 whitepapers, you may want to give some of those away.

4. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 10, 2010 @ 09:12AM

Jep,

I understand where you are coming from! I am a one-person business, too, and while I have tons of ideas for my content, it always seems to get pushed to the back burner (and I know it shouldn't). Like you, blogging is a good compromise for me. but, if I did have time, I think the first eBook I would release would not have registration requirement becasue my goal would be visibility (if I was trying to generate a list, I would handle this differently, of course).

And, I absolutely think conversion is important, but the company needs a process in place to get those conversions. If you don't have that in place, I would seriously consider releasing the piece without any form. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences!

5. Jeff Ogden  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 10, 2010 @ 10:20AM

My white paper, How to Find New Customers, was originally posted with no registration whatsoever. Tons of downloads. But while it gave me publicity, I needed revenue. I needed prospects to nurture.

In June of last year, I added a registration form -- simple with just a few fields. It worked well, but I got some bogus emails. People would type in a bogus email.

Soon after I changed my policy. They fill out a simple form and I email them a link to download the white paper. No valid email. No white paper. I've used this process ever since, and while it may cut down on the people who access it, it's worth it.

The bottom line for me is white papers and e-books need registration. Everything else does not.

Hope this helps.

Jeff Ogden, President
Find New Customers
http://www.findnewcustomers.net

6. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Wed Feb 10, 2010 @ 02:29PM

Michele,
Great post! And obviously a topic that inspires debate. I'm with you -- even start-ups can afford to give away content without requiring registration. The content should include a call to action that points prospects to an offer or the next piece of content.

In today's B2B world, a company can't get by with a single white paper, eBook, etc. and expect to keep prospects engaged throughout the buying cycle. Even if the next step you want prospects to take is to sign up for your email newsletter, you need to produce content on an ongoing basis or folks will quickly opt out. In other words, what's the point of collecting email addresses if you have nothing further to share?

Rather than force folks to hand over their email address upon first coming across you, let them get to know you a bit and see that you understand their issues. If they're convinced by the end of the eBook, white paper, what have you that you can offer something of value, they should willingly raise their hand to receive future communications from you. You may end up with fewer email addresses than if you had required registration from the get-go, but they're likely of higher quality.

Best,
Stephanie

7. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Thu Feb 11, 2010 @ 11:22PM

@Jeff: Thanks for telling me more about your experiences and persepctive. I love that everyone does things a bit differently because we can all learn from each other.

@Stephanie: Well said!

8. Seamus Walsh  |  my website   |   Sun Feb 21, 2010 @ 06:48AM

I picked up the phone and dialed, he picked up, I said, "Hello David, you and I have never spoken, nor were you expecting this call...."

That call was to David Meerman Scott, and by the end of that call I had a lunch scheduled for later that month. When we met for lunch David we discussed this topic, "no registration" his mantra.

Armed with that, I ran a test for 60 days with a landing page, a white paper and a Google AdWords™ campaign; 30 days with and 30 days without a registration. The results surprised me. The registration required out performed the no registration for completed downloads. That said, at the end of the 60 days we made registration optional, visitors can, if they want leave their contact information.

This got me thinking, does the visitor feel that by giving me a name and email address they will get something of value and without it they are receiving commodity information? I look at my own behavior, registration does not bother me, if I want the report, I register. It's that simple.

I can tell you one thing, it's harder to sell to someone you don't know but if they do register are they more qualified? Perhaps it's time for part II of that experiment.

9. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Sun Feb 21, 2010 @ 11:15PM

Seamus,

Great to hear from you. I love your story and experiment. I, too, am surprised that you had better results when you required registration, but that's what I love about B2B marketing: there are no static answers for every audience and every situation. Just out of curiosity, were there any other variables that could have impacted registration? Was the piece promoted differently? Or maybe the "newness" of the piece had something to do with it? What were the conversion rates for each?

Like you, I don't mind registering for things, but I never thought that something that was not gated was any less valuable. Interesting theory.

Keep me posted if you continue your experiment. I'd love to hear what you learned.

Michele

10. Seamus Walsh  |  my website   |   Fri Feb 26, 2010 @ 10:07PM

Michelle, registration was required on the first test. everything else was the same. I like your "newness theory" that could of had an impact.

Since our microsite, www.salesalignment.com was new, our our goal for the experiment was eyeballs to attain the number one spot in Google organic search. We did not track conversions to revenue at that time.

Aside from that initial $2,000 advertising budget 100% our our business now comes from organic search or word of mouth, an easy metric because we have not advertised since that test.

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I was doing a competitive analysis for one of my clients, none of its competitors had an eBook on why this type of product is needed. Creating an eBook would be a great opportunity for them to stand out (i.e. if everyone is doing this, it's easy to get lost).

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