To Require Registration or Not to Require Registration, That is the Question

To Require Registration or Not to Require Registration, That is the Question
Jamie Lee Wallace - Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 01:27AM
Comments: 41

Gotcha!
Forms requiring Web users to input their personal information in exchange for access to a white paper, special report, or webinar are everywhere. This tactic - often referred to as "data capture" - is frequently used to build lists of potential "sales targets." As an online marketer, I'm not unilaterally opposed to the concept, but the ideas in David Meerman Scott's fascinating and fun book World Wide Rave have turned my long-time assumptions on their heads.

The very terminology of the status quo strategy has a negative sound to it. After all, how desperate are you if you have to "capture" someone's contact information? What potential customer or partner would enjoy being referred to as a "target?" Scott advises marketers to "give up control" and offer content "totally free for people to access, with absolutely no virtual strings attached..."

Working the Crowd
In many cases, the number of people who will ultimately submit personal information is relatively small compared to the total number of folks initially interested in your documents. Scott's theory states that removing barriers to download will result in your white paper or video being viewed (and shared!) by more people.

I'm only about a third of the way through Scott's book, but I suppose that whether you are willing to eliminate your registration requirement depends upon your goals and how confident you are in the quality of your materials and ultimate offer. Are you simply employing a bait-and-switch tactic, or is what you have to offer so compelling that people will voluntarily come back for more? Here at Savvy B2B, we'd love to have every single reader RSS our feed and download our bonus materials (coming soon - stay tuned!). A week ago, I would not have considered any strategy other than bartering with readers - you give us your email address and we'll give you this really cool tool or special report. But now, I'm not so sure.

Real-world, Rock-and-Roll Example
A couple years ago, I visited David Bowie's official Web site. A "long-time fan, first time visitor," I was excited to see what this always surprising and innovative artist would have to offer to Web-based groupies. Imagine my dismay when I found that nearly the entire site was locked away behind a membership-only requirement. And, let me tell you, membership wasn't cheap! I left the site feeling more than a little bit betrayed. The genius of Bowie was tarnished in my eyes.

I visited Bowie's site again today after a two-year hiatus. I'm pleased to report that, although there is still a membership requirement for "premium" access, there is a great deal of free content available up front with "no strings attached." I'm not forgiving him completely, but I'm thinking about it.

4 Questions to Consider for Your Business
Though you may not be a bona fide rock start, you can take a lesson from Bowie and think about offering at least some of your content without making any demands of your prospects. Here are four questions to consider regarding required registration:

1. What is your real goal? Are you simply trying to "capture" as many email addresses as possible, or are you trying to get word out about your products & services?


2. Apart from having an email address, what other benefit do you expect to gain by requiring registration? (Hint - if you can't think of any other benefits, you may want to consider going without the registration.)


3. Does requiring registration fit with the style and personality of your company? (More on the "Cult of Personality" next week, but consider whether demanding personal information accurately reflects the image you desire for your company.)


4. Have you considered running a test? If you have two similar downloads to offer, try offering one from behind a registration wall and one free and clear. Check the stats and see which one gets downloaded more.

What do you think? What strategies have you employed for your business? Do you think there's a middle ground that meets all needs? Leave a comment and let us know. We'd love to have your two cents.

For now, I'm going back to World Wide Rave for more inspiration.

Image by Peter Skadberg.

Comments: 41

Comments

1. David Meerman Scott  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 09:11AM

Great analysis. Glad you found my book valuable.

It all comes down to goals.
1) You can sell information online and make a few bucks.
2) You can trade information online for a few email addresses.
3) Or you can provide information completely free and it it is any good, people will share it with their friends colleagues and familiy members exposing your work to to thousands or even millions of more people.

David

2. Tracy A. Wehringer  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 09:25AM

Dear Jamie Wallace:

Great post! I, too, went through the "benchmark" way of capturing email leads by posting case studies, whitepapers, etc., behind a password protected area. Realizing that your assumptions began to change after reading David's new book, mine started changing when I read "the New Rules of Marketing". I do agree with his methodology and have begun to implemented many of the social marketing concepts and it is making a difference.

3. Dave Martin  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 09:29AM

When I was with my last employer (JDSU) we stopped requiring people to register to view our recorded webinars (based on David's idea) and saw downloads jump from 100 over a six-month span to over 700 in just two weeks. That's pretty good evidence that it works!

4. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 10:18AM

@DM Scott - Thanks so much for stopping by and for the great 1 - 2 - 3 punch way of outlining the options marketers have. The tiered levels of exposure make your ideas ultra easy to understand. In addition to the social aspect of the concept, I love that success depends on the quality of the materials - if you provide something of VALUE, people will share it and come back for more.

@ Tracy - So glad you enjoyed the post. :) Glad to hear that you're already seeing success from the implementation of David's ideas. "New Rules" is going to be next on my business reading list!

@ Dave - Wow. What a great testimonial. That's fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing!

5. Heather Rubesch  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 10:24AM

As primarily a White Paper writer the school of thought pushed by Michael Stelzner and all the gurus in that space is force registration and they act like people will be all too willing to comply. The dirty little secret for people like me is I have a bogus email account and alias name all set up for sites like that. In an effort to keep spam low on my primary email account I never give out my actual registration for a one time download of a paper I might or might not even want to read once I see it. Just because you force registration doesn't mean you get quality data!

6. Tim Ware  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 10:49AM

Great article! Yes, over here at HyperArts we've been inspired by DM Scott's books. It's a tough sell to ween business off the habit of trading info for email addresses. Lots of old-school marketing departments out there. But the idea of giving it all away really resonates. Cheers.

7. Jamie Lee Wallace  |  my website   |   Mon Apr 13, 2009 @ 11:39AM

@ Heather - You bring up a great point about the validity of any data "captured" through an enforced registration. Better to make people WANT to align with you (based on quality content/service or a simple affinity with your brand or business practices) than to try and force them to love you. ;)

@ Tim - So many DMScott fans out there. Great to hear from some! :) There is definitely an old school mentality that requires some serious persuasion before coming round to the New Way of doing things. I think that testing can come in very handy when you need to illustrate a new concept - when a side-by-side comparison makes the issue black and white, it gets a bit tougher for the old school constituents to stand their ground. ;)

Thanks for coming by and commenting!

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10. Matthew Carey  |  my website   |   Sun Mar 23, 2014 @ 01:57PM

we've found requiring registration to greatly reduce the amount of purchases.

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