Are you using white papers to collect business leads? Are white paper registration forms ‘old school marketing?’ Is it better to let white papers roam free with the hope that they’ll magically draw opportunity?
These are very important questions you should ask yourself. And perhaps nothing has spurred the debate more than the mass adoption of social media marketing. Many businesses are experiencing the viral marketing benefits of unleashing their white papers. Some of the benefits of letting the paper free include:
- Quick access for readers
- Less barriers to the actual paper, increasing the number of readers
- Greater likelihood people will share the white paper among their social media fans
Heck, I’ll be one of the first to say that the value of this method really does work IF your primary objective is exposure. Case in point, the Social Media Marketing Industry Report was read by 40,000 people in mere weeks and did not require registration.
However, marketing isn’t just about numbers of readers. Yes, numbers matter. However, if your objective is to generate quality leads then you really need to ask yourself what’s more important, lots of unknown readers OR many qualified names, e-mails and phone numbers.
Here’s one thing I can share about the success of the above report: Among its 40,000+ readers, less than a few dozen voluntarily e-mailed me and said this is really great, we’d like to work with you. In fact, I can only recall three or four strong prospects from among those tens of thousands of readers. If my goal was lead generation, it would have been a dismal failure (that was not my objective).
The real fine balance we face as marketers is:
1. Do we focus on collecting the lead by gating a paper with a registration form, or
2. Do we focus on exposure by providing free immediate access to a white paper.
Now it seems, a new idea has emerged, known as voluntary registration. What follows, is my assessment of the value of voluntary registration.
So here’s the deal, I came across an article from MarketingSherpa that introduced the concept of voluntary registration. Simply said, voluntary registration asks readers to fill out a form prior to reading a white paper, but says the form is optional.
The theory behind voluntary registration forms is: you can increase your readership and increase the number of quality leads. So, in not so many words, the claim is you can have your cake and eat it too.
The practice is to drive someone to a landing page where they are presented two options. Option one is to fill out the form to receive the white paper. Option two is to simply hit the submit button on the form, leaving all the fields blank and also receive the white paper.
MarketingSherpa presented Australian-based PharmOut as a case example. I was able to locate their optional registration form and take a close look at it. Click here to view the form.
At first glance, it looks like any other white paper registration form, but the words “(no registration necessary)” are included. Beyond the obvious flaws of the page (not tied to a specific white paper, …), I have some major concerns to share.
But first, did the page actually improve readership and lead generation? According to MarketingSherpa, click-through rates on the registration form increased 15.38% when prospects were told registration was optional. In addition 16% of people visiting the page provided contact information over the course of six weeks.
Does this prove that optional registration is a viable option for white papers?
Honestly, I’m not sure. And the reason I’m not sure is because of all the flaws on the registration page.
For example, the page says, “If you think the downloaded document is useful and would like to be notified when others are available, please fill out the form below. But only is (sic) you want to…….. We’ll send you an email when a new white paper, protocol is available.”
So it’s not very clear how this form was used in the sales cycle. It seems that they’re referring to something that already was downloaded based on the above text. If that’s the case, then you have to question how people are finding the landing page in the first place.
My guess is that this company drove people to this landing page, telling them they could register for a specific white paper.
One of the other problems is that after the submit button is filled out, they dump you to this page—simply a long list of stuff you can download.
What does this mean? It means that there really is no connection to any specific white paper going on here.
Summary: MarketingSherpa picked a really BAD example to introduce an interesting concept. I think the jury is still out on whether voluntary registration is viable. And, I have one last concern. Some folks might not realize the form is optional because they are skim readers. So I think the right case study needs to make it ultra-obvious the registration is not required. It’s my guess that most folks will skip registration when given the option, ultimately lowering the number of qualified leads.
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