By Stephanie Tilton published March 15, 2012

Are Your Content Registration Forms an Entry Point or a Barrier?

Content registration is sometimes considered a no-brainer in the content generation and distribution process: Write a white paper, eBook, or other content asset, put up a landing page and reg form, and you’re off, right? The problem is that registration can create friction in the lead generation and nurturing process. Marketers need to strategically decide when it’s appropriate to ask for contact details in exchange for content — and how much information to request.

You can’t always get what you want

Don’t assume prospects are willing to provide their information just because you’re delivering a meaty report or white paper. Buyers don’t only base their decision to provide contact information on the value of the content you provide. Rather, they more often are concerned about holding vendors at arm’s length until they’re far along in their buying decision process (which helps explain why 70 percent of tech purchases are at the RFP stage by the time the vendor knows about the opportunity).

Consider these findings from TechTarget’s report, “When Worlds Converge:Similarities in Brand Reception and Media Consumption of IT and Personal Technology Buyers. Of the 3,269 IT buyers surveyed, 43 percent said they were somewhat willing and 42 percent were very willing to share their contact information when they are ready to make a purchase. However, while 53 percent of respondents were somewhat willing to provide those details in exchange for “expert or editorial information,” only 19 percent were very willing to do so in the same scenario.

Add to this the fact that separate research (sponsored by Janrain and conducted by Blue Research in October 2011) uncovered that 88 percent of consumers admitted to having given incorrect profile information on registration forms. It’s no wonder that Sirius Decisions found that 10 to 25 percent of all prospect records contain critical data errors.

Source: When Worlds Converge: Similarities in Brand Reception and Media Consumption of IT and Personal Technology Buyers

In fact, when IT buyers click to download your content, much like their consumer counterparts, the majority don’t want the vendor to contact them as a result.

Source: When Worlds Converge: Similarities in Brand Reception and Media Consumption of IT and Personal Technology Buyers

Is it any wonder that 38 percent of these respondents give their personal email address (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.), rather than their business address when registering for vendor information? In cases where registration is required but they’re not ready to talk to a vendor, IT buyers do all they can to maintain control over interactions. In fact, 71 percent of the IT buyers surveyed refuse to provide their business account so as not to get inundated with messages.

Source: When Worlds Converge: Similarities in Brand Reception and Media Consumption of IT and Personal Technology Buyers

Keep it short and sweet

So how can you collect the information you need to start engaging and determining whether or not someone is truly a prospective customer? Ideally you build up the information using progressive profiling, rather than hitting  someone with a 10- or 15-field registration form from the get-go. With this approach, you pre-populate the form with the information you’ve already gathered about the prospect, and collect incremental information during each successive interaction. You can also augment the information you gather with data from third-party providers such as JigSaw or ZoomInfo. By minimizing the burden on the site visitor, you increase the chances of collecting information.

According to a MarketingSherpa case study, HP trimmed its confusing 15-field monster of a registration form to five essential fields. It also collected visitors’ IP addresses and email domain names to cross-reference them with third-party data. The results speak for themselves: The new form yielded a 40 percent conversion rate — an increase of 186 percent — among visitors from HP’s support pages.

Tap into social sign-on

Another option is to reduce the need for forms. Social sign-on allows site visitors to use the information from their profiles on social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, and Twitter to fill out your registration form. According to the Blue Research study mentioned earlier, 77 percent of those surveyed feel social login should be offered. (And 54 percent may leave a website if asked to register the traditional way).

A few vendors offering solutions enabling social sign-on:

Test your forms and formulate a strategy

The problem many organizations run into when debating the registration form issue is that they are basing their arguments and decisions on gut instinct. Instead, approach registration from a strategic, analytical perspective, just as you do with your landing pages and emails. Run a test of your forms with a different number of fields and measure the results. Marketo, a company offering marketing automation software, did just that and found that the longer the form, the lower the conversion rate and the higher the cost-per-lead (see the table below).

Source: http://www.marketingexperiments.com/blog/internet-marketing-strategy/lead-generation-testing-form-field-length-reduces-cost-per-lead-by-10-66.html

Ultimately, the registration information you request should logically relate to the content that people are accessing on your site. In other words, map out the buyer’s purchase process and how your content fits at each stage. Then determine which bits of information you can reasonably request at each stage.

As you can see in the mapping scenario above, there will be times you provide content for free (i.e., no registration required). But that doesn’t mean you’ll have no idea who is visiting your site and checking out your content. Many marketing automation systems support anonymous site visitor tracking, enabling you to tie a visitor to an IP address, which can then be cross-referenced against the WHOIS database for the site owner’s name. netFactor, eTrigue, and VisiStat also provide visitor-tracking solutions.

Remember, by making it easy for prospects and customers to access the information they need, you will deliver an experience that stands out — and could very well factor into the final purchase decision.

What suggestions can you offer to reduce friction in the lead-generation and nurturing processes? 

Author: Stephanie Tilton

Stephanie Tilton is a content-marketing consultant who helps B2B companies craft content that engages prospects and customers, nurtures leads, and advances the buying cycle. You can follow her on Twitter @StephanieTilton or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

Other posts by Stephanie Tilton

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