There is a frequent argument among marketing professionals about whether you should place a form in front of your content to capture prospect info or whether it’s better to make the content more easily downloaded and shareable by not having a form.
There are clearly pros and cons to each approach and it really depends on your objective, which is the right answer. If your goal is for as many people as possible to see your thought leadership piece, then putting a form in front of that may prevent that. You need to make it easily shareable and allow anyone to download it but if you follow this approach then you have no contact info for follow-up.
On the other hand, if you are conducting a campaign that is about generating leads and building a database then it’s clear that you need a form to capture the info. However, the downside is that it’s more difficult to share the content pieces and some good prospects may refuse to complete the form for fear of being constantly hounded by inside sales.
I don’t think it needs to be that way though. It’s not an either/or proposition, if you build an integrated marketing plan. You need to use a mix of different content and offers that target prospects at different stages. Some of this should be behind a form and some should not be. That way you can get the benefits of both having a form and not having one with the biggest downside being that you need to create more content. No simple task, I know.
The reality is you don’t want or need everyone to fill in a form. What you do want and need is the right prospect to fill in the form at the right time. And that’s the key; you need to map your content into the sales funnel and use it to get found and be a thought leader with educational content. After you have built a certain level of trust, weave in more compelling content that is more valuable so prospects will want to give you their contact info. And/or, allow them to enter their contact info at any point when they are interacting with you but don’t make them.
For example, I’ve seen many successful bloggers build an audience for their blog by giving away great content for free but also asking for you to sign-up and then provide even more valuable content (some of which they may charge for) after they have built a certain level of trust. This idea really works and is at the heart of content marketing and what I see as demand generation.
However, very few B2B companies use this same approach and I don’t understand why. In so many cases, you either need to fill in a form to get the info and then get hounded to death or you can download it freely but never get asked for your contact info. Why can’t these be combined?
As I outlined in my last post, why not drive prospects to a landing page but instead of making the prospect fill in a form to download the content give away the thought leadership piece while at the same time see if they want to sign-up for an upcoming webinar, be added to an email list or contact you for more info.
If your plan is truly integrated, you will be touching people multiple times and don’t need to do it all in one push so using a form in some cases and not in others makes a lot of sense. Along the way, you’ll build trust and a relationship with prospects so that they won’t even think twice about giving you more info when they are ready. Heck, they may even call you.