Nearly every company offering products and services to other businesses (B2B) uses the same strategy to generate leads from their websites: namely, create some content (whitepapers, podcasts, etc.) and force anyone who wants it to register by supplying her contact information.
This approach is a legacy of the first generation of the internet and is based on decade-old assumptions that no longer hold true for most of our clients. After re-examining the key assumptions, most companies choose to "tear down the fortress" of forced website registrations and choose to broadly syndicate their content to enable prospects to find it where they look and how they search.
Go to your corporate website. Can prospects obtain the information they are looking for (datasheets, case studies, etc.) without registering? Go to Google; type in the title of your best case study or whitepaper. Does your document show up in the list of results? If you answer "no" to these questions then your website is currently following the assumptions of the first generation of the internet that began a decade ago.
Many companies are unaware of the negative impact this approach is having. The reason for this is that registrations keep coming in for content. But many of these registrants are not targeted prospects and supply faulty information just to get past the fortress walls. Because the registrations keep coming in -- despite the fact that they are bad registrations -- many companies believe that everything is fine.
The problem is that it is much harder to measure how many potential prospects you are not reaching. Some prospects reach the registration page and abandon their effort. You can measure your registration abandonment rate using web analytics packages. Other prospects never make it to your website and are influenced by your competitors' content found through search or on industry-specific websites. You can estimate your impact here by searching on key terms and seeing where your content ranks on search vs. competitors, as well as tracking the traffic sources to your website. Based on these and other analyses, it is possible to determine the potential gain from taking a new approach to lead generation from your website.
Re-examine two key assumptions
Assumption No. 1: Prospects first come to the homepage of the company
Numerous studies have shown that between 50 and 70 percent of B2B site traffic is driven by search. Prospects first come to a search engine, not your website. Keeping content behind registration will not be accessed by search engines. This means that a qualified prospect may go into Google and type in his question that your whitepaper answers perfectly, and never see it. Instead, he will end up on a competitor's site that does not require registration. In addition, syndicating your content to additional sites that attract your prospects is a much more likely way of creating exposure for your offerings.
Assumption No. 2: Prospects will only provide contact information if forced
Numerous studies have shown that prospects realize that submitting accurate information will likely result in email spam or telemarketers calling them. The ways people respond to this are predictable. Some are frustrated by the need to provide any information and simply click away, never to return. Others submit false information just to get to the information they want. Some provide accurate information but then request to be removed from newsletter mail lists and are annoyed by telephone calls. Only a few actually want to be contacted and those would have told you anyway.
Prospects will provide accurate information when they want to be contacted to learn more.
Tear down the fortress
For most of our clients, the following three steps are some of the first actions taken after the analytical assessment:
- Remove registrations for content or at least provide executive summaries outside of the search engines like industry analyst firms, Forrester and Gartner, have recently done to gain traffic from search. This will dramatically improve organic search results and traffic to your site.
- Syndicate content to other sites. Do not assume prospects will find you and come to your site. Push content out aggressively to increase overall awareness.
- Find ways to engage prospects and add value to their search and qualification process. Offer them the option to ask a question from the website that is routed to inside sales for direct IM response.
These are some of the steps to fully leverage the next generation internet to dramatically increase the amount and quality of leads.
Marc Osofsky is the vice president of marketing at Optaros, the Next Generation Internet consulting firm. .