Maximize online leads with actionable downloads

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Some consumer-oriented companies and the majority of business-to-business firms don't actually sell products or services online. Rather, their Web sites are designed to educate, differentiate, build relationships and foster interaction. In short, the vast majority of these sites are intended to generate inquiries and leads. The ultimate goal - a sale - likely occurs offline in a store, on the phone or, in the case of many BTB firms, many months later.

One of the most common ways companies generate online leads is asking Web site visitors to register for information and assets. Examples include whitepapers, industry research, software downloads, online newsletters and webinars. Getting a completed registration form is equivalent to a conversion and increasing conversion rates becomes even more important. Here are five ways to maximize your online leads.

Identify Web site visitor personas. Broaden your perspective to appeal to more prospects at various stages of the buying cycle. Many different types of people visit your Web site, not just buyers who are ready to make a decision or take an action immediately. I recommend that marketers proactively identify and analyze various visitor-types or personas. Think about this person's role, their title, the type of company at which they work. Think about their specific needs and how those needs will change as they move through the buying cycle.

Map their needs to your assets. Map specific visitor needs to potential assets you can offer. Turn these items into actionable online conversions. For example, if you have a compelling success story, create a downloadable case study. If you're giving a presentation, record it and turn it into a downloadable Webinar. If you have great product literature, create a downloadable product tour.

Early in the buying process visitors might be interested in big-picture market research. Toward the middle of the cycle, product, service or vendor comparison information is very helpful. Only later in the cycle will a buyer be interested in taking actions like completing a custom quote form or a "contact me" form.

Offer multiple action choices. Your goal may be to entice visitors to download a trial version of your software. This is the primary conversion for your Web site. But many visitors will not be ready to take this action, especially those early in the buying process. For this reason, it's important to offer several action options.

Visitors who are not ready to trial your product may still be interested in learning more about it via a white paper or an online product tour. By adding these options to the landing page as secondary (perhaps less prominent) conversions, you will appeal to more visitors.

One BTB software company used its site primarily to drive trial software downloads, but by adding two secondary action options to their landing page, they increased overall leads by more than 30 percent.

Test and improve landing pages. I can't stress enough how important it is to test all aspects of landing pages. A rapid, systematic approach to testing will allow you to improve conversion rates quickly and dramatically. You'll want to test general look and feel (colors, fonts, background), page layout, images, core messages, action triggers (the words you use to motivate people to take an action) and the names and descriptions associated with downloadable assets.

For example, one company offered a "Product Overview" on its site. Based on this title, most visitors expected to download a marketing brochure, but the overview was actually much more robust. It was an interactive, self-guided tutorial. When the company changed the way it described the content to a "Virtual Tour," conversion rates more than doubled based on this simple name change.

Simplify registration forms. One of the most critical elements of the landing page is the registration form. In my opinion most online forms are too long and cumbersome. The amount of personal information required is out of line with the value delivered.

How long should your form be? The answer is different for every company, and can only be determined through market testing and measurement. I recommend that marketers test at least three different forms to determine what works best. Create a simple form, a medium-length form and a robust form. The simple form might require only e-mail address and name. The medium form could also include phone number and/or mailing address, and the detailed form might ask for additional information about the registrant and their company. Experience shows that, in general, shorter forms generate more inquiries than longer. It's also interesting to note that response rates drop significantly when marketers move beyond name and e-mail to also require phone number. Of course, shorter forms deliver less qualified leads. The challenge for marketers is to find their "sweet spot" - the online registration process that delivers the maximum quantity of leads at an acceptable qualification level.

Marketers who implement a continuous test, measure and improve processes reap the benefits by maximizing site conversion rates, better serving prospects and increasing online leads. This all translates to a huge competitive advantage.

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