When free content isn't really free
B-to-b marketing organizations that use whitepapers, case studies, data sheets and other PDF documents in their lead generation campaigns want to capture as much information as possible from their readers. Unfortunately, many marketers seem determined to take more than they give — few realizing that how much they take may not be as important as how they take it.
Marketers commonly expect readers to provide a range of information in exchange for access to this content. Anyone who has ever downloaded a complementary whitepaper will tell you that, in the b-to-b world, there's no such thing as free content.
Capturing reader data is a perfectly valid marketing strategy. Companies invest significant resources in their PDF-based content. For most readers, providing a reasonable amount of information for such content represents a fair give and take. However, marketers and their readers don't seem to agree on what constitutes a reasonable amount of information. Perhaps more importantly, they don't agree on how to gather this information.
Individuals who wish to read a whitepaper will commonly have to complete a long Web form before they are even allowed to download the PDF. For many readers, this amounts to being asked for too much, too soon.
B-to-b marketers know only too well that many readers provide false information. Further, it seems distinctly likely that when confronted with excessively long Web forms, a great many readers will simply decide against downloading content at all.
How to create Web forms that gather a useful amount of data without putting off readers is a continual point of contention among marketers. What these marketers should really be debating is how they can go beyond the Web form paradigm.
Why not embed forms inside a document to gather reader information through a series of interactive surveys? Readers could preview content before deciding whether it was worth completing a survey for more.
As technologies emerge to facilitate this kind of dynamic, interactive information gathering, the game of give and take that marketers play with their readers will become a great deal more balanced. And in the end, everyone will win.