The online marketing mantra these days is inbound, content marketing. Instead of pounding the pavement, potential clients come to your door, or more accurately, your emailbox. You design a wonderfully effective website, attract enough traffic, and then interested potential purchasers respond at a minimum with their email address, and even more positively, with phone and other direct contact information.
The idea, of course, is to warm up potential clients, gather enough information, and either make the immediate sale or, more likely, build the relationship, perhaps by providing leads for the sales team, or at a lower level, data for your eletter and ongoing promotional initiatives.
With professional and specialized services, the road to success here usually involves providing valuable free information and some sort of white paper or report (or maybe a video) outlining a solution to the challenge the potential clients seek to solve.
However, if you’ve ever seen offers seeking the information exchange, unless there is real trust, the potential “customer” will try to avoid giving you real contact information in exchange for the free stuff. This will especially happen if you force the point: For example, by providing a very small sample and cutting off the rest of the information, or you simply don’t build enough rapport first. (This can happen when you use paid advertising online to drive traffic to your landing page; the potential clients see the report/information, but know they got there because they answered an ad — and they simply aren’t ready to be nice and share their information.)
Solutions (from the readers’ perspectives): Provide fake email addresses to open the door to the web page with the hidden information, or in some cases, figure another work-around, perhaps by finding the information through deeper keyword searches — bringing up the relevant hidden files without sharing any personal data.
There are ways to manage the situation. John Pate at New Destiny Media suggests that you can play the “catch me if you can” game with people trying to access your information by refusing to share anything useful if they don’t provide real data about themselves.
The issue here, again, is your lead still can enter email@example.com as their email address. Annoying, isn’t it? It’s tempting to connive a way to beat your leads at their own game. Here’s one way:
Put your download link in an email instead of on a thank you page. This is a favorite ploy of email vendors like Aweber. This is how to do it: Auto-generate a follow up email and insert your download link in that email. You’d have to be clear on your landing page: “Fill out the form and then check your inbox.” In Hubspot, you’d generate a workflow that would auto-send that email as soon as your lead submits the form.
Pate rightfully points out this strategy may help you avoid fake names, but does it really help you attract real leads who will be predisposed to doing business with you?
- It removes your accountability to create inbound campaigns using inbound methodology the right ways. By removing your accountablity, you could create a half-baked landing page, a crummy CTA, and your visitor will still supply their contact information. But will they ever come back to your website or ever contact you?
- It’s manipulative.
- You’ll still get tire-kickers. They’ll supply a junk email in the first place and then immediately unsubscribe. (Because of the Can Spam Act, all emails need to include an unsubscribe link.)
In other words, just capturing names doesn’t mean much — unless all you really want is a collection of email addresses, regardless of quality.
(In our own business, this “numbers game” may have some value. Potential advertisers often ask for information about circulation, and the larger the number, the better, at least if they can be defined as qualified in some way. Of course, the conversion rate may be dubious, and a smaller, refined and much more interactive list would provide much better value to the advertisers, but when you are selling advertising, rather than direct results, more names may be better.)
The correct general solution, says Pate (and I agree) is to provide really good content and an enticing introductory experience. In other words, to treat your potential clients with respect.
The objective, of course, is not simply to capture names. It is to begin relationship-building. You can collect dozens of names from online list brokers or the old phone books. In fact, you want many fewer names who will be much closer to you.