Friday, January 21, 2011

The cost of free content

Say you could post a free white paper on your website and get 10,000 anonymous downloads. Or, you could require registration and get 200 downloads. What's a better option?

There's an interesting debate between HubSpot's Mike Volpe and David Meerman Scott about putting forms in front of content. Mike thinks you should. David thinks you shouldn't.

I think they're both wrong. And they're both right.

Time and privacy are the currency in today's connected world. Ask people to give you their email, and some will go away. Ask people to make a few extra clicks, and you will lose downloads. Does this mean you shouldn't ask people to register? Of course not.

Marketing 2.0 is all about building relationships with your target audience. What you get greatly depends on what you give. 
At Zend, we have tons of content available for free. You can watch lots of really useful videos, download white papers, read insightful blog posts - no registration is required. But, "pay" us a little - give us your email address - and we will send you marketing-free product alerts or a mostly-technical newsletter. Ready to "pay" the big bucks, i.e. tell us more about yourself? We're happy to let you watch one of our many webinars, or download a free trial of our commercial products.

If you're in Mike Volpe's position (or mine), you're measured on the number of qualified leads you can generate. If you're set out to build trust and interest among your target audience with the hope of turning many of them into qualified leads, remember that relationships are built over time and take a great deal of interaction. Create a "relationship building" plan - make sure you have the right content for each stage, design the right form for the right moment, and go "sell" your content.