Lead Capture for SMBs: Registration

April 14th, 2011 by Sean Dwyer

As I highlighted in the post, Lead Capture for SMBs: Targeting, effective Lead Capture involves the following:

1.       Targeting – Identifying who you want to capture as leads

2.       Positioning & Messaging – Appearing relevant to your target leads

3.       Registration – Inspiring target leads to share contact information with you

4.       Measurement – Understanding Lead Capture program performance and seeking ways to improve

Today, I would like to cover Registration – Inspiring Target Leads to Share Contact Information.

Lead Capture sources range in cost per lead (CPL), predictability of Lead Capture and lead quality. Since the website is the primary point of Lead Capture for so many B2B companies, the focus of this section will be on best practices for capturing leads via your website. Other lead sources, such as trade shows, mailing list purchases, will be covered briefly.

Website Lead Capture consists of two important considerations:

  • When to ask people to register
  • What information to collect in the registration form

Best Practices – When to ask people to register

Deciding what website content requires registration to access is usually hotly debated within companies. If you require registration in too many places, leads may decide that learning about your offering isn’t worth all the data entry effort and turn to a competitor. If you give too much content away freely, then you may find your marketing database growing at a slower pace.

Registration is tit-for-tat – If you give away valuable content, it’s reasonable to expect people to provide some information in return. The more valuable the content, the more information you can ask in return. Website visitors generally expect unencumbered access to your product overview to learn what it does, what makes it different from other products, what benefits it provides, etc. There’s no one-size-fits-all practice, but the following guidelines on what content typically requires registration should provide a useful starting point.

Content Register? Best Practices
Product Overview No Requiring registration for basic product info is atypical.
One exception to the rule is prior to company or product launch; it’s not uncommon for startups to put a brief market positioning statement on the website and require people to register to get a confidential “early peek” at your offering. Just be sure to explain that on the registration form: “The Acme Widget is currently under development, and we are only sharing product information on a confidential basis during the pre-release period. If you would like to learn more, please complete the form below.”
Customer Testimonials No Testimonials should be freely available—they tend to motivate people to want to register to get more details on your offering.
Product Benchmarks No Product performance or cost savings benchmarks (if applicable) should be freely available—they tend to motivate people to want to register to get more details on your offering.
White Papers Yes At high-tech companies, the “Technical Overview” white paper is often the top download. Your product overview will make claims like “Acme Widgets are 10 times more widget-y than other widgets due to our patented Widgexcel technology.” Good prospects are typically willing to register to learn how your “secret sauce” works so they can decide whether to believe your benefit claims. Therefore, if it makes sense for you to do so, author a technical overview white paper and promote it heavily on your website. If you offer a library of white papers, keep it at the top of the list so it’s easy to find. One LoopFuse customer reported that within a week of publication, their Technical Overview white paper became the top download among their substantial white paper library.

Thought leadership papers (e.g., best practices papers) should require registration. If they offer actionable advice to help readers improve job performance, it’s fair to ask for contact information in return.

If you have a large library of white papers:

  • Be judicious about which papers to publish.
  • Remove out-of-date papers from the site.
  • Consider keeping some papers private so that sales people can send them individually to prospects to as part of nurturing campaigns.
Live Webinars Yes Webinars require time and expense to produce and often feature paid industry experts or customers presenting exclusive insight to viewers. Therefore, it’s reasonable to require people to register.
Since live webinars tend to be a strong draw, it’s usually safe to ask for more information from registrants. You won’t turn away too many leads by asking qualifying or segmentation questions about their interest or situation, in addition to basic contact information.
Recorded Webinars Yes, then No It’s fair to require registration to view webinar recordings and webcasts for the same reason you require registration for the live event.
However, recordings often lose their capture power over time; usually within weeks (refer to your marketing automation system to view Lead Capture performance over time). And they hold more value as viral marketing and SEO assets—consider giving webinar recordings away freely via YouTube and the slides via Slideshare to help drive more traffic to your website.
Free Trials or Freemium Offerings Yes Registration is usually necessary in order for you activate the service or provide prospects with “getting started” information. You can also typically request extra information from people at this point, so don’t be afraid to ask for some additional qualifying or segmentation information. People are getting a free product or service that you spent a lot of time and money creating; it’s more than fair to expect some contact information in return.
In some markets, such as open source software, people expect to be able to download your offering without having to register. That’s fine, but be sure to offer them the chance to register at the point of download or install (by presenting a form, plus an alternative “No thanks, just take me to the download” link)—inform them that this is not a sales tactic, it’s to help provide them better support because registered downloaders receive support bulletins via email, etc.
On-line training/video No (usually) Video content should be freely accessible. And if possible, posted to YouTube to help drive traffic to your website.
One possible exception is online training. Even here, you probably want to make the content freely accessible. It sends a positive message about the support and customer experience you provide.

Register once, get everything – One of the benefits of marketing automation is that it permits you to ask new leads to register just once – the first time they access protected content – then they can access any content freely. For example, with LoopFuse, people can register once, and then LoopFuse can automatically track who downloads what papers, videos and webcasts, etc., and add those people to lists or CRM campaigns for you to help guide lead scoring and lead nurturing.

When in doubt – If you’re not sure whether to ask for registration, then take a look at your competition. Try not to be too misaligned with website Lead Capture practices within your market; you don’t want to be the one company in your market that over-prompts people for registration information.

Best Practices – What information to collect in the registration form

Keep them short – Conventional wisdom suggests you should keep registration forms short. Requiring too much data entry from prospects is a turn off and may reduce your capture rate. For things like white papers or webinar recordings, just ask for basic contact information, including location or industry segment if that helps you assign leads to sales people. If you never mail material, then don’t ask for street address. If your lead follow up is via email primarily, then don’t ask for phone number.

If you must have multiple forms, pre-fill the fields for repeat registrants – Ideally, you use your marketing automation system to allow users to register once online and then freely access all protected content, as described in the prior section. If that’s not possible, or if you have forms that request different information, then use your marketing automation system to pre-fill the form fields with previously entered data for repeat registrants.

Allow non-corporate email addresses – Some companies force registrants to enter a corporate email address (i.e., not a Yahoo or Gmail address). True, it can be a good qualifier, but more likely it’ll be a frustration to registrants. Plus, if you permit them to enter personal addresses, you can still keep in touch with them if they switch employers.

Use pick-list fields for better data quality – The more consistent your lead data is, the better you’ll be able to use it for lead nurturing, lead assignment and lead scoring. Avoid free-form data entry fields wherever possible. For example, don’t allow free-form entry of things like Country or State/Province or Industry or Job Title/Function—present people a pick-list from which to choose a response.

Post registration forms on landing pages – If you advertise online (via banner ads or search engine pay-per-click ads), your ads will bring people to a landing page on your website. If your ad promotes a free white paper or webcast for example, then the ad should bring people to a web page that includes the sign-up form on the landing page as in the example to the right. Your Lead Capture rates will be higher than if the ad brings them to the home page and you rely on them to browse the site looking for the sign up.

Collecting market data prior to launch – Prior to company or product launch, gathering more detailed intelligence about leads can be worth more than netting a high volume of leads. So, go ahead and ask questions like:

  • Industry? (can help you focus on certain vertical markets)
  • Company Size? (can help with market targeting; give people choices: Under 100 employees (small), 101-500 (medium-sized), 500+ (large))
  • Job title? (can tell you which people are your best prospects within your target companies)
  • Why are you interested in learning about Acme Widgets? (helps with market sizing; if 60 people out of 100 choose b) or c) below, you can say 60% of your leads are potentially qualified buyers)

a)      Just staying current on new Widget technology

b)      Our existing Widgets need upgrading

c)       We are thinking about buying our first Widget

Two other things to remember with questions like these:

1.       At the top of your form, consider adding an explanation: “For a limited time, we are asking extra questions to help us improve the quality and availability of our product. Thanks in advance for your detailed input; it will be kept confidential.”

2.       You’ll probably gather what you need to learn from the detailed questions pretty quickly — often within a few weeks — depending on your Lead Capture rate. As soon as the answers stop telling you anything new, remove the questions from the form.

CRM integration – Leads are generally uploaded into a CRM like Salesforce.com after being captured via the web. CRM integration will be covered in detail in a future Best Practices Guide. A few important Lead-Capture/CRM integration best practices include the following:

  • Use Marketing Automation software – Uploading lead data to the CRM eliminates duplicate leads and makes other CRM integration best practices easier to follow.
  • Assign immutable lead source values – Lead Capture forms should always have a Lead_Source field that (in LoopFuse terminology) contains a static value (the name of the landing page or form) in a constant field. The constant setting ensures the Lead_Source value will not be overwritten if the lead already exists in the CRM (e.g., you won’t change the prospect’s lead source value every time they fill out a form on your website). This allows you to analyze return on investment (ROI) and lead quality by lead source.
  • Use Campaigns – Have LoopFuse automatically add captured leads to CRM “campaigns,” associated with each Lead Capture form (e.g., Product Evaluation Download, Webinar 1 signup, Webinar 2 signup, and so on). Campaign reporting in the CRM shows how qualified sales opportunities have been influenced by different marketing campaigns to help marketing measure campaign ROI.
  • Selective Lead uploads and assignment rules – You may not want all leads to be uploaded to your CRM. Some companies have policies of only uploading sellable leads to the CRM; the others remain in the Marketing Automation system. Non-sellable leads might be students, job-seekers, people from certain geographies for which you have no sales coverage, etc. You can implement a LeadFlow in LoopFuse that only exports sellable leads to the CRM. LeadFlows can also implement rules for assigning leads to sales people (CRM lead “owners”) based on geography, industry or other ways you might assign sales territories.


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