June 11, 2007
Blog Entry

New Research: B-to-B Tech Buyers Twice As Likely to Give Valid Email Addresses Than Valid Phone Numbers When Registering for Content

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

This morning MarketingSherpa research partner KnowledgeStorm sent out a press release revealing the data you see in the headline above.

At first glance, it's an obvious truth. Let's face it, when a site asks for your phone number, it's akin to saying "Sales Rep Will Call." Many folks figure they would rather not be pestered by a sales rep so they lie about their phone number.

MarketingSherpa has additional data, on both the B-to-B and consumer marketing side, that if your online registration form asks for a phone number, the presence of that question alone can -- and usually will -- reduce response rates.

So, when you ask for a phone number people will either abandon your page or flat out lie.

What's a marketer to do? Your lead qualification team needs a phone number to follow-up. If you don't follow-up, you may lose a sale, or waste a lead.

Plus, other new MarketingSherpa data just released last week (link below) indicates at most only 11-17% of business prospects are actively annoyed by the phone call when they get it. In fact, 53-45% of the executives admit a cold call they received made a positive difference in their new vendor or technology selection decisions. The cold call helped the vendor leapfrog onto the consideration shortlist.

My advice?

#1. Do you have to get the number from the prospect directly?

If your marketing database is remotely up to snuff, chances are you have a phone number -- at least a main number -- on file for that organization already. Even if you market to fairly small organizations, these days in B-to-B you're marketing to a committee. So, several members may have already given you that data via other media (such as trade show contacts.)

You can also buy and append main company phone numbers for your database fairly easily, without breaking any privacy regs. Or you can use look-up services such as JigSaw.com to append manually.

#2. Can you get the number further down the pipeline?

If you get an email opt-in or a webinar RSVP, you have a chance to get a phone number later. Do you need the phone number right now … or do you need it when the prospect is a bit further along in the sales cycle? For example:

- Could you ask for the phone number on the sign-in form for a webinar rather than on a webinar invite form?

- How about asking for phone number as one of the questions - preferably the last - for a survey or giveaway to your email file?

#3. Pre-fill a phone number and get it corrected by the prospect

One nearly guaranteed way to raise response rates to a B-to-B offer is to pre-fill a registration form so prospects don't have to type in their contact information. It's already there for them. All they have to do is eyeball it for possible corrections, answer a further question or two, and then click submit.

This requires more work up front from your team, but personalized URLs and pre-filled landing pages have come a long way in the last few years. And, your content offer conversion rates could go from an average of under 10% to over 40%. That's a big enough difference to be worth testing marketing tech investment.

If you have a generic phone number on file, put that in and see if the prospect fixes it. Or, ask for their extension as your extra question.

#4. Consider not *requiring* a phone number on forms

I've seen Case Study evidence that when a marketer asked for a phone number but didn't make it a required field, he ended up with both better phone numbers and more responses as a result.

Prospects may see the non-required field as a sign of respect. You as marketer respect their privacy. If they don't want to get a call, you won't call. You won't force the issue. That respect can engender respect in return.

#5. Budget extra for phone number research

Lastly, use this data to get your database budget increased. The fact is, humans are humans, so they're going to lie about their phone numbers. Your job as a marketer is to gather the information for the CRM system or sales database that your team will need to follow-up properly.

Consider making "getting the correct phone number" a separate line item from "getting registered leads" in your budget. After all, even if you don't budget that way, your prospects are responding that way.

Here are two hotlinks related to this blog:

The Executive Summary of MarketingSherpa's new Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide which contains a chart showing response results for cold call telemarketing:
(Open access)

The formal press release about the findings with our research partner KnowledgeStorm

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