July 18, 2007

5 Actions You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Registrations & Follow-ups

SUMMARY: Creating and distributing white papers, webinars or other marketing materials is a huge job for your team, but the really important work starts once prospects register to access that information. You've collected their names, but how do you follow up to find the best leads and guide them through the cycle?

We have exclusive new data on why you should:
- Add a separate checkbox to your registration form for newsletter sign-ups
- Make print versions of white papers available
- Optimize press releases so the search engines see all your hard work
OK, so you have collected your leads and are ready to start the process to guide prospects through the sales cycle. What do you do next?

To gain insight into how marketers and users experience the post-registration process, MarketingSherpa teamed with KnowledgeStorm for part three of a survey that examined various aspects of a content-based marketing strategy. (See the hotlinks below for our take on the results of the first two parts of the survey, which discussed content creation and distribution.)

This part's questions focused on issues, including the kind of email that users want to receive after registration, their interest in other forms of communication and what kinds of assurances they want about follow-up marketing efforts to make them more comfortable with giving up their contact information. (See creative samples below for five new data charts from the survey.)

Complete results of the survey will be available at KnowledgeStorm’s Web site on Aug. 1, but we analyzed the data to identify five tactics that marketers can use now to improve their online registration processes, follow-up strategies and distribution techniques to target the highest-quality leads:

-> Tactic #1. Add registration form checkbox for email newsletters

The primary reason to place marketing materials behind a registration barrier is to add prospects to your marketing funnel -- not to boost the size of your email list. Don’t blur those goals by automatically signing registered users up for email newsletters. Make it a separate, opt-in procedure on your registration form.

Most marketers understand that follow-up emails related to a specific topic are the best response to a user’s registration. But 27% of the marketers in the survey said they thought users expect an email newsletter when they register for a white paper or webinar, and another 49% said the tactic is appropriate in some circumstances.

Users have a much different opinion: 92% said they preferred a separate checkbox for email newsletters on a registration page.

Adding a simple opt-in box to your registration will create the comfort level that the vast majority of users are looking for, and you’ll still grab a bunch of newsletter opt-ins while pursuing your primary goal: adding prospects your database.

-> Tactic #2. Include follow-up communication statement on your registration form

Although most prospects expect some kind of follow-up contact when they give their information in exchange for marketing collateral, clearly spelling out what follow-up communications they can expect might boost conversions.

89% of respondents said such a statement would make them more likely to complete a registration -- and that’s just among the group who said they expect some kind of email follow-up after registering.

Another 34% said they don’t assume that they’ll hear from a vendor by email after registering, and that group isn’t likely to welcome the surprise when messages start appearing in their email. A statement describing your follow-up plans could avoid some future ill will.

-> Tactic #3. Include registration form option to get print version of a white paper

Thanks to the convenience and low cost of the Web, B-to-B marketers rushed to shift their marketing materials online. But in their excitement, most overlooked an aspect that catalog marketers intimately understand: reaching people through multiple channels increases your chances of generating a response.

Direct mail is still a great way to reach prospects, and a sizable portion of your audience still wants to receive printed materials. So, when offering white papers as PDF downloads, add a checkbox to your registration form that lets users ask to get a printed copy, too. In the recent survey, 44% of users said they would choose to receive a print version if the option were available.

A printed version of the white paper offers another touchpoint a few days after prospects have filled out the registration form (and maybe forgotten to even look at the PDF). It’s also a good excuse for a follow-up call: “Did you receive the printed version of the white paper as you requested?”

What’s more, advances in digital printing on demand have brought the prices down significantly, and systems can even be automated to tie directly into your registration form. Consult PODi, the Digital Printing Initiative, for a list of vendors (see hotlink below).

-> Tactic #4. Limit registration form questions to essential information

Marketers hoping to maximize the lead qualification capabilities of their online registration forms can get a little greedy. In addition to basic contact and preliminary qualification information, such as name, title, company and email address, they ask questions about organization size, current systems environment and potential project timeframe and budget.

This approach treats a registration as if it’s the one and only chance to collect all the information a marketer might need -- and it can scare off your prospects. When asked which elements were most likely to influence their decision to complete an online registration form, survey respondents said privacy issues related to questions and the length of time it takes to fill out a form were their biggest concerns.

Instead, consider the exchange of a white paper or webinar as the first step in a longer nurturing process. The user’s decision to download a piece of marketing collateral is a place to start a conversation during which you will have several subsequent interactions and gradually ask more questions that fill out the prospect’s profile.

After the prospects register the first time, focus follow-up email or telephone contacts on that interaction. Ask if the white paper or webinar answered their questions or if they needed any additional information. Each time, you can gather more details about the prospects, their needs and their potential project timeframe.

-> Tactic #5. Optimize all press releases related to marketing content

Marketers understandably focus their attention on distributing white papers, webinars and other marketing material in places that reach the best prospects. But don’t overlook the value of the simple press releases that often accompany the creation of a new piece of educational content.

Every press release you write about a new piece of marketing content should be optimized for high placement on the search engines, because those releases deliver some of the highest quality leads. When asked to rank several content distribution channels for the quality of the leads they product, marketers gave links in press releases the second highest scores.

Most end users aren’t going to be on your press release distribution list or be subscribed to a newswire service, so the best way to attract those high-quality clicks is to make sure the press releases will turn up in search results related to relevant keywords.

About the survey: The survey was fielded on Feb. 8, 2007, and closed on Feb. 15, 2007. 2,701 responses were collected from buyers/end users (2,288) and marketers (413). Invitations were sent randomly to appropriate KnowledgeStorm lists.

Useful links related to this article

Charts from part three of the MarketingSherpa-KnowledgeStorm survey:

Part 1 - New Research Data: What Content Do B-to-B Customers, Prospects Yearn to Read?

Part 2 - White Papers vs Webcasts: What Prospects Prefer - New Data:

Past How-to: PR & Search Marketing: 5 Steps to Get More Press Attention by Using No-Cost Search Optimization:

PODi, the Digital Printing Initiative:

KnowledgeStorm report will be available Aug. 1:


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