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I hope this is an appropriate forum for this topic. If not, I apologize.

To rephrase the question, I am debating a new tactic that some marketers are trying to implement that goes against everything I know about site usability, retention, conversion, etc. Now, I need some hard evidence (read as best practice documents from reliable sources) to back what I know to be true so that I can squash this down. I totally understand that the only hard evidence is data and I am working that angle on my own.

The idea is simple. Advertise that we have white paper "X" and point the user to a custom landing page. This is where things have started going wrong. Here's the process:

  1. Get to landing page
  2. Fill out form to receive an email on how to download it (seriously...I know)
  3. Thank you...check your email
  4. Click link in email and get to a download page (branded similar to the original landing page)
  5. File downloads automatically if it can. We also showcase other documents the user might be interested in.

The process above was the best compromise I could sell them on. #5 is the hot point here though because they don't like the "extra step" when it could have ended with #4 if the email had a direct link to the file.

So, I know there is so much wrong with this, but I cannot seem to sell 2 main things. I'm hoping you guys can point me in the right direction on these 2 things.

  1. Why shouldn't they leave the site in the first place
  2. Why, if #1 has to happen, should step #5 exist.

Remember, professional opinions need to be left out of it. I need hard evidence (read as best practice documents from reliable sources) to present to the product marketing manager.

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BTW, I think you should re-title your question. On first read, it sounds like you might ask something else more related to bounce rate, content, etc. Just a constructive suggestion. :) –  Chris Adragna Dec 17 '10 at 20:55
    
Do you have a suggestion? I think the "Why" in the question differentiates it from a "how" version, which means something totally different. –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:33

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I hate this. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Every time I see a website that makes me fxcking register just to get a fxking download I generally leave the site because someone else is going to offer it for less work.

These sites also stink of marketing-collectors so when I see them, I feel that if I DO sign up, I'm going to get spammed to the end of the world and back.

I know this is just anecdotal, but if you get enough anecdotal evidence that might be enough.

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I totally agree. Just have ONE landing page where you can download the document directly. You can still show links to related documents, etc. –  DisgruntledGoat Dec 18 '10 at 1:20
    
This means follow a customer growth tactic where marketing grows potential for the customer and passes ready customers to sales. My company i not ready to make a transition like this. They are still operating in the archaic mindset where they left a printed paper on a customer's desk during an on-site sale and sales would pick up from there. Basically, Marketing creates the materials and Sales does the rest. I'm trying to help them understand why this is wrong in internet marketing. The first step is to show why keeping the customer engaged on the site is so important. –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:36

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If someone hitting a landing page perceives value in what is being offered then they will not be worried about providing their name and email (real or fake). If there is no perceived value then they will not bother.

The only way to get 'hard evidence' is to do some testing.

First off what is the Product Marketing Manager trying to accomplish? What's the end goal? If it's to generate leads then what you described above is method seen quite a bit. There are also many other ways to generate leads (and to get qualified leads).

Yes, step #5 should exist. It would be considered 'up-selling'. Just like when you walk into McDonalds and they ask 'Would you like fries with that?'

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I agree with you and it is why I'm trying to push on both up-selling and keeping engagement on the site itself. As far as hard evidence. I suppose hard is the wrong word. I know for a fact that what I'm trying to do is best practice. I just cannot seem to find anything reliable to source for said best practice. –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:39

This approach was a bit unespecific.

My question at this point is: is the paper free or not?

If it is free, please, let it be really free. I can agree with a captcha, not with a form for something free. Someone will download the paper and put it on rapidshare, 4shared, or even a rival website, for free and most people will end up downloading with less effort.

If the paper isn't free, then you should ask for registration first and so on (note that risks I mentioned before still exists).

And if you wanna track users for ensure you can inform then later about probably interesting papers, use a newsletter.

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Kevin, I have a renegade suggestion:

Have them fill out a form with the various fields (first, last, email, etc.), but do not validate the input. In other words, allow a bogus email address still to bring them to a download. You could still do something client-side to test whether the email looks valid. Outrageous, right? :-) I can't predict what your percentage of compliance would be, but by eliminating a step you might get a larger overall base.

To illustrate my point, suppose that loosening up might double the base of users who engage with you, and 50% of them give you false contact info, it turns out to be the same number of verifiable users/prospects. And there's a kicker...

For the 50% who gave you bad data, you might still be able to convert them to a sale, right? They do have the white paper, and if that's a good experience, they'll come back for more. You just can't try to sell to them "proactively" until then. OTOH if the white paper is not convincing, whether they provided a verifiable email or not, you would not make a sale, so it's practically no different.

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My original marketing design was to make the form un-required completely by allowing download and offering a "sign up for more like this" notification system. That was shot down in the push for more leads (Are more bad leads really better?). My second incarnation was to have the form with nothing required (We need leads to have real information). Then came the "we need to force them to get it though email" that I've outlined above. –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:30
    
The problem at hand with this marketing team is that they are very much thinking in the old fashion print marketing methods...Everything is a lead that should go to sales. Unfortunately, internet marketing is a totally different game. You think, being an internet marketing company, they'd get this...but they don't. –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:31

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