Tear down those online walls!

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Every few weeks I get a call from a sales rep following up on some webinar or white paper registration I recently filled out. I explain for the umpteenth time that I'm not a candidate for a sale but am merely learning about the market. To these sales reps, I'm a waste of time and further evidence that their marketing organizations deliver lousy leads. Marketing points the finger at the promotional partner whose mailing list is clearly substandard. Sound familiar? This battle is fought in b-to-b companies every day. Registration walls were erected in front of premium content more than a decade ago and remain stubbornly in place despite a transformation in the way awareness spreads. They are a relic of direct mail and traditional media. It's time for a 12-step program to end marketers' addiction to them. The theory behind content registration is that it creates a tangible asset—a lead—that can be measured against the asset's cost. That was OK circa 2001, when mailing lists were the only game in town. But today's diffuse fabric of links, tweets, search results and “likes” is at least as powerful as lists and far more credible. Content that lives behind firewalls is less likely to be shared by people than content that is open to the Web. It's also all but invisible to search engines. Worse is that registration walls devalue content. I've moderated scores of webcasts and can't remember the last time the sponsor sought input on quality. Why should they? When the goal is to secure a registration, the onus is on the list manager and the promotional copywriter to deliver. It doesn't matter if the speaker blathers a sales pitch in a monotone. The lead is now a sales problem. Consider an alternative approach. What if the speaker, marketer and promotional partner worked together to create an original and compelling program? What if the registration page was moved to the end so that only interested visitors filled it out? What if the entire event was open for search engines to discover and tweeters to recommend? Author David Meerman Scott knows. His free e-books have been downloaded millions of times. Had registration been required, he believes the audience would have been less than 10% of that. Software vendor Marketo has removed firewalls from all its early-stage content. Roadblocks diminish potential reach by 85% to 90%, explains VP-Marketing Jon Miller. “On the other hand, we do put midstage content behind forms because that's when we want to engage with a buyer directly,” he says. “This helps keep our funnel stocked with high-quality leads.” End the addiction. Tear down those walls. You have nothing to lose but your crappy leads.
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