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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Driving Online Registrations: Think Beyond the White Paper

Successful B2B marketing efforts—particularly search advertising campaigns—often utilize landing pages designed to collect registrations. Website visitors must complete a (hopefully short and simple) registration form to receive something of value. Typically this registration data is then cultivated and, if warranted, entered in the company’s lead management and sales system.

Registration tactics

There are many ways to collect registration information online. For instance, in the technology industry it’s common for visitors to register to receive:

  • White papers
  • Webinars and Webcasts
  • Trials & demos
  • Industry research
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Blogs
  • eNewsletters

The ever popular white paper

According to a study recently conducted by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa seventy-one percent of technology buyers say that white papers are the form of online content they read most frequently. And accordingly a full seventy-five percent of technology marketers include white papers in their marketing mix.

A slightly different view is offered in MarketingSherpa’s 2006 Business Technology Benchmark Guide where B2B marketers rank white papers as the third most effective tactic. Offering a free trial or demo was ranked as very effective by the most business marketers (37%), followed by Webinars (35%) and then white papers (33%).

Regardless, white papers are clearly a top B2B online registration tactic.

Type of company and audience

The Sherpa guide provides additional insights based on the type of company and their target audience. B2B marketers trying to reach large organizations (i.e. selling enterprise solutions) tend to rely first and foremost on white papers followed by Webinars. In contrast, marketers targeting SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) rely mostly on trials and demos, followed by Webinars and then white papers. These marketers also depend much more heavily on blogs and podcasts than those reaching out to large companies.

The effectiveness of registration tactics also varies by type of company. Not surprisingly software companies tend to utilize trial downloads, where as hardware and technology services companies focus more on Webinars, blogs, and papers.

Test Multiple Methods

SO… which registration tactic is best for your company? My advice: Let your audience decide. Test… test… and then test some more. The key to success is thorough and accurate results metrics such as conversion volume, conversion rate and cost/conversion. And don’t forget the more subjective but very important metric: Lead quality. I’ve written in the past about how marketers must find their sweet spot—the search marketing program that delivers the maximum
volume of leads at an acceptable cost and quality.

My own experience shows that yes, white papers are effective… but, there are a lot of white papers out there—especially in the technology space. Depending solely on this tactic won’t help you stand apart from your competition and leaves a lot of prospects on the table. The most successful B2B search campaigns I’ve seen supplement white papers with other types of downloadable assets that are more creative, interactive and appeal to various types of visitors.

After much testing, we’ve found one big winner is a self-paced, interactive product or service tour. You might be surprised how easily your current marketing materials can be re-purposed into this type of asset. In fact, in one case, just by modifying the ad text and landing page download description from “product information” to “product tour” and finally to “virtual tour” conversion rate more than doubled over a three month period!

Broaden Your Funnel

The KnowledgeStorm/MarketingSherpa study stresses one very important point that most marketers miss. Sixty percent of technology buyers say they look for different types of content depending on where they are in their buying process.

For prospects early in the cycle, general industry research and solution overviews are very popular. As people move into the consideration and comparison phase, they become more interested in case studies, trial downloads, comparison charts, and Webinars. Finally, when prospects are ready to choose a partner and purchase, Contact Us forms, Request Quote forms and interactive product selection tools work best.

But here’s the disconnect: only thirty-eight percent of B2B marketers currently customize their ad campaigns and landing pages to meet the needs of prospects at different points in the buying cycle. I’ve noticed that many marketers (particularly software marketers) want to offer only trial downloads or demos. Why? Because these registrants tend to be further along in the buying process and convert better. While your conversion metrics might look great, this proves to be a short-sighted strategy. What about all those visitors who aren’t ready for a trial yet? Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with early-cycle prospects, raise brand awareness, drive online interactions, and proactively move these folks through their buying process.

The research clearly shows that search marketers should offer action options—which I call secondary conversions. By broadening your registration funnel you will increase the overall number of inquires received. Search advertising combined with specific landing pages is a great way to drive online registrations, but don’t forget to… think beyond the white paper!

Patricia Hursh is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, Colorado-based search engine marketing agency. You can reach Patricia at patricia@smartsearchmarketing.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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