Let’s suppose, for a moment, that you’re in the market for a new car.
You probably don’t just get up in the morning, head to a dealership, drive one and buy.
Before that, you might spend months – or even years – thinking about what type of car you would like. You look at other cars on the road, you notice car ads, talk with friends, and you go online to learn more about specific makes and models.
Then you head to the automaker’s website and notice they have a link for customer success stories. (Toyota does this nicely.)
You follow the link to see the customer stories and…thud.
The door’s locked. You can’t go any further without providing your name, email and perhaps 5-10 other bits of information about yourself.
It sounds ridiculous when you think about having to provide your information in exchange for seeing customer stories during a major consumer purchase. Then why is it so rampant in business-to-business marketing?
Put Out the Welcome Mat
Organizations invest heavily in getting people to come to their websites and stay. Then they do something that causes a good percentage to stop right where they are and go no further.
In the name of collecting leads, we’re interrupting the sales process and likely ticking off prospects in the process.
Last week I set out, as I occasionally do, to find examples of great customer case studies online. I followed link after link looking for examples of best practices in case studies today.
And site after site I got stopped on the threshold – unable to access content without first filling out a registration form. Not with just a few fields, but 5-10. 10 fields!
I imagine a big door a la Wizard of Oz where a little munchkin appears through a small window and asks, “Who’s there? What do you want?” In the story, Dorothy and her friends have traveled far on their journey to Oz and this is definitely not what they dreamed of.
In their journeys of seeking new solutions and service providers, prospects also don’t expect or want to arrive at a locked door – especially for content that markets a vendor’s solution.
The Sales Process Has Changed
A VP of sales at a software company told me recently that prospects call them, ready to talk, after doing their own research. They raise their hands when they’re ready. That’s the reality of the sales process today, with many of the things we buy.
For major purchases in the B2B world, marketing content helps buyers in their journeys (the sales funnel) by drawing them in with valuable insight and resources.
A couple of years ago, a small software company shared stats with me regarding case study consumption. After requiring registration for case studies, the company experimented by removing the required registration.
The results were pretty shocking. In just one week, the company reported that downloads of its case studies were three times higher than the previous four months combined!
When you interrupt the natural flow of a prospect’s research, you’re taking control of the sales process at a time when buyers may not be ready to give it up. Not to mention, it’s frustrating for buyers.
If you’re just looking at case study consumption, buyers most often look at them in the middle of the sales process when they’re understanding their problems better, identifying solutions and looking at vendors. Many of them are not ready to begin engaging with a sales contact yet.
The problem doesn’t just apply to case studies. White papers are notoriously put behind gates. But most prospects want to review white papers at the start of the sales cycle. They certainly aren’t ready for discussions with specific vendors yet.
Content marketers, if you knew something was preventing your content from being seen, wouldn’t you want to change it?
I understand the need to generate leads, but find other ways and make them fit the way your buyers want to buy. Offer webinars, demos and other opportunities for folks to show interest when they’re ready.
Otherwise, prospects might as well turn on their heels, head back down the road and find another place that’s more welcoming – like a competitor.
Companies, do you make your case studies freely available? If not, then why not?