Imagine a world where we stop asking prospects to complete lead generation forms for gated content. Say what?
How will marketing teams deliver qualified leads to their sales teams? How will content marketers measure their marketing performance? In fact, lead generation was ranked as the most important content marketing goal in the latest B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs.
If we eliminated all lead gen forms, what metrics can we use to show the ROI of our content marketing investment?
Making Content “Free”
Those were probably some of the questions that ran through Dave Gerhardt’s head, the Marketing Lead at the messaging app startup Drift, when their CEO David Cancel proposed to nix all gated forms to their content.
As the editor of chiefmartec.com Scott Brinker noted, there are a number of caveats that makes eliminating lead generation forms more feasible for Drift than for other companies. They still have a pop-up that invites people to subscribe to their newsletter, and they offer freemium trials for people to try out their product. But the freemium model doesn’t work for all businesses.
While the idea may seem too radical to some marketers, if we see it through the lens of a prospect, nixing all gated forms might actually be quite nice. Wouldn’t it? No more forms to complete to get the content you want. No more (unwanted) nurture emails and calls from marketing development or sales reps, aggressively moving you through their funnel. You reach out if and when you want to engage with their company.
Future Of Content Marketing: No More Forms?
Noah Fenn, the head of video sales and strategy at AOL, has talked about ad execs sharing this “collective amnesia,” where they somehow have forgotten that they, just like the rest of us, are viewers themselves who just want to read and watch their content without unwanted interruptions – the exact same ads they are creating that we want to avoid if given the option.
Do marketers perhaps share this “collective amnesia” with our demand generation programs? Our prospects may tolerate lead gen forms and phone or email follow-ups, but can we honestly say that they like it when they are not ready to engage with your brand yet? Who is actually doing the demanding with our demand gen programs?
As Brinker asks, if we, as marketers, only focus on doing these two things really well – one, create valuable content our prospects want and need without gating them, and two, make sure our companies are building amazing products that people actually want to buy, renew and recommend to the world – could this make marketing more effective, and could it help companies grow their sales and revenue faster?
These are certainly interesting questions for marketers to think about.
Marketing ROI In A New World
As Brinker notes, at least for B2B marketing, lead forms and nurture campaigns are the “heart of modern marketing operations” today. Existing marketing automation software and technologies are primarily used for these marketing activities, which marketers use to measure and evaluate their KPIs today.
If we stopped using lead forms and nurture programs to generate quality leads, how will marketers measure their marketing ROI and performance?
For companies like Drift, marketers can track their number of trial sign-ups and upgrades. For businesses who don’t operate on a freemium model though, perhaps the best KPI is the number of subscribers to your content.
Subscribers convert to revenue at 9X the rate of non-subscribers no matter what your actual conversion rate from web visitor to revenue is.
Clearly this would disrupt the way many brands execute their marketing strategy and how they evaluate their marketing performance today. But if we put on a potential customer’s hat, what is disrupted here?
Is it the customer’s experience with our brand, or is it just our own marketing strategy and operations? Would this disruption actually push brands to become more customer-centric and innovative with their marketing? I believe this focuses the marketing organization on understanding customer needs, creating amazing content experiences, and optimizing on a measure that first defines value for them (the subscribers), knowing that these subscribers are much more likely to convert to sales.
What do you think? Would it be possible for B2B marketers to adopt an approach similar to Drift’s strategy? What potential benefits and challenges do you see with such approach? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share in the comments section below!
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