Content Marketing: To require registration, or give it away, or possibly both?

OK Marketers, how do you handle your content? Do you require every prospect, client, or visitor, to fill out a form to get your content? Do you mix it up and give some things away for free and require registration for others for lead gen purposes?

We do quite a bit of content marketing for ourselves and for our retainer clients. For our own content, like our Annual HR Buyers Report , or even our latest eBook, The Right Mix: A B2B Marketing Allocation Guide for 2011, we did not require registration.

Many marketers are of the mindset to give away content because more people will read it and share it when there are no barriers (no form required). David Meerman Scott and his book “World Wide Rave” speaks to this concept of letting control of your marketing. And yet, there are a lot of marketers who don’t do this for various reasons – they fear “losing control” of the results of their campaigns, or there is the pressure from Sales for leads, leads, leads.

What got me thinking about this subject again is that I receive emails every day from a particular marketing firm that is a HUGE proponent of content marketing. I’ve participated in many of their webcasts and downloaded their content over the past few years. And yet, for EVERY new email I receive offering their latest report, article, etc., I have to fill out the same form. And it’s not even what I would consider a short form, asking for name, email, company. They have 10 REQUIRED fields, yes 10, before you can download their content!

So some questions popped in my mind:
  1. Is this company’s content so valuable, is their brand so respected that they can require everyone to provide all that information every time?

    There is always the fine line with forms of how much information to ask – not wanting a prospect to give up filling out the form because it’s too long, or they don’t feel the content is valuable enough to give up their contact information.

  2. If you must have a form, should you require known prospects to go through the barrier of the form every time?

    What about designing marketing campaigns so that prospects that are engaged: i.e. they open your emails, they click on the links, etc., don’t have to take the time to fill out the long form yet again. It is possible to give them a direct link to the content, bypassing the form. Then use the form only for newer prospects.
With the latest email I received, I was interested in the content, I clicked on the link and saw the same darn form and I gave up! I didn’t want to take the time to fill it out again. I wonder if anyone else on their “list” feels the same way?

So how do you handle your content campaigns and forms? I’d love to hear what other marketers are doing and how it’s working for you.

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