How Many Prospects Do You Lose Locking Your Content Behind a Form?

Augie Ray Director - Global Voice of Customer Strategy, American Express

Posted on July 30th 2013

How Many Prospects Do You Lose Locking Your Content Behind a Form?

ImageEarlier this week, I created a simple poll asking people how they respond when they are required to furnish contact information to access a white paper, report or other desired content. It was an unscientific poll, but with 90 responses, it was large enough to give marketers something to consider. Is it more important to add another record to the prospect database or to educate, engage, increase awareness and enhance reputation by furnishing valuable content?

I launched this poll because of my own reaction to the growing tidal wave of marketing emails and phone calls I receive. On any given day, I delete as many as two dozen unsolicited messages without even a glance and am forced to turn away another three or four phone calls. I have neither the time nor mental energy to parse the flood of offers and sales pitches.

I am swimming in a sea of unwanted spam at work, and that is changing my online behaviors: I have stopped filling in contact forms. Several times a day I see something of interest in my social streams and will click to access the promised content, but if it means adding to my flow of annoying and distracting email and telephone spam, I pass.

I wondered if many others were like me, and if so, are marketer losing more than they are gaining by locking expensive, valuable, persuasive content behind a contact form. I can't answer that question, but the results presented below should give some marketers pause. Simply put, most people will not complete the form and thus will not see your content. That seems a shame--having succeeded in collecting interested prospects via inbound marketing, would you rather have 10,000 decision makers download and consider your content or 1,200 new names for your database (half of whom may unsubscribe after getting your first unsolicited message)?

Here is a brief analysis of the data:

  • Only one in eight people will automatically furnish their contact information to access desired content.
  • Almost twice as many people will automatically leave a site as will furnish their contact information.
  • The largest share of people (one in four) may share their contact information, provided they trust the firm. If your brand and reputation are well established, your form may not be as great an impediment, but if your company is a small, newer, less established player, you might consider the tradeoff you are accepting by requiring users' contact information.
  • One in five will leave the site and seek the information elsewhere. I will typically do this myself, and most of the time I am successful in finding the content without navigating through the contact form.
  • While I didn't ask it explicitly in the poll, a significant number of people will simply lie, completing the form with false information. (How much value are marketers really getting from their forms if bad records are added to the database?) 


As a social marketer, I lean toward giving people access without requiring information. My employer routinely offers original, primary research with no limits for free download--for us, the value we gain in reputation and attention is more important than the contact data.

As I always say, it is vital that marketers measure the behaviors and attitudes of their own audience when reaching strategic decisions. It is easy enough to measure the amount of inbound traffic to a landing page containing a form and compare that to the number of downloads or completion rate of the form. The wider the gap, the more the brand should consider the disadvantages versus the benefits. 
It is also important to remember that in the social age there are other ways to identify and build relationships with people who download your firm's content. Many folks who find your information interesting will share it. If you are listening on Twitter and to the larger social web, it is possible to engage and know the people who not only accessed your content but found it valuable enough to share. (Ka-ching--that person is so much more valuable to your brand than is someone who just completed a form!)
I hope you find the results of the poll interesting. And if you have some experience or a point of view to share, I'd appreciate your insights in the comments to this blog post. 


Augie Ray

Director - Global Voice of Customer Strategy, American Express

For six years, I have researched, analyzed and blogged about Customer Experience (CX), social media marketing, social business and the collaborative (or sharing) economy. I welcome your feedback on my posts here on Social Media Today or my blog at

My background includes more than 20 years of experience in digital, brand, customer experience and social business. Currently, I am the Director of Global Voice of Customer at a Fortune 100 Financial Services firm. Prior to this:

  • I led social business at USAA, a firm recognized for its innovative use of communities and social customer care within the financial service industry.
  • Consulted and published analysis as a Forrester analyst covering digital marketing and social media in the Bay Area.
  • Led a diverse $9-million agency team with specialties in digital development, digital experiential marketing and community strategy.

I am passionate about monitoring current trends and understanding what they mean to marketing, product development, customer care and other corners of the enterprise. I continue to evaluate how new mobile and social behaviors and technologies are combining to change fundamental attitudes about the way we select, purchase, consume and share products and services. The future will bring a great deal of innovation that offers opportunities to organizations that are agile and willing to cannibalize their own business models (but it will severely challenge those organizations that cannot.)

See Full Profile >


Posted on July 31st 2013 at 1:29PM

Augie, I agree that not all content should be behind a registration page, but I also think it's important to have a good mix of content behind registration walls and just free to consume without filling out a form. For example, you could share a valuable story or article, and then offer additional information/workbook/sample/etc... that may be behind a form. If someone is engaged and wants to learn more at that point, then I think they will tend to offer up their information; with the amount of personal information they are giving up being equal to the value of the content they're getting.

With all of that said, I do see your point of clicking on an article in an email only to be brought to a registration page, turns me off as well.