As marketers, we know a large part of our job is to collect as much data about customers and prospects as possible. Feeding the database gives us leads to qualify and valuable data to mine.
So it makes perfect sense when we have something of value to these people—like some great content or special offers—that we should make them jump through a few data hoops before we let them at it. The least they could do is share their name, email, and maybe some lifestyle interests so we can contact them again in future. Isn’t it?
No! It turns out this is actually one of the worst things most marketers do online.
Next time you have something that other people would like to access, try this for a change:
Give it to them. Just let them have it. No forms to fill, no data to share. Just instant, free access to the content they desire.
But here’s the kicker. If they like what you gave them, now is the perfect time to ask them to do you a favour in return. Perhaps they could give you just a few pieces of contact information so you can stay in touch and share more great content like this in future.
You see, people who have just been given something are much more likely to give something in return. It’s called reciprocity, that sense of indebtedness that is hard-wired into human behaviour.
Not only that, but it’s often better quality data too. The tyre kickers and time wasters have got what they wanted and are unlikely to want to stay in touch. But the people who really appreciate your content, who know that it can bring value into to their lives, have everything to gain by sharing their contact details.
But don’t just take my word for it. Put it to the test. Flip that data collection page in your website, or trial the alternatives alongside each other in an A/B test. If your website visitors are anything like every test sample I’ve ever encountered, you’ll soon see you data counts and quality climbing.
I know it feels counter-intuitive but, honestly, this really works.
Now, stop thinking about it. Go put it to the test!
AUTHOR’S NOTE (19 Mar 2014): Several people have asked me for research materials that back up this way of thinking. Read this to learn more.