B2B Marketers walk a fine line when it comes to what information they give away and what information requires visitors to register first. Give away too much, and you are at a loss to track successful KPIs (key performance indicators) and potentially lose the prospect when they leave your site. Put everything behind a registration form, and you run the risk of alienating your prospects before they even hit the “submit” button, for prying into their personal space.

What’s a marketer to do?

My philosophy has always been: if the information you have is about your product, service, or brand, (data sheet, case study, brochure) give it away for free. These people are interested enough in you to want to find out more, so don’t push them away behind the cloak of a form (and subsequently a phone call, email, and other “nurturing” programs).

If it is an educational piece, information about the industry, or otherwise non-sales or third party fact piece, you should rely on registration forms first. This signals to the visitor that this asset is of greater value, took extra thought, and is worthy of their information. Having said that, be sure not to ask 100 questions on your form. Just ask for enough to allow you to reconnect with the prospect.

Having said that, what if I told you there was a way to give away your information without registration, but increase the likelihood that the prospect will reconnect with your brand?

I tell my clients over and over again that it is vital to have several levels of CTAs (calls to action) on your website and blog. The idea behind a call to action is to guide the visitor through your online information, resulting in performing an action that you deem valuable in the sales cycle. The same holds true for any information that you give away or for which you require registration in order to obtain.

Having discreet, relevant, CTAs within your PDFs can be some of the most compelling, reactive, engaging connections you can have with your prospects. So, what kinds of CTAs should you include?

Links to your website or blog

Have you discussed a topic for which you have more or related information online? Use text links or call outs in your PDF that link back to this information. In a perfect world, you would have links to both the factual (website) and editorial (blog) information on the subject matter. Providing links back to the place where your visitor received the information reinforces your expertise on the given subject, and seamlessly reengages the prospect to your content, with the aim of converting them through some CTA on your site that either requires registration, or perhaps right to a “contact us” or “request a quote” form.

Links to other assets

Do you have additional resources on the subject matter covered in your first asset? Your PDF should include text links or call outs to other assets that can further the knowledge and trust factor of our visitor to your thought leadership and expertise. A word of warning: the link in your PDF should take the visitor to a landing page that contains a link to the asset, rather than a link to the asset directly. This will allow you to track click-thrus on your link in your document properly.

In both these scenarios, make sure you are using trackable links in your PDFs. Additionally, if you are able to create a unique landing page on your site or blog from the link in the PDF, rather than just an existing interior page of content, you can control the navigation, messaging and CTAs the visitor will see, and have them relate directly to the original source of material.

Links to subscribe

PDFs are also a great place to ask readers to subscribe to any regular correspondence you may be able to give to them, such as a email newsletter or RSS feed. Placing a CTA to subscribe to these nurturing programs right in the document is valuable and simple connection to those nameless, faceless prospects who download your data, whether they need register or not. Using a text link, or call out, link your reader to these subscriptions with a trackable link (using something such as such as Google’s URL Builder) to measure your success.

Links to social media

This is perhaps one of the most missed opportunities in any company’s PDFs. As a matter of course, you should have links in your assets to connect with you various social media outlets. These links are invaluable for creating two-way communication with your prospects, and getting them on board for yet another form of nurturing and exposure to your thought leadership.

Whether you require registration or not, the changing of hands of your sharable PDF assets need not be the end of a conversation. By providing strategic calls to action in your PDFs you can increase engagement with your brand, provide further information to support you though leadership and expertise, and bring prospects further into the sales cycle by allowing them easy opportunities for engagement and conversion.