OK, so you have a nifty pay per click campaign running, and Sally Suspect has just clicked through to your landing page to grab a copy of your latest & greatest white paper.  But before handing it over, you want to capture Sally’s critical contact information;  so you hit her with your registration form prior to letting her get anywhere near the “download” button, right??

Most of us marketeers are silently screaming, “Of course!” …it’s basically in our DNA.  Plus, isn’t that the whole reason for spending all that money on PPC and SEO? …so that when interested new leads arrive, their contact info is captured and fed into that giant email-incubation machine, which is all but certain to turn them into customers in 3-18 months?

However, on reviewing Brian Carroll’s blog on the subject, we encountered a contrary viewpoint with some serious research behind it:  for example, Red Hat’s Chris Grams’ case study How to Get Thousands More White Paper Readers & Webinar Attendees, and KnowledgeStorm’s Web Lead Evaluation and Scoring Study.  In this view, you’ll scare off at least 75% of the people who might have ongoing interest in your company’s products or services by making them provide info that they don’t see any real need for you to have …yet.  Believers in this method say you’re better off making your content freely available, trusting in its thought-leading quality to establish “buzz” or market preference.  Then, as those prospects who’ve been influenced by your material ripen, they’ll come back to you on their own …perhaps much more favorably disposed at that point, because you demonstrated a bit of sensitivity by not leaning on them too early.  You could think of it as the “Saturn dealership” approach:  so-called because of the way that auto brand has scored points with consumers with their one-price, no-sales-hassle approach …making it feel safe for prospective customers whose need is not immediate and may be simply kicking the tires (i.e., doing early product research?) today.

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide which school of thought your company should subscribe to, and – as always – it’s worth a bit of experimentation to illuminate the decision.  You may find yourself becoming more creative, and discovering a “Goldilocks” point in the continuum between those polar-opposite approaches that’s just right for your company.  Continuing our initial example of Sally’s white paper… suppose you were to just give her the paper with no strings;  but on its last page, there’s a link to a reader-survey form.  In addition to asking for her feedback about the quality and usefulness of the content, you can also work in some questions about Sally’s company and the degree of / reason for her interest in the material.  This is much the same info you’d capture with your usual “gatekeeper” form;  but in the glow of a favorable reaction to the paper – and of your interest in her opinion – odds are that Sally is now much more willing to go along.

Bottom line:  your site’s approach to capturing visitors’ information should be based on critical thinking about your market, and possibly even on some custom research.  It’s much too important to base simply on an innate – but unexamined – prejudice.