In his January article, Gladwell states that a social media follower is just about the weakest kind of brand-consumer relationship there is. In the hierarchy of lead quality, the link between a brand and its followers is strongest at purchase, and we do everything we can to bring consumers from the very first step to purchase as smoothly as possible.
Understood as the first step, a ‘follow’ or ‘like’ on a social platform is just fine. We all know by now that ‘followers’ are not leads. Maybe Gladwell has come under fire for his article because he’s stating the obvious, or maybe it’s because we’ve been busy trying to justify all the tweeting, updating and posting to the boss, and Gladwell’s take isn’t helping.
So where does Auto-Fill come in?
Higher on the lead generation food chain are web assets. White papers, webcasts, videos, flash demonstrations. I personally love them for generating leads (prospects, really, though we call it lead generation), because in the B to B world we tend to need better information. Instead of wondering who ‘@blankman’ is on our twitter account, we want the name of Phil Intheblank, IT Director for Acme Technologies, who signed up for our white paper on cloud security. Better lead, right?
Well, not anymore. Auto-fill, a feature of today’s browsers, has reduced Mr. Intheblank to something more like ‘@blankman’, because it’s almost as easy to sign up for a white paper as it is to ‘follow’ or ‘like’ a Twitter or Facebook account. When your sales executives call these ‘leads’, they forget that they ever heard of your company at all.
Awesome. So how to deal with this?
With webinars and webcasts, the lead hierarchy is easy. You get registrants, attendees, and engaged viewers. The first aren’t really interested, while the last might be, if they sat through the whole thing. Maybe. But with white papers, you may never know who actually read through your PDF, even if you know who downloaded it.
That’s why, for me, the PDFs are history. Sure, I’ll use them for archives, but for lead generation, the PDF is dead. I’m switching to an HTML web asset that lets me track who clicks the first page, who clicks further, and who gets through to the end. That way, I’ll know who’s serious about reading the thing and who’s just gathering research material.
Will it work?
Who knows? This won’t be known for a few months. I already know how well traditional white papers convert to sales. I’m looking for an organic improvement in conversions of around 20%, due to the more engaging way of sharing information. On top of that, I’m looking for an additional boost of 20% due to the fact that better data means we call the right people first.
So maybe in this era of meaningless marketing, where lead capture is so easy that real engagement becomes impossible, there’s still a way to find the most interested people among the jaded majority. We’ll see.