Transform your business

Are online registrations really sales leads?

The idea is to spoon-feed prospects, provide information, and move people through the buying process, writes Patricia Hursh

One of the most common B2B search marketing practices is offering whitepapers, demos, trial software, and other assets in exchange for registration information. Many companies immediately turn these registrations over to the sales team, but this may not be the best approach based on lead quality.

Marketers must determine if an online registration is really a sales lead. Just because someone downloads a white paper doesn't mean they should be contacted by a sales person.  It depends on the specific action, of course, but I've found that many registrants are actually still early in the buying process. These contacts are valuable and should be nurtured, but these people aren’t ready to buy.

If marketers pass all web registrations directly to the sales team, reps quickly become frustrated with lead quality. Marketers must be honest with themselves, and the sales team, about what the search marketing effort is designed to achieve and is capable of accomplishing.

It's important to set realistic expectations with the sales team, and terminology can be a big part of this. I prefer to use the term web inquiry or online registrant instead of lead. I think sales lead is misleading.

In fact, when multiple actions are presented, such as download a white paper, take an online tour, and complete a Contact Us form, I urge marketers to label, score and track each of these actions, and the corresponding registration data, separately. I think you'll find that all inquiries are not created equal.

Instead of immediately turning registration data over to the sales team, marketers should consider implementing an interim process designed to further qualify and cultivate inquiries.

Two of the most common and effective follow-up methods involve email or telemarketing. Using these channels, marketers are able to nurture web registrants, learn more about each prospect, and provide personalised and relevant information over time. The idea is to spoon-feed prospects, provide truly valuable information, and proactively move people through the buying process.

This approach allows marketers to keep online registration forms simple and maximise response rate. The form no longer needs to include every field the sales department finds valuable—because much of this information will be collected during the follow-up process. With this approach, the objective is to get as many registrants as possible into the funnel. Then let the lead management process do the rest.