Have you ever had content regret? This occurs when you are enticed by a promise of what a piece of content will do for you – like an e-book, or a webinar or a white paper or even a set of videos. But once you actually register, you feel duped. You feel as if the content creator was far more interested in getting your contact information than in actually fulfilling the content promise. It’s worse when the content creator starts to incessantly email and call you.

If you are using content marketing to attract new clients or to persuade current clients to buy new products or services, you are at risk of delivering content regret. If your users experience content regret, prospects will disengage and existing clients may lose confidence and look elsewhere. You might also damage your brand, miss deals and stall growth. The risks are high, probably much higher than you realize.

In my experience, the root cause of content regret is content marketers not understanding or delivering against the expectation of content consumers: both the quality of the content and the follow-up process. If you deliver deep insights to people who register for your content and then follow-up with them in the right way, you will grow. Prospect and clients will engage. Let me show you how to do this.

Key Take-Away:

Most content marketers tend to hear a statement from the form submission that I don’t think the content registrant is making.

The Choices When Standing At The Gate

Here is a fairly standard scenario for content marketers today. A person gets an email or sees a promotion online for a particular piece of content, say a webinar, e-book, action guide or the like. The title of the content catches their eye. They click on the email or the online promotion and go to a landing page to get the content asset.

They read a few lines about what the content asset offers. Usually this copy contains the promise of benefit – what the content will do for the consumer. Sometimes the promise is access to the latest research. Other times the promise is a how-to strategy that contains step-by-step advice. Still other times the promise is insights from an industry guru.

If the promise of benefit is strong enough and the registration requirements are low enough, the person will want to register. Now what?

This is what I have come to think of as standing at the gate. If they want to get what’s on the other side of the gate, they have to give something up, usually their contact information.

When users stand in front of a gate, they have three choices. They can choose not to fill out the form. This means that they don’t get the content. They can choose to put in bogus information. Or they can choose to put in their actual information.

The choice they make is a statement. If they don’t submit, they’re saying the content is not important to me. If they submit bogus information, they’re saying the content is interesting, but I don’t trust you enough to give you my real information.

But if they submit their actual, honest-to-goodness, contact information, they’ve made a powerful statement. But it might not be what you think it is. 


How Content Marketers Interpret Form Submissions

Most content marketers, in my experience, tend to over-value the submission of a person’s real contact information. The content marketers seem to hear a statement that I don’t believe the content registrant is making.

Now I’ve noticed quite a difference in the kinds of messages that content marketers tend to hear based on how long they have been in the business of producing content. Here’s what I mean.

A content marketer who is new to the field tends to read every content submission as a validation of their brilliance. They also tend to believe that a high percentage of people who fill out their registration forms are likely to do business with them. These marketers feel justified in using the contact information submitted to take steps that the content consumer may not have agreed to. For instance, they may call or aggressively email the registrant.

Content marketers who have been in the business of producing content for quite some time tend to hear a different kind of message from the form submission. They read it as someone expressing interest in a topic, likely because they need insights to do their job effectively. These seasoned content marketers may add these people to drip campaigns to stay in front of them over time. But they probably won’t try to engage the registrant in sales dialogue because the marketer knows they need time.

But here is where I see a huge disconnect between content marketers and content consumers. Content marketers seem to me to underestimate the opportunity to do two very important things after a submission – build good will and create anticipation. These two factors determine whether or not prospects become clients and current clients buy new products and services. To understand how this works, we have to look at the world from the other side of the coin. 


How Content Consumers Interpret Content Submissions

For most B2B decision-makers, their contact information is one of their most important possessions. They know it and their IT functions know it too. Most B2B decision-makers have sizable budgets that they will allocate to a number of suppliers over the course of their fiscal year.

They spend those budgets with suppliers they know and come to trust. Most B2B decision-makers with real budgets think of themselves as power players. They know they have money and they know that vendors want access to that money. The decision-makers see themselves as in the driver’s seat.

This is why content creators, especially those new to the game, tend to get excited about registrations from B2B decision-makers who seem like they would be a great fit. These content creators tend to think that a form submission is an open invitation to the table. But I don’t think B2B decision-makers see it that way at all.

When a B2B decision-maker submits their actual contact information in exchange for a piece of content, they are saying several things. But then again, they are also not saying several things.

Here are some things they are saying.

First, they’re saying that the topic and the promise of benefit is important to them. This means that the content addresses something they are thinking about, possibly even allocating budget to address.

Second, they’re saying that they want more insights than they have today. This means they are looking for information, ideas and possibly strategies to guide them toward an important goal. This is also a statement about who they are as a person. They are not a know-it-all. They believe that other people have insights that could benefit them. They may even be looking for a Sherpa to help guide them.

Third, they’re saying that they trust you enough with their personal contact information that they are willing to risk that you might call them or email them. I have watched executives make this decision where they mutter under their breath as they fill out the form, “I hope this doesn’t put me on some annoying call list.”

But unless they fill out a contact form and request a follow-up, their submission is not saying that they want you to call them. All of the B2B decision-makers I have worked with over the years want to be decision-drivers. They want to make decisions based on what’s good for their organization. They don’t like it when companies they’ve submitted their contact information to try to push them into making decisions they are not ready to make. 


Anticipation And Good Will

But even these concepts don’t quite get to the heart of the matter for B2B buyers of products and services. You see, if you want to avoid content regret and instead stimulate forward movement, you have to navigate very carefully what happens after the content submission.

When a B2B decision-maker gives you their contact information, they have made a gesture of good will in your direction. Good will is the foundation of all negotiation and is critical to winning deals. If you reward their good will, the form submit, with bad will, aggressive and unwanted follow-up, they will feel as if all you care about is getting a deal, not helping them toward their goals. This is a huge turn-off.

So if you want to avoid the kind of regret that comes from wishing you could get your contact information back, tread lightly. Treat your guests the way you would want to be treated. Its’ really simple. Apply the golden rule.

This might mean you send them a thank you note. You might also send them a message or two about other content assets that fit their interests. You might even call to ask if they have any questions about the topic or if they’d like to talk to a consultant about how to achieve their goals using your ideas.

But the point is that the follow-up needs to feel friendly and without obligation, like you’re not going to try to corner them into making a decision. Your follow-up needs to respect their decision-rights.

Here is another guiding factor in follow-up. If someone registers for a piece of content, they need time to consume the content and then think about it. If they attend a one-hour webinar, you’ll know that they’ve consumed the ideas in an hour. But if they download an e-book or white paper, they may not read it for a week or two.

Not only should you give them time to consume the content, you should also give them time to think about how the content is relevant to their goals. In fact, I might recommend that you make your follow-up center around a set of questions regarding how they’ll use the ideas presented in your content to achieve a goal that matters to them. Questions, rather than statements, tend to open up dialogue. They feel consultative rather than declarative.

But along with acknowledging their good will, you also want to create anticipation that compels them forward into a business relationship with you. To create anticipation, you have to build rich content assets that are full of great ideas for your prospective ideal clients.


How Rich Insights Create Anticipation

Have you ever read a white paper or blog-post that seemed as if it were written just for you? Have you ever read a book or watched a video series that seemed as if someone had been inside one of your recent team meetings, took notes about the questions you were bandying about and then structured answers that were just what you needed? I have had this experience and here is what happens.

It creates anticipation. It makes you wonder how the content creator gathered all of those insights? It creates curiosity. How did they come to understand your situation so well? This creates excitement because you know that an expert is now starting to guide you.

It makes you want to know what they know. It creates anticipation of even better things to come. Anticipation creates energy and forward movement in the sales funnel. In fact, in my experience, most B2B service deals will pass through five stages:

  • Awareness: where they become aware of your products and services.
  • Consideration: where they sample your content and consider how you can help them.
  • Interest: where they enter dialogue and request a proposal.
  • Evaluation: where they evaluate your proposal against their needs and competitive proposals.
  • Selection: where they sign the proposal and move to next steps.

Content that is rich with great ideas to help decision-makers achieve their goals will propel them through this funnel quickly. But don’t expect that everyone who fills out the form is ready to go. In my experience, there are five criteria for someone to be considered a sales ready prospect:

  • Need: they need your products and services.
  • Budget: they can afford your products and services.
  • Timeline: they have to act within a certain time or face consequences.
  • Reason: they have a specific reason to act.
  • Conversation: they are willing to enter dialogue, leading to a proposal.

When you show these people good will and create anticipation of great things to come, you don’t have to drag them into sales dialogue. They will pull you through the funnel. I’ve seen this time and time again. 


How To Do This

I’ve developed an e-book called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue. This book is designed to help content marketers use modern technologies and processes to impact revenue. If you want to be more than a content marketer, if you want to be a revenue and profit driver, I know this e-book will be a huge help to you.