Say NO to squeezing your buyers

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Thought Leadership  |  ebooks  |  Best Practices


The debate about gating valuable content (such as ebooks, white papers, research reports and the like) behind a registration requirement comes up again and again.

To squeeze or not to squeeze: The options

1. Requiring an email address (and other personal information) prior to your buyers being permitted to download content. With a gate, each person downloading becomes a valuable sales lead.

2. Making the content totally free with no registration required. Value comes from many more people consuming and spreading your content.

This really is a bit like debating religion or politics – each side believes strongly in their position and many are eager to argue passionately for their side. Bob Bly and I seem to argue this one every few months but I don't think either of us will budge on our positions.

For more on the debate, check out the excellent piece from Ann Handley in American Express Open Forum Should You Put Your eBooks and White Papers (and Other Content) Behind a Registration Page?

While I don't actively seek converts to my religion, I do want people to understand both sides. Just this week knowing there is another option turned around two people who were in the "require registration" camp and bring them over to the "make it free" side.

First was Susan Gunelius who wrote in Remove the Gateway and Let Your Content Spread Across the Web that my make it free approach "really stuck with me and made me think in a new direction."

Then, Kenneth emailed from Singapore to say he downloaded my free ebook The New Rules of Viral Marketing and wondered why I do not put what he called a squeeze page to gather email addresses. Here is a re-written version of my response to Kenneth causing him to also reconsider his position in the debate too.

Say NO to squeezing your buyers

- Registration is a holdover from direct mail days (when a business reply card was the way to fulfill a white paper request). Is a direct mail technique right for today's hyper-connected web?

- Requiring registration GREATLY reduces the number of people who download something. For example, my New Rules of Viral Marketing ebook has been downloaded close to one million times. With a registration requirement, I’m convinced it would be only a few thousand.

- Because bloggers do not like to send their readers to something that could cause them to get onto unwanted lists, when there is a registration requirement, very few (if any) bloggers will talk it up and you get little or no inbound links.

- When lots of people link to your stuff, you rise in the search results. For example, searching for viral marketing on Google brings my ebook up on the first page. But it is not just me. The Mailer Mailer Email Marketing Metrics Report is number one for their important phrase email marketing metrics as a result of free content. Many other people tell me that a valuable free content offering causes them to rise to the top of the search engine results too. With a squeeze page, you’re lucky to get into the first 20 pages on Google for a phrase like "viral marketing" or "email marketing metrics".

It really comes down to goals. Do you want a few email addresses? Or would you rather have a ton of people exposed to your ideas?

Bonus for reading this far

When asked about this religious discussion in my live presentations, I also offer a third option, which is a hybrid.

I suggest the first offer be totally free (such as an ebook). Then within the ebook, have a secondary offer that requires registration that you can use to capture leads. A secondary offer might be a Webinar or something similar.

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