DEBATE: Totally free content vs. requiring registration

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.

Marketing  |  Research and Analysis  |  Best Practices

Shutterstock_debate 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.

Readers of my books and blog know that I come down firmly in the make it free camp along with Seth Godin and Tom Peters.

But my friends over at HubSpot, including VP Marketing Mike Volpe argue for registration. HubSpot is wildly successful. So there’s something there.

Mike and I decided to debate the issues.

To squeeze or not to squeeze. Here are the options

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

David Meerman Scott: "The analysis I have done around form versus no form has suggested that there is a 50:1 ratio whether people will download or not. For example, if a behind-a-form offer enjoyed 1000 downloads, that same offer would have gotten 50 000 downloads if it were not behind a form. Why not spread your ideas to as many people as possible?"

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.

Mike Volpe: "At one level, yes, it's great to have your content spread far and wide as much as possible. On the flipside, though, most marketers have goals in terms of the number of leads they need to generate and you are responsible to your boss," says Mike. In order to support the sales team adequately and give them something tangible to follow up on, a business has to use forms to generate leads.

Watch video of the entire debate between me and Mike.

Download an ebook version of us debating the issues.

Who is right?

Please consider commenting on this blog post or tweeting your thoughts using hashtag #HSDebate. What have you experienced? Is there a "right" answer?

Image: Shutterstock / monarx3d

Disclosure: I am on the board of advisors of HubSpot. In addition, I serve the company as "Marketer in Residence" spending about a day a month in their Boston-area offices helping with marketing strategies.