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I hope this is an appropriate forum for this topic. If not, I apologize.

To rephrase the question, I am debating a new tactic that some marketers are trying to implement that goes against everything I know about site usability, retention, conversion, etc. Now, I need some hard evidence to back what I know to be true so that I can squash this down.

The idea is simple. Advertise that we have white paper "X" and point the user to a custom landing page. This is where things have started going wrong. Here's the process:

  1. Get to landing page
  2. Fill out form to receive an email on how to download it (seriously...I know)
  3. Thank you...check your email
  4. Click link in email and get to a download page (branded similar to the original landing page)
  5. File downloads automatically if it can. We also showcase other documents the user might be interested in.

The process above was the best compromise I could sell them on. #5 is the hot point here though because they don't like the "extra step" when it could have ended with #4 if the email had a direct link to the file.

So, I know there is so much wrong with this, but I cannot seem to sell 2 main things. I'm hoping you guys can point me in the right direction on these 2 things.

  1. Why shouldn't they leave the site in the first place
  2. Why, if #1 has to happen, should step #5 exist.

Remember, professional opinions need to be left out of it. I need hard evidence to present to the product marketing manager later this afternoon.

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1  
What is the marketing manager's objective? –  DA01 Dec 17 '10 at 21:28
    
@DA01 to get people to download the white paper and generate "good" sales leads. My responsibility is to ensure that the customer experience remains as good as possible obviously. –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:45
2  
No hard evidence, so a comment not an answer. White papers only available if I leave my email address are easily identified as marketing ploys. People will leave their email address to get the white paper, and once they get it will often immediately unsubscribe from any maillist they then find themselves on, ignore mails from the author, or worse: mark them as spam. I certainly no longer fall for this tactic as the white papers are often little more than blatant advertisements of the products the author sells. –  Marjan Venema Dec 18 '10 at 9:33
    
Well, to get people to download the white paper is trivial. Getting the correct contact info for good leads is the key here. I think the answer depends on the quality and value of the white paper. Will demand warrant some form of registration? –  DA01 Dec 20 '10 at 15:51
    
Exactly what I kept stressing to them. My original suggestion to them was to make the form non-mandatory and/or offer some sort of other incentive (besides pretending the white paper was incentive enough). In order to get good, quality, leads, you need to make a reasonable offer. I finally sold them on allowing the white paper to be downloaded "free" and then offering to "unlock" other white papers after filling out the form. Additionally, none of the form fields are required. –  Kevin Peno Dec 22 '10 at 0:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have no hard evidence as I'm not sure what the objective is. Some hunches:

If the objective is to 'engage' people with the site, then the site has to be engaging. What you are describing is jumping through hoops. That's not engaging, but rather a struggle.

If the objective is to collect leads and contact info, then consider some options. Perhaps use the Apple model when downloading iTunes…ask for name and email but don't make them required fields.

All that said, if this file is of such value that people would be willing to go through these steps, then maybe that's fine.

As for step 1 vs. step 5, again, it really depends on the objectives. I can't think of a reason for step #5 unless there is some specific reason for it.

(Also...wouldn't it be great if even just once in a while management used 'hard evidence' to justify their random and usually silly ideas about an industry they really have no experience with rather than constantly insisting UXers for 'hard evidence' to point out why their obviously bad idea is bad?)

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"Also...wouldn't it be great if even just once in a while management used 'hard evidence'" .....in our dreams! Thanks for the response :) –  Kevin Peno Dec 18 '10 at 1:24

Go with DA01 suggestion if you can convince the marketing team that it is better that people provide their personal information voluntary instead of forcing them to provide it.

If not you can try the following approach:

  1. Get to landing page
  2. User needs to fill out form (*required) asking email address and some details, after sending the form, redirects user to step 5
  3. --
  4. --
  5. File downloads automatically if it can. We also showcase other documents the user might be interested in.

Additionally you can also send an email: thank you for downloading the file, maybe you're also interested in ..

This way you reduced some steps for the user, hopefully resulting in a better user experience.

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I can understand the Marketing perspective on wanting to require the user to check their inbox before they can download the whitepaper: they want to make sure that the email address is valid.

While I can't provide you with any hard-evidence, I can suggest an alternative that may strike a pretty good balance between the objectives of great UX and great leads:

Do a verification of the email address when the form is submitted against the user's mail server.

At my company, we wrote code that will actually connect to the mail server for the address the user provided and initiate the sending process. If the mail server doesn't shoot back an error message (ie, mailbox doesn't exist), then we graciously close the connection and report that the email address is valid.

That way, you get better results than simply checking to ensure the email address matches the format requirements, but you don't require your users to go open their inbox purely for the sake of clicking on a magic link. Your users never leave the site, and your management team is assured that the email addresses were all tested.

An important note, however, is that it may not work 100% of the time (after all, the real proof that an email address is actually valid is that the user actually receives the email). But, if your developers do a good job and follow the SMTP protocol carefully, you should get very good results.

Alternatively, you can find some email validation services online that your developers can just plug into and get the same functionality. A quick search for "email validation service" turned up a few sites that looked promising.

Hopefully that'll help you strike an acceptable compromise with your Marketing team.

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thanks for the input. I had totally forgotten about the long lost archaic art of email server validation. Thanks for the reminder :) –  Kevin Peno Apr 25 '11 at 3:18

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