James Governor's Monkchips

How Registration Walls and PDFs can make your Marketing Less Effective

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I had an interesting exchange with a client this morning. They hoped I could help foster a conversation about some issues germane to their market. But I couldn’t. Here is the email I sent back:

Text is the language of the Net. It’s the language of blogs. Many of the people I interact with really don’t like PDFs- you often see people apologise when they do [PDF alert!]

If you want influencers to engage with your ideas I think you need to do so on the strength of blogs, rather than PDFs.

As an influencer, I know you would like me to help drive traffic, and a conversation, around your thought pieces – but that needs to be in the “right” format. Otherwise, frankly, I wouldn’t want to point my network at it.

As you can see this is something I feel pretty strongly about. I know traditional marketing has a firewall, where you enter your details to download a “free white paper” in PDF form, then you have a sales person call them up afterwards – it’s all about the “funnel”.

But tech marketing is today is more about driving conversations, in my opinion.

The client came back and said they would consider a “plain text” layout for print, but the registration wall was important, not for sales purposes, but to know who was reading their piece.

But I can’t, or won’t, point my community at a registration wall. That’s a barrier to entry we mostly refuse to jump. If you want to appeal to traditional IT buyers the Reg Wall, PDF white white paper combo might work. But not for next gen influencers and people that live in the cloud.

disclosure: I should point out that I wouldn’t engage with an idea I didn’t find interesting and on topic, and I would as ever disclose any client-related work I was doing.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James Governor, Tom Raftery, Bill Trippe, crichardson, Ethan Jewett and others. Ethan Jewett said: RT @monkchips: How Registration Walls and PDFs can make your Marketing Less Effective http://monk.ly/ezQoXs […]

  2. As a content consumer, I have to agree that the reg wall is very off-putting. I even find I get cold calls from organizations that I am heavily engaged with. As I continue to access content, the reg process triggers some far-away sales rep, who ends up leaving endless messages when I’m already ankle deep in the requirements process or already have purchasing/licensing instruments in the pipe-line. It only tells me that the organization is not communicating.

  3. Good points. Seems like the no-pdf trend is driven as much by mobile access, where it’s so much easier to consume content as text than popping open a file. The no-form argument is also echoed at @dmscott’s blog.

  4. Smart post. Just because I want to read your white paper does not make me a lead. In fact, if you want to know who is reading the white paper, you can be assured a lot fewer people have read it, if you have a registration wall.

  5. I’ve missed out on loads of whitepapers because I clicked on a link that wanted my details. It seems pretty stupid, because as I understand it, whitepapers are basically just adverts. I’m opting in by clicking the link, asking for more is asking too much. If my document can’t link to your document, that isn’t the web.

  6. I think the issue here is how you market to different segments and where folks are in the sales process.
    In the early stages (where influencers matter most), you need to have information moving as freely as possible so a registration wall is introducing friction into a system that should be as friction-free as possible.
    However, I do think there are places where a wall makes sense – for example in cases where the prospect is far along the purchase path and you want to give them access to info you wouldn’t share freely with your competitors, or in the case where you want to make offers to certain types of prospects (but not everyone). In some cases the purpose of a piece of content is more about driving an immediate sale than stimulating a conversation. In those cases the wall can separate prospects from leads. And in all cases, those gated things are not things I would expect influencers to be pushing because those prospects aren’t yet ready to buy (or be sold to).

  7. In my experience the gates put up in front of various pieces of content tend to be driven by a necessity to track various metrics used to measure campaign effectiveness. The new world of content marketing is about telling an ongoing story with many chapters and channels for the content to flow. This all becomes far too convoluted in the old model of gated content.

    Perhaps the opportunity here is to create a new set of metrics to measure effectiveness and more importantly the engagement generated by content.

    Just a thought.

  8. I have no objection to getting a PDF when the content’s appropriate to that format – all the platforms I use make it pretty seamless.

    That I agree with you on the reg-wall issue hardly needs saying.

    The two issues are orthogonal.

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