Demand Generation: Are We Making Prospects Lie?

One of the dirty little secrets of online marketing is that the leads you generate are only as good as the data that the customer prospect chooses to share about themselves. And very often they lie. Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve lied too. I lie when I want to download an interesting looking whitepaper but don’t want a phone call from a sales rep within five minutes of the download. I might say I’m an engineer instead of President of Pacifica Group just to throw the dogs off my scent.


Or I might intentionally transpose the phone number to guarantee they can’t reach me. I suspect I’m not alone in the friendly fudging that’s going on every day. So what can we do as marketers to encourage truthful responses from our target prospects? Here are a few thoughts on the topic.

Buyers and sellers have conflicting objectives:

First off, I believe buyers and sellers have very different even conflicting objectives.

Buyer Seller
Reveal nothing about you to avoid sales call Reveal everything about you
Information to inform decision Information to quality in/out
Negotiating leverage over seller Negotiating leverage over buyer
Take necessary time Close the deal as fast as possible
Generate competing options Assumptively close to lock-out competition

But they do have some common motivations such as:

• Don’t want to waste time if the transaction isn’t going to happen
• Prefer to tell the truth
• Do want to build a relationship with the right buyer/seller

Recognizing these convergent and divergent objectives, there are some practical approaches some companies take to improve the quality of leads generated.

Set your web content free: be generous with information flow. Pacifica Group partner, Elise Bauer, writes about this in “Be a Thought Leader” (see her sixth point on unlocking your whitepapers). Sybase does a great job of giving away useful whitepapers, technical documents, and newsletters without requiring registration.

Entertain to build emotional ties: let’s face it. Most technology papers are pretty boring and dry. If you want connect with prospects on a more emotion level make it fun, funny, or in some way memorable like the LiveVault video clip with John Cleese.

Build confidence and trust: most prospects, especially small-medium sized businesses, will trust a fellow customer far more than they will ever trust you. That’s why customer case studies as so powerful. Do what Postini does and post loads of case studies and keep them unlocked.

Respect them as individuals: prospects are people. And people buy products and services not companies. So it’s important that you treat these people with respect so that they will trust you enough to continue developing a relationship with you. One of my pet peeves is web registration forms that ask you extremely intrusive questions before granting you access to their vaunted whitepaper. For example, beside the usual who are you questions, they will demand to know your company size, revenue, budget, purchase intentions, and a variety of probing questions about your business and technology investments. A more effective approach that doesn’t encourage lies is to ask questions over time. Good marketing automation solutions take care of this nurturing task. That is, they will glean more and more information over, say, five different communications each with a three or so questions.

Disclosure: following are current or former clients of Pacifica Group: Sybase, Postini, Market2Lead and NetLine. We were not paid for this paper nor were asked to endorse these vendors but we do so as sincere examples of the points made in the article.

© 2007 Sridhar Ramanathan Pacifica Group

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