Dead Drops and the Art of the Call to Action

In a spy thriller, you might see an agent make a dead drop, or leave information hidden in a place where only another insider knows to check. Unless someone interacts with the spot in the right way, like moves the right brick or speaks a password, the secret will remain a secret for good. This is like how a lead generation (“lead gen”) form, connected to downloadable content such as whitepapers or webinars, currently functions on most websites. We’re eager for certain people to find and explore our dead drop, without feeling disappointed by what’s inside. But the wrong person picking it up, or the right person finding it too early or too late, might mean a mission fizzles out. Here’s a few pointers you can take away from the spy game about lead generation through a website; how to position your drop, how to make sure it lasts, and what it’s safe to leave behind.

Hidden in Plain Sight

A dead drop only works if the hiding spot is a good one. When it comes to lead generation forms, current trends show that a simple complete-and-submit scenario isn’t effective. What’s exciting about typing in tons of personal information line-by-line? It’s about as fun as going to the doctor or doing your taxes. Interactive experiences that make customers feel engaged in using a tool, rather than dragged through completing a task, do a better job of making brand content stand out online. Recent studies show that interactive lead generation methods result in double the conversion rate on average. Perhaps more importantly, 91% of B2B buyers say they prefer interactive or visual content. This means your most effective lead gen form is probably not going to look like a form at all. Some interactive call to action examples are a short quiz, a calculator or other tool, or even a teaser video with an invite to sign up for the mailing list at the end.

Once you’ve decided how to hide the drop, the questions of where and when still linger. Some sites have the form pop up over the other content on the page within the first 5-10 seconds, and make it possible to close out easily. Others put the call to action at the end of their content with static forms on every page. Still other sites, especially those using quizzes or other questionnaires, allow the form to stand alone and direct web users there through the funnel of content and social media. Which approach is right for your content depends on many factors, including how long the form is, and what value completing the form brings to the customer.

Barrier to Entry

Speaking of value, earlier I mentioned that the wrong person finding the drop, or the right person finding it at the wrong time, can lead to a bad impression of your brand or even a lack of conversion. Another compelling reason to use interactive tools for lead generation through a website is the opportunity for users to tell you what kind of intel they’re ready for. If you’re going to create a questionnaire or other web user journey, consider multiple destinations for your different audiences based on the info they share. Maybe some responses lead to a webinar, while others lead to a downloadable FAQ sheet or an eBook. If someone proceeds with filling out a call to action form on the website because they want to know more about a certain subject area, you already have a better understanding of their preparation as an educated, better-qualified lead. This ability to know your target better is the key to achieving your greater marketing mission and should be the driving need behind your choice of lead generation method.

An increasing number of audience members not only expect to be asked for basic lead gen information, they prefer to share it if it means they will get a more authentic, personalized experience every time they engage with your brand. Research by Adlucent in 2016 revealed that 71% of consumers prefer personalized content and found some interesting details about what information users are willing to trade for a better experience. Half of customers are willing to provide details about their product or service interests and preferences in exchange for information, and 44% of the same group said they would be willing to provide their name or email address along with product preferences. It was also shown that people protect their privacy and home address as strongly as they do their credit card information. Only 8% would share news of a life event like getting married or having a kid, and only 3% would share their home address. Clearly, it’s not just about knowing that what you’ve left behind in the dead drop is of vital importance; it’s also making sure the intended audience is willing to take the risk to open it.

The Cache

If someone gives you their information in exchange for an offer or promotion, but doesn’t think the exchange was worth it for them in the end, they may not end up doing business with your brand. You might wonder what makes a piece of intel “worth it,” but the answer is really simple; whatever you provide the user with needs to enrich their life. Maybe that means some basic entry-level information, like an evergreen whitepaper, or it might be as dense as a three-session webinar series about changes to regulations in your industry. Different segments of your audience will be attracted by different honeypots, meaning your lead generation methods may vary, but they’ll all be looking for authentic value at the same time.

Remember, targets in your marketing audience are increasingly savvy at seeing inauthentic or hurried appeals. Recent studies show that elements like brand nostalgia, brand legitimacy, brand clarity, brand social engagement, and even employee passion are all relevant to a company’s overall image of authenticity. However, marketers are learning that these call to action examples used too strongly or without enough strategy can also contribute to the opposite effect, brand fatigue. That feeling is growing increasingly common in developed markets like the US, UK, and Japan. In up-and-coming economies like the Philippines, Mexico, and Brazil, brands are still often considered to be like friends and family members by over half of consumers. In the United States, by comparison, 44% of people said they see brands as acquaintances at best, and 20% said they feel like a brand is their enemy or even arch-rival. In these markets, its also becoming increasingly common for inauthentic attempts to appear authentic, especially around a social cause, to backfire monstrously.

One thing to remember is that almost everything you put on the Internet these days is its own kind of dead drop, but some of that intelligence about your brand won’t be hidden at all. Your customer service tweets are in fact probably more likely to be seen by your customers and potential customers than the case study you put behind a lead generation form on the company website. When coming up with your lead generation strategy, make sure the message is authentic and that you aren’t promising more than you’ll actually deliver. Sources say B2B conversions take an average of 3 touches, while B2C conversions can take seven or more. No one piece of content has to do it all. If you want some help figuring out how your brand’s authentic story can be better expressed to customers through content marketing, let me and my small team of writers help you out.

Agent, you have been selected for one of marketing's most important secret missions: content espionage. On your assignment, you'll be expected to gather intelligence about your target audiences, employ shadow tactics to deliver content at strategic points, and conduct your work in absolute secrecy. Download the Metonymy Media Bureau of Content Marketing's field manual for procedures in reconnaissance, mind control, spy networks, and more for maximum marketing impact. This lead generation form will self-destruct upon completion.