Why not ask for a little bit more in return for your thought leadership?

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We spend an awful lot of time on consulting firms’ websites, checking out what content is promoted and how. But despite our visits to so many different destinations, hardly any firm has ever asked “Who are you?” And even though we keep coming back for more, barely anyone thinks to question “How can we help you?” If this happened in the real as opposed to the virtual world, and we were in the market for professional services, I’m sure we would be taking ourselves and our wallets elsewhere. So why are professional services firms so hesitant to be more proactive online?

We wonder if some of this hesitancy is influenced by bad experiences with over-eager websites. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it rather frustrating when, the moment I hover over the scroll bar, a sales-minded pop-up message appears, more often than not covering up what I want to read. In the real world, that pop-up message would be an over-eager sales assistant accosting me and asking for my name before I’ve even got through the door of the shop. Not a winning tactic.

And perhaps some of the hesitation in asking for a little information in return for content reflects an under-valuing of that content. As users of content, none of us want to give data away in return for a disappointing read. But if you’ve got something that’s of value to your target audience and you use the right words or pictures to convince them to read on, they will--more often than not--be happy to tell you a little about themselves.

One firm that seems to have found a good way of asking for data without becoming over eager and offputting is Merkle. Describing themselves as “a leading data-driven, technology-enabled performance marketing agency”, the people at Merkle have got what appears to be a very effective approach to interacting with virtual shoppers. Some content is available without any interaction from the viewer. However, try to download a more substantial piece, and you’ll be asked for your email address. Start to download more, and you may be asked one or two more questions. It all feels very respectful, very “let’s take this one-step-at-a-time”. We got our hands on content we valued. And Merkle learnt a little more about us and our priorities, which might help to drive a deeper relationship. It’s definitely worth taking a look at this example and figuring out if you should be asking for a little bit more in return for your thought leadership.

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