In a commercial transaction, there is what I call an economy of information, where people trade their attention in exchange for something of value -- a new approach, an idea as to how to do their job better, some research that allows them to compare themselves to their peers.
If what you're providing is mostly educational, your perceived value will be high to your recipients. Your open rates will go up and your conversion rates increase. And you'll likely find that you are top of mind when the customer is ready to move from the investigative phase of their buying process into the consideration phase.
I recently saw this form on a popular B2B company that sells to marketers and provides fantastic thought leadership to the community. What's the problem here?
First of all, just because the content is free doesn't mean that this information is free. The economy of information actually makes this a very expensive transaction.
If I'm a first-time prospect coming to this site, I have to weigh the potential value of this information (I have no idea if it's any good yet) with what the company is asking of me:
Email address. If I provide my real address, there's a chance this company will contact me in the future. If I download the free "thing" and I don't like it, I'm going to have to go through an emotional hassle to unsubscribe from their future communications.
Company. Even though they don't ask me for my phone number, they could call the main switchboard and ask for me, resulting in more time spent dis-engaging with them.
Role at company, Number of Employees, B2B, B2C. I call this "first date spam." It's like you were on a first date with someone you were mildly interested in and they start asking you really personal and not-quite-appropriate-for-that stage-in-your-relationship questions. I have no emotional investment in the company, so I'm going to be a little creeped out the more questions you ask up front, before I like, trust and respect you.
Biggest marketing challenge. I understand the value of this answer to the company (good survey data), but since I don't see why this is necessary to share on this form, it just tips the economy of information way against me and in favor of this company. In the end, may people will either lie or abandon the form, reducing its effectiveness.
But my point is that marketers need to think carefully about the balance between getting more information up front, and engaging in a conversation, where trust is built carefully, over time, to engage customers in ways that make them feel they are always getting more in value than they are being asked to contribute.