Mistake or Clever Test?

As marketers, we know that consumers are accustomed to providing personal information in exchange for something free. As business-to-business marketers, we know that gated content is one of the best ways to build a database of prospects. So the email I received recently from MarketingSherpa really surprised me

Several years ago, I started subscribing to MarketingSherpa—a research institute that provides case studies, benchmark reports and articles on what’s working in marketing today. I find their practical approach and clear and concise writing truly helpful in my ongoing quest to stay on top of marketing best practices.

As marketers, we know that consumers are accustomed to providing personal information in exchange for something free. As business-to-business marketers, we know that gated content is one of the best ways to build a database of prospects. So the email I received recently from Pamela Markey, Senior Director of Marketing at MarketingSherpa really surprised me.

There was nothing unusual about the email itself. Typical MarketingSherpa subject line, and typical MarketingSherpa email format. The purpose of the email was to advise me that the Quarterly Research Digest with insights from Q1 2014 was now available. But what caught me off guard was the language they used to make their offer:

I would like to share a complimentary digital copy (no lead gen form required) of the most recent edition with you.

No lead gen form required? Really??

In case there was a doubt in the reader’s mind, the offer was repeated again, underneath the call-to-action button: “Get a Complimentary Digital Copy”…. “(no lead gen form required)

My first reaction was, “Wow. I guess they know their audience!”—those of us sick and tired of filling out a form just to read a whitepaper or “10 tips…,” knowing that it might prompt a follow up phone call.

(As a side note, I’ve found this even more annoying, especially after I received the offer of a download via email. Surely they could track that it was ME who clicked and downloaded? But I digress …)

When I shared the email with a colleague, her reaction was totally different. “I think it’s a mistake,” she stated. “I think the copywriter intended it as ‘direction’ to the art director or programmer.”

Hmmm … those MarketingSherpa folks are pretty savvy marketing people, who I doubt made that kind of mistake … or did they?

Perhaps they’re trying to learn if more people will click on the link when they know (in advance) that there won’t be any form to fill out. And when you think about it, that’s a great thing to test. We’re all looking for ways to increase clickthroughs and downloads, and I’m sure the research folks at MarketingSherpa already know that those forms are a barrier to completion.

I, for one, would like to know the outcome of the test (if this is one). Or, if it’s not, I’d like to know the copywriter that suggested this strategy. Because in my opinion, it’s brilliant.