Collecting personal data in exchange for a download is not a new thing. I routinely pay for a white paper or research report with my name and email address. Sometimes I get an email from the company asking me if they can send me more information or asking if they can sell me their services. More often, I never hear from the company again.

Occasionally I am asked for more than just my name and email address, and then I pause to consider how much the download is worth to me. Usually I’ll enter my phone number. Occasionally I’ll even enter my address. But I often decide to forgo the download and close the tab if I’m asked for more than that.

Some things to consider when deciding how much data to collect:

  • The more you collect, the more likely you are to turn people off and lose the lead entirely
  • Don’t collect data you won’t even use
  • Most B2B audiences are comfortable giving away names, email addresses, and phone numbers; however B2C audiences often stop at the email address.
  • “Technical” people such as programmers and engineers typically have little patience for marketing: collect as little data as you can from this audience.

Too much?

I recently downloaded a programming language specification for a new project that I am about to launch. First I was asked for my email address and company name. Then I was sent an email that contained a link which, when clicked, took me to a page asking for my name, phone number, address, and a description of what I planned to do with the specification. Finally, I was taken to a full license agreement that I had to accept before getting to the links for the specs. I’ve worked on over a dozen projects documenting standards based on specification documents, and this is the first time I have ever encountered this much collection of data. I can easily imagine SW engineers faced with this barrage rolling their eyes and saying “no thanks” and instead looking for another solution.

The moral of the story:

People are willing to trade their user information in trade for downloads. But asking your web visitors for too much personal information risks them deciding to go somewhere else. Collect the least amount of data that you need.

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