When Online Offers Fail

Published: November 28, 2012

By Tony Tissot, Senior Director Of Marketing, eTrigue

The cause of the problem may be a failure to test for all likely scenarios, overcomplicated forms, or simply asking respondents to jump through an unrealistic set of hoops.

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By Tony Tissot, Senior Director Of Marketing,

When online offers fail to work properly, potential prospects are left feeling frustrated. The cause of the problem may be a failure to test for all likely scenarios, overcomplicated forms, or simply asking respondents to jump through an unrealistic set of hoops.

It’s a frustrating experience for a potential prospect when you can’t quickly and easily take advantage of an interesting offer. Quick and easy is what email and online marketing is all about. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work: See a compelling offer and then gain access to quality information in exchange for a little bit of personal information.

I recently responded (or at least I repeatedly tried to respond) to an offer from a leading public relations service provider for a short white paper that promised quick tips for marketers.

“10 Rules for Successful Email Marketing” proved to be an oddly ironic choice of titles.

I never did gain access to what was offered. I got blocked – get this – because I am a current customer! The download offer form wanted me to create a password, in addition to supplying my email address and seven additional pieces of personal information (far, far too much for an initial offer of this type). But because I’m already one of their customers, the form kept returning an error “Email already in use.” You think? 

And my existing, good password would not work on the form to gain access to the white paper!

Blocking me was certainly unintentional on their part. But it points out the need to think campaigns through from beginning to end, and the need to test for all possible scenarios. Simpler would have been a lot better. And certainly the amount of questions should be halved.

Deploying an offer landing page built within a marketing automation system would prevent such a negative scenario from occurring. Marketing automation can determine if a person is a repeat visitor and may be set up to provide immediate access to the white paper, or to use progressive logic and just ask one or two simple additional questions. 

Perhaps the company was concerned with preventing duplicate entries? Who cares if you get a duplicate entry? Marketing automation makes duplicates irrelevant by merging records. 

Of course there are other simple alternatives, as well. One quick fix in the absence of marketing automation would be to add a simple link that says, “Already a customer? Log in here to gain access.”

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received goes back to elementary school: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” With online marketing, thinking through and testing the online offer response process as if you were that potential prospect is important. We all make mistakes. Many marketing automation systems allow users to change their campaigns on the fly, so that they can correct the inevitable mistakes without having to redo the entire campaign.

In the end, I never got the white paper, and I left feeling frustrated. The irony of the offer’s title will not be forgotten. And that is the worst possible campaign outcome.

Tony Tissot has been an advocate of marketing automation capabilities since before the term was coined, while running marketing and corpcom for a $2 billion division of a Global 50 company and, later, for two successful technology start-ups. Tony Tissot is currently Senior Director of Marketing at eTrigue. He can be reached via email at  tony.tissot@etriguecorp.com, or on Twitter @tonytissot.

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