More people will sign up if you ask them AFTER you give them something than will sign up if you ask them BEFORE you give them something.

"I found that only 9% of prospects filled out a form required to access some valuable content on my website," states Mac McIntosh, one of the leading experts in Business-to-Business sales lead generation. "So I instead let them download without filling out a form, simply opening a new window for the download, then changing the background window to thank them for downloading and asking them to tell us more about their needs. That resulted in a 45% form completion rate, vs. the 9%. Perhaps this is because I gave them something valuable first, then asked for more information."

People hate filling out forms. They hate giving you personal information. However, if you do something useful for them first then they are more likely to give you that information. How did Mac come to this realization? Like all great web professionals, Mac manages his website based on a process of continuous improvement rather than the traditional launch-and-leave approach.

He explains that he "experimented with asking only a few key questions on a form, such as name/title/email, capturing the lead when they hit submit, then asking additional questions on a second page. This nearly doubled the number of leads captured, and I found that nearly 40% of them answered the second set of questions too. This maximized the number of leads captured, and the amount of information shared. I figured this all out by testing; something every B2B marketer should be doing."

Web marketing and communication is about helping people along their way rather than getting in their way. Once they're on your website, don't try and get attention. Rather, pay attention to what the customer wants to do. Make decisions based on evidence of actual customer behaviour on your site. Use facts, not opinions.

"Marketing on the web is more about being found when prospective customers are searching for solutions or for products or services like yours," Mac explains. The first rule of web marketing is: sell to the customer what they're looking for.

"The prospective customer is now in control; both in Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C)," Mac explains. "I can't speak for B2C, but we in B2B need to figure out how to help them buy, matching our marketing/selling process to their buying process, not just try to sell them or make them fit our sales process."

Treat the customer as an intelligent stranger who has walked into your restaurant and ordered the vegetarian option. Don't try and turn them into a meat eater because your most profitable and recently launched dish is a "Meat Supreme" pizza. It won't work. You'll lose the customer. Lose the sale. Damage your brand.

M. H. (Mac) McIntosh, has just been selected as #1 of the Sales Lead Management Association's 2010 "Top 50 Most Influential People", is president and principal consultant of B2B marketing consulting firm Mac McIntosh Incorporated, and is a founding partner of the B2B marketing automation services firm AquireB2B. Mac and his associates specialize in helping companies generate more high-quality B2B sales leads, turn them into sales, track and measure results, and provide a favorable return on investment.

Related Reading: Content Management Equals Continuous Improvement