You've been there; so have I. Slaved into the night to write that killer white paper, staged the archive of an informative webcast, or made a very cool gizmo available for download from the website. And all we asked for in return was a registration.
To quote a Chinese curse, "May your wishes come true". All too often, your best trust-building efforts produce phony registrations that are useless to your Sales team and a maintenance hassle for Marketing. Unfortunately, bogus registrations are a reality of life in the demand gen world. If someone doesn't want to give you legitimate information, they will figure out a way to beat your registration process. That said, you can take steps to improve your chances of acquiring quality registrations (or turn away some of the "undesirables" right at your doorstep):
- Keep your registration forms short and aesthetically crisp. There are few things more off-putting to an engaged website visitor than a long, messy Reg form. First/Last, Company, Address, Email Address, and Phone Number should be the only things you require for general purpose registrations. Make the Country and State/Province fields drop-down lists. And don't clutter your forms with a lot of "optional" fields; collect that info in a downstream activity (e.g., through a company tracker database like Hoovers or during the initial sales call).
- Validate email addresses. Make it clear to visitors that you intend to validate the email addresses they provide. On form submission, send an email message to the provided address with a link for retrieving the asset that prompted the registration. Importantly, direct that link to a landing page on which you can offer other tasty treats in exchange for ever deeper engagement.
- Raise the bar on email addresses (optional). Depending on your audience and the strength of the asset(s) you're offering in trade for registrations, you may be able to require corporate email addresses and reject addresses from public email domains like Gmail, Hotmail, etc. I'd recommend against requiring corporate email addresses if your market audience is large, diverse, and/or militant (open source marketers, are you reading this?). Still, some enterprise product companies have successfully implemented the corporate email address filter.
Do reasonability tests on phone numbers. You can do this at a couple of levels, as appropriate. First, immediately reject registrations containing string combos like (900) 111-2222. Need some help determining which strings are suspect? Eyeball the phone numbers in your CRM database; you'll quickly see the bogus stuff you've already gotten. Second, for North American visitors, you can correlate the Area Code and Zip Code using services like ZIPCodeWorld.
Area/Postal code correlation has limitations. It cannot be performed in all geographies because the mapping data is not globally available. Even in North America, your tests run the risk of hitting false positives. For example, a registrant could provide a company Zip Code that does not match the Area Code of his mobile phone number. You need to determine the importance and relevance of this testing based on your markets and needs (and how loudly your sales team is griping about useless phone numbers).
Pursuing the perfect website registration is hard work – no question about it. But it's a "pay now or pay later" proposition. Either do an effective job up front or deal with a lot of garbage on the back end of the process. Clearly, there isn't a single approach that fits all needs. Think about the alternatives above in the context of your markets and your sales experiences, and use what makes sense. You will thank yourself for the up-front investments you make, and you'll understand why they are appropriate for your needs.