Why We’re Throwing Out All Of Our Lead Forms And Making Content Free

This post originally appeared on Drift’s blog here.

I had just settled down at my desk at Drift and my phone started ringing:

David Cancel.

My boss. Our CEO at Drift.

“A phone call? I’m going to see him in like, an hour” I wondered to myself. “And he knows I hate talking on the phone. He hates it too. Wonder what this could be about.”

“Hey, you got a second?” David asked after I picked up the phone. “I think we should get rid of all of our forms.”



I was able to muster that quick response, but wanted to see where he was going with this one.

I’m a marketer after all. Forms are how I get leads. And I love figuring out how to get more of those leads through things like content upgrades, downloadable guides, email courses, pop-ups etc.

Then David started to elaborate:

“I think marketing has kind of lost it’s way a little bit” he said. “We’ve lost the importance of a great story and truly connecting with people. We live in this world where it’s all about content, content and more content. And SEO. And ranking for this keyword and that keyword. And algorithms and conversion rate optimization. Pieces of that stuff are still important to marketing, but overall, I think we’ve lost our way. Marketing today has become more about gaming the system and get rich quick schemes.”

As he was saying that stuff, I found myself nodding my head.

I started to think about all of the products that I use and the ones that I always find myself recommending to other people. Products like Slack and MailChimp for example.

I’ve never had to jump through any hoops to get something from Slack or MailChimp. No gated content. No content upgrades. In fact, I don’t really remember filling out any type of form for either product, other than when I initially signed up.

And that’s when it hit me:

Slack isn’t winning because they were able to get more people to fill out lead forms than HipChat. MailChimp isn’t winning because they were better at lead nurturing than Constant Contact was.

They are winning because they have built amazing brands that people actually want to work with — and amazing products that people want to share with their friends and colleagues.

Plus, their products are free to start, so anyone can signup and play around before they even have to make a purchase.

David was right.

Marketing today has become more about getting someone to fill out that next form and jump through that next hoop.

A Shift In Marketing

Imagine it’s a Saturday morning and you’re heading to the Apple store because you’re in the market for a new MacBook, but you’re not really sure which one you’re going to get yet.

It’s a toss up between the 13 inch MacBook Air (does it have enough storage for all of the photos you take of your family?) and the 15 inch MacBook Pro (is it really worth paying that much more? What’s the difference between the Pro and the Air anyway?)

So you take a trip to the store to poke around on your own.

That’s the best part about the Apple story anyway — getting to play around with all of the computers, iPads and gadgets in-person before making a decision.

And right as you’re about to start typing on one of those new MacBooks they have setup on the left side of the store – boom. A sales rep jumps in front of you.

“Hey – can you fill out this form real quick?”

“Uh. I’m just looking around right now” you say back.

“I just want to learn a little more about you and what you might be interested in” the sales rep quips back.

“Learn more about what I’m interested in?” you think to yourself. “I’m right here. In your store. Right now. Testing out a new laptop!”

We’ve Started Treating People Like Leads, Not People

Too often, that exchange above is what sales and marketing can feel like today.

We’re spending so much time trying to get people to fill out forms so we can qualify them as MQLs, SQLs and move them further down the funnel.

We’re trying to write articles that get clicks from crowded newsfeeds and noisy social media streams.

We’re tinkering with landing pages and figuring out how we can get our cost-per-click down from $1.03 to $.64.

And we’re trying to figure how we can understand the algorithm of that brand new channel so we can optimize for it before our competitors do.

As a result, marketing ends up treating people like leads and email addresses instead of treating people like people.

Taking It Back To Marketing’s Roots

At Drift, we think the future of marketing looks much more like marketing’s roots in branding and story-telling.

Look around at the content that you’ve been consuming from brands lately.

Podcasts have exploded back onto the scene.

Medium is taking off.

Brands are even starting to explore Snapchat as a marketing channel — not because they can directly measure the ROI of Snapchat followers, but because they want to connect with customers the same way that those customers connect with their friends.

And more companies are making the shift to long-form, epic content, vs. publishing links everyday like a content factory, because that stuff has just stopped working.

BuzzSumo recently analyzed one million blog posts and found that 50 percent of content gets eight or fewer shares. There’s way too much content out there for people to sort through and figure out what’s actually worth their time to read.

No More Hoops, No More Hurdles

We recently made the decision to get rid of all of the hoops that you may have had to jump through to use Drift.

No more content upgrades. No more downloadable guides.

Just last week we published this 36 page eBook, and you originally had to put your email address in to get it. Now it’s completely free. Just a PDF embedded right into the post.

Maybe we’re going to lose out on hundreds and thousands of email addresses and possible leads. But we’re taking a bet that if we focus on building our brand, telling our story, and creating products that people actually want, that we’ll be better off in the long run — instead of spending all of our time trying to figure out ways to hack our way to more leads.

We’re still going to try to talk to all of our prospects while they’re live on our website and our customers that might need help inside of our product.

But we’re going to do it in a way that’s natural to them — like sending a message to a friend.


You’ll only see two types of forms from Drift from here on out:

A form to join our email list. We still want to be able to send you updates when we publish new content, and since we’re committing to publish less content that is of a higher quality, we don’t think you’ll mind getting emails from us once a week or so.

And yes, you’ll still see a pop-up (for now) when you land on our blog to get on that list. But it’s our mission at Drift to make it easier for businesses to communicate with their customers — and we’re shipping new things so fast right now that we will probably end up replacing that pop-up with Drift soon.

A form on our website to start using Drift. Email is still the currency of the Internet, and today, it’s the thing you need to use in order to get started with Drift. But, we keep it super simple and only ask for one field during signup (your email address), and if things continue to evolve, we’re open to exploring other ways to get started with Drift.

No more gated content. No more content upgrades. No more hoops. No more hurdles.

All of the content we create and share from here on out will be free.

We want to build a billion-dollar business by creating things that people actually want — not by tricking people into filling out forms just so we can email them to tears until they either buy something or unsubscribe forever.

Director of Marketing

Dave is the Director of Marketing at Drift and has a podcast show called 'Tech in Boston'. Previously he has worked for other SasS Marketing companies such as HubSpot, Constant Contact and Privy. He loves startups and trying to keep it in the fairway.
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