Many people have websites and offer free downloadable materials to their visitors. You could be a CPA with a PDF brochure or a custom window installer with an excel file for cost estimates. You want to provide materials, but you also want to gather the visitor’s email address and contact info before letting them download the files. This tutorial will cover how to do that with some helpful free WordPress plugins.
Updated May 20, 2017 due to changes in plugin availability
Note: If you are looking for a non-plugin option which works both with and without WordPress, scroll to the end of the article.
There are actually a number of ways to do this now. The first part is storing your downloadable material – for example, a PDF with a download plugin. This allows you to replace your downloadable file without actually having to change any of your URLs.
There are three popular download monitor plugins and they all work pretty well.
- Download Monitor – most popular option, allows for multiple files per download
- Simple Download Monitor – very easy to get started with, limit of one file per download
- WordPress Download Manager – limits you to one file per download
The next step is creating a form with a thank you that goes to download. This really depends on what your goal for interaction is. Here are three I recommend:
- Contact Form 7 allows you to create simple contact forms which collect as much or as little information as you’d like. These forms can then email the person a link once filled out, redirect to a new page with the download, or display a short message with your download. If you want to save your form fills to your database you need an additional plugin such as Contact Form DB.
- Gravity Forms allows you to create powerful contact forms with advanced logic. These forms once filled out can redirect conditionally, display different messages depending on fields selected, send multiple emails, store data to your email mailing list provider, and logs all forms to the database.
- Leadin (now Hubspot) allows for simple forms (name & email in the free version), with slide-ins, pop-ups and more. It also tracks where users were on your site on their path to filling out a form and keeps track of those leads in a database. It will also sync with MailChimp.
There are of course many other contact form plugins out there, but after years of trying different things, these are the ones that I come back to time and time again.
Set Up Download Monitor
If you aren’t sure which download plugin to use, I would suggest Download Monitor.
Once you have it installed, you will see a “Downloads” option in your admin sidebar. If you click on it, you will see your list if current downloads (blank at the moment) and some additional options. For this tutorial, we will only be using “All Downloads” and “Add New”. We will leave all of the other settings alone.
Click on “Add New” and give your Download a title. Then go down to the Downloadable Files/Versions and click on Add file.
Here you can fill in the version number (helpful if you update your brochure quarterly) and click on Upload file to add a file. You can either upload a new file or add a file from your existing Media Library.
You will notice the blue bar where it says #1319 — Version n/a (2 May, 2014) — Downloaded 0 times
Take a note of the number after the #. In this case, 1319. This number is needed later. It is the unique ID for this particular download. The nice thing about Download Monitor is that when you upload new versions of your files the ID will not change.
Once you have uploaded your file, click on the usual Publish button.
Now go back to the All Downloads page and you will see your download. Notice that there is an ID field here and the ID is the same 1319.
Create Your Contact Form
Now that you have your download ready, it’s time to create the contact form. I’ll show the steps to go with Contact Form 7 plugin, but of course, you can use a different form option.
Go Contact in your admin Sidebar and click on Add New.
Configure your new contact form with the fields that you would like to capture from the visitor on your site.
Once you have the form set up click on Save.
Note: If you are getting a number of downloads you may want to set up a separate email address just for these form submissions to go to.
Tieing Together Form & Download
Now that you have a download and a form, you want to put together a flow with them. Again, I’ll use Contact Form 7 as my example.
With CF7 you have a couple of options of how you can display the download.
- Display a message – by default after you submit a form, a short success message appears. You can display a link to your download with this success message.
- Send an email – with the Mail (2) option you can send visitors who fill out your form an email with a download link in it.
Gravity Forms allows for similar options, except that their thank you pages, messages, and emails are easier to setup and allow for more options without any programming skills.
Leadin (now Hubspot) allows for a message to be immediately displayed with a link to download.
Viewing Database Info
If you are using Contact Form 7, then to save your form submissions to the database you’ll need a separate plugin. I generally use Contact Form DB which is available on github.
Now that you’ve set up your page with your contact form, run a couple of submissions on it to generate some data.
When you have some data, go to Contact Form DB in the admin sidebar and you will see your database entries. Here you can see when the person submitted the form, the fields from Contact Form 7 that you setup and the downloads that they selected. This data can also be exported as a CSV file for offline processing (or importing into a mailing list).
Alternative non-Plugin Option
There is, of course, another commonly used method, a mailing list signup form. With popular mailing list providers, such as MailChimp, you can have new subscribers to your email list receive a welcome email which can include links to your downloads.
You can create different lists and have different sign-up forms for each list, this allows you to send different welcome emails.
MailChimp has also made automation free, so if you want to setup an entire sequence of follow-up emails to your subscribers you can do that easily.
Contact Form 7 has an optional additional plugin for working with MailChimp. Gravity Forms has an integration to feed to your MailChimp list, and Hubspot will add subscribers to a MailChimp list for you.
This tutorial has explained how to let people download materials in exchange for providing an email address and contact info. There are multiple options available to you, and frequently plugins that you already have installed on your site or tools already in your workflow will determine what’s the best choice for you.