Gated content is an unavoidable, highly debated subject in the B2B marketing sector. For marketers, it’s like discussing politics or choosing what restaurant to eat at.
Everyone has an opinion, and they’re just waiting for you to bring it up so they can share it.
It’s also been around for a while– the proverbial “tale as old as time,” if you will.
Internet users have been gating or locking content since the first webpage went up in 1991.
So, what is it? (If you haven’t had this defined for you before, we are honored to be the first.)
“Gated content is any type of media that is accessible to users after they provide their contact information or other qualifying details. Usually, this information is collected by an online form.”
The content you gate can come in many shapes. Here’s a quick list of the most common types.
- White Papers.
- An Email Series.
- Product Demos.
- Quiz Results.
- Annual Reports.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but the top four are the most popular in the B2B world.
We understand that this is a complicated subject, but this post will hopefully provide you with some clarification and direction for gated content.
With that in mind, we will unpack the argument of gated and ungated content, our view on the gate debate, and best practices for using this lead generation strategy.
To Gate or Not to Gate
We mentioned a debate earlier.
Some marketers believe that gating your content is essential to capturing potential customers’ interest and other marketers insist that gating causes too much friction (you make it harder for customers to consume content so they don’t ever convert.)
Leading experts in this industry have shared their views on this issue.
HubSpot’s “3rd founder, Mike Volpe, says,
“If I can get 100,000 people to see that page and I can get 28,000 people to fill it out, 28,000 contacts may be more valuable than even 50,000 people seeing the content.”
On the other side of the gated aisle, you have marketers like David Meerman Scott that prefer ungated because:
“A lot of people will see the form and say, ‘Forget it. I don’t want to fill out the form.’ The vast majority of people are unwilling to share a piece of content that has a form in front of it.”
Finally, Tobin Lehman, founder of New North, believes gated content is like a value-based transaction.
“This is all about fair value exchange. Whoever fills out that form should get exactly what they ‘paid’ for—valuable content. Not gating can give the impression that what you are providing is not worth their time because you ask for nothing in return.”
We believe a little friction can be a good thing. No friction causes everything to keep sliding around forever. In other words, not gating your content can mean that leads just keep on sliding right past you and never convert.
To sum up, if you know why and when to put a small barrier between your audience and your content, this strategy can be an effective tool for growth.
Here’s Why We Use Gated Content
We use it for lead generation.
This is often the biggest goal of gated content. Our inbound marketing efforts have been seriously improved by doing this.
We admit it can take some careful planning, but essentially, we offer value in exchange for customer information.
Then come the leads. Leads mean MQLs. MQLs mean a full sales pipeline. A healthy sales pipeline means more clients.
This is a simplified explanation, but our point is still made—gated content can boost our (and your) bottom line.
We use gated content to filter the leads it brings in.
In this instance, gated content acts as a net and hook simultaneously.
The person who passes through our net (form) may be genuinely interested in the content, but not in our services.
By asking them to leave behind specific information like what company they work at our what their position is there, we see if they are a genuine lead from our target audience and hook them into a tailored lead nurturing program.
We use it to establish credibility and expertise.
We’ll just come out and say it. Our expertise is very valuable to B2B tech businesses. If we distill it into an ebook, guide, checklist, or webinar, we want potential clients to realize its value while proving our expertise.
It’s also a great way to compete with other agencies in our industry. Investing in long-form content also scores us backlinks and mentions by third parties.
Now that covered why we habitually (and why you should consider) gate our content, let’s turn to what you need to do before you do the same.
Gated Content Best Practices
1. Understand your end goal.
Knowing the route you’re going to run and where the finish line is, is essential to winning a race.
The same goes for gating content. Know your path and purpose.
Gated content is a great idea if you’re looking for lead generation. As we mentioned above, that’s what it is designed for.
If you’re looking to build SEO/brand awareness, we recommend keeping your content ungated.
In reality, your end goals might not be that specific. Most businesses are looking to do a bit of both. That’s where these next ideas come in.
2. Craft content for the buyer journey.
You need to know where your potential customer is in the buyer journey.
In the consideration stage, they are most likely looking for solutions, guidance, or opportunities. The content you gate should reflect that.
Study trends and take a look at popular posts from your own blog or competitors’ blogs in your industry. Create eBooks and checklists that could act as companions to them.
In the later stages of the buyer journey, provide webinars and whitepapers. These are great additions to product and service pages on your website.
Do you offer free trials, product demos, or proof concept demos? These gated content ideas are great for the decision stage of the buyer journey.
3. Provide high-value content.
Is this obvious? Yes. Do businesses still gate sub-par content? Also, yes.
We understand this approach can be very time-consuming and complicated, but your gated content must be worth the price of admission.
By that, we mean it should have three characteristics.
- Does the content actually provide insight, useful data, and resources? Are the designs/aesthetics professional and attractive?
- Can your audience take what you’ve given them and move forward? Do you outline steps for success or improvement?
- Is this content or media package pertinent to your industry’s trends and best practices? Are the solutions or data you provide up to date and reliable?
These traits will give your potential customer the ultimate incentive to fill out the form, fill out more forms, and eventually convert.
4. Create a lead nurturing campaign.
Speaking of converting, we can’t emphasize this one enough. Gating content is most effective when you have a plan. It’s like our number principle above but more in-depth. It’s not just basic knowledge of the path. It’s a detailed map of the journey.
Do your research on the buyer journey and industry trends like we outlined above and decide what content you will create and where you should provide it.
Next, move to build a strong landing page for your gated media, whether it’s from an ad, a website pop-up, an email campaign, or a social post.
Check out our post here on how to create a conversion-capturing landing page.
Finally, measure your analytics!
Track your conversions and page interactions. You should learn what was successful and what wasn’t. This will help you understand your audience better and build an even more successful campaign.
Want more B2B Content Marketing help?
We hope our thoughts and suggestions will guide you forward in your gated content journey.
At New North, we’ve helped B2B firms and companies to build user bases, drive more sales, and grow using the right marketing strategies–including gated content.
We’re confident we can help you, too.
Schedule a free consultation and let’s get into the specific ideas that will work for you, so you can craft a B2B tech marketing strategy that stands out from the pack and gets you the results you’re looking for.