Don’t let the value of data cloud your judgment when it comes to gating content.
The data that prospects and buyers share can make a powerful impact on our ability to connect with them and build relationships. But it’s a mistake to collect too much too soon. Four factors should guide your decisions: content type, buying stage, the information you want to collect and what your goals are.
Buyers are onto us. They know how badly we want their information, and they’re growing more reluctant to give it up unless we’re offering a fair value. If you’re not offering them value in exchange for that information, you’ll not only miss out on the data, you’ll miss out on a viewer for that content.
According to the 2019 Content Preferences Survey Report, 63% of respondents are willing to share information to access webinars, and 49% will share data for a white paper.
Is it about you or them? Product- and sales-related content such as product overviews, data sheets, testimonials and demos are about you. While it does help your buyer in the decision-making process, it helps you more. Share it freely with no gate.
What format is it? Blog posts, infographics and videos are typically considered “free content,” and gating them is likely to frustrate prospects who are used to accessing them for nothing. Don’t gate them.
What’s in it for them? Content that saves your readers time or money or helps them do their jobs better or learn a valuable skill offers a perceived value for their data. These are usually fair game for gating, provided you make it clear what they’re getting.
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but they’re helpful guidelines you can use as you make decisions on what to gate.
It’s important to know which types of content your prospects are most likely to engage with at each step of the marketing and sales funnel. Knowing content types and the subjects they’re interested in throughout the buyer’s journey will help you understand when you can gate your content.
Feeding the top of the marketing funnel means lots of content that’s easy to access. These assets are building up trust with your buyers that your content is worth their time. Once they’ve gotten to know and trust you as a provider of valuable content, they’ll be more likely to offer up their personal information in trade.
The further along they are in the funnel, the more important it becomes to collect the information you need to contact them directly, so later stage assets are key candidates for gating.
Most content formats are viewed during the early and middle stages of the buyer’s journey, according to the Content Preferences Report. But a handful are preferred in the late stages: ROI calculators (42%), user reviews (49%) and case studies (34%).
Popular mid-stage content includes webinars (47%) and video content (45%).
Know what motivates your customers at each stage of the buying process, and map your content to those phases. A content audit can help here.
What Do You Want to Know?
We’ve established that buyers are reluctant to share their personal data unless they perceive value. Even then, they may skip content altogether just because gating is inconvenient. So for goodness sake, don’t ask for information you already have.
Most marketing automation platforms and form-building tools offer progressive profiling, which allows you to create iterative lead-capture forms that designate which questions appear based on what you already know about a user. It will automatically ask these prospects or customers for new information that helps you build a more complete picture of who they are.
Whether or not you use such tools, make sure that you’re only gating content if it gives you the opportunity to learn something new. Even then, ask only the questions whose answers are valuable to you. The fewer, the better.
What Are Your Goals?
If your goals are brand awareness or sales enablement, you want as big a reach and as little friction as possible with content that’s easy for users to share and for search engines to index. Gating can be a big obstacle.
If lead generation is your priority, gating can make sense. But even then, you could consider a hybrid approach. Let users access the first few pages of a valuable asset, and then ask for contact information to gain access to the remaining pages.
Gated content remains a valuable tool in gathering the information to inform your content strategy. But overusing it can drive away leads. Knowing when, where and how to gate content is critical to your ability to collect useful information, develop an effective content marketing strategy and usher customers seamlessly through the funnel.
Want to learn more about what to measure and how to measure it? Check out 7 Content Consumption Metrics You Should Be Tracking.
Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian.