To Gate or Not to Gate, That is the Question… for Content Marketers
In today’s world of social media and sharing, there are numerous B2B marketers who ask themselves every day whether they should gate their content or leave it open for all to see and download. Gate or un-gate – what is the ultimate answer to this question? If I could answer that question right here, this may very well be the shortest blog ever written. Sorry to disappoint all the marketers out there looking for a simple solution, but there really is no right or wrong choice.
What’s the right answer?
Marketers are conflicted in this area because the ultimate job of a marketer comes down to convincing prospects that the approach and/or solution that the company is marketing is the right one for them and ultimately, converting them. In order to convince prospects, you must inform them first. In this age of buyer-driven transactions, you are asking a lot of your prospects to offer their personal information when all you’ve provided them with is a short description and a registration form.
By gating your content, are you putting up a huge jersey barrier in the fast lane to informing your prospective buyers? It depends on how you look at it. On one hand, we have referenced the above “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” nature of technology buyers, so arguably, regardless of whether you put a registration form in front of your content or not, buyers are still going to want to dictate when, where, and about what they want to talk to you in regards to their current project needs. On the other hand, if you don’t put up a reg wall, you miss any opportunity to know who is interacting with your content and what their intentions are. I think we can agree that neither of the above strategies will work all that effectively when applied universally to all of your content.
So where does that leave us? The right “answer” to the content gating question is…. a cop out – you should look to do both. And what determines whether you gate a piece of content or not comes down to the content itself and ultimately how you are measuring success.
5 considerations for gating or un-gating content
Whether to gate your content or not comes down to a number of different factors, including
- Content type – There are many types of content that are developed by organizations that cover various solution areas and approaches. However, in my opinion, there are certain types of content you want to avoid putting behind registration walls. These are case studies, infographics, and videos. Case studies are at their very essence testimonial and proof of concept/purchase for your company. Should a potential customer be at a point that they are seriously considering your company enough to reference a case study, you don’t want to get in the way of this process. Plus, this prospect may already be engaged with your company or may be incented to contact you once they have consumed this content. When it comes to videos and infographics, these are visual mediums that are designed to tell stories and/or provide incentive for/support longer form deep-dives into initiatives. Whether in their personal or professional lives, users do not expect to be interrupted when accessing these assets.
- Content value – This one is somewhat of an arbitrary measure. When gating content, marketers must ask themselves whether the value of the content exceeds the perceived inconvenience of offering personal information in exchange for it. There are many questions that can determine value including content age, focus (is it product-driven or broad-based), does it describe a proprietary approach, does it include industry research, etc. While there are no specific answers to this, the best guide I have seen is this flowchart from HubSpot.
- Content stage – The earlier a buyer is in his/her buying process, the less they will want to share information with you, so you need to mitigate this by having a healthy mix of gated and un-gated early stage assets so that the buyer can self-select how they move forward with you. In enterprise technology buying, there is no such thing as e-commerce. Whether they are 60% through the process or later, all buyers know that eventually, they are going to need to talk to a sales rep. Therefore, the later a buyer is in the cycle, the more threshold they have for sharing info with you. The majority of your late stage assets (product sheets, demos, trials, etc.) should be gated.
- Your market position – If you are the clear leader in the marketplace, putting a gate in front of your content is a far less risky proposition. When you are a best of breed vendor or a nascent start-up, getting your story out and propping up your brand needs to be goal #1 if you are trying to compete with 800 lb. gorillas. Understandably, you are trying to build a database, but the price for gating goes up considerably.
- Your ideal prospect profile/personas – When you employ a persona-driven content strategy, you want to ensure that your content is effective in reaching your ideal prospects. In many cases, this requires that they identify themselves to you when they are accessing content specifically geared towards their needs. As long as the content is of high value, you should be gating this content.
I don’t want to fill too many pages here, so these are just a few of the considerations to get you started.
Assessing your ROI
There are many reasons to gate or un-gate content, but there is really only one that truly matters: ROI. We are all judged on what we produce as marketers and your KPIs will often dictate the decisions you make. If you are being judged on impressions, views, and eyeballs, there is no way anyone will tell you to gate content. However, if you are trying to maximize the leads you generate for the business and better set up nurturing streams for future marketing efforts, you are most likely going to gate most of the content you produce. Regardless of whether you decide to gate content or not to gate content, you need to make sure you provide prominent calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout. There is a great post here to help you figure out all these pros and cons relative to ROI.