By Perry Rearick, Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer
Think back to the last time your interest was piqued by an article or study with an interesting title. It may have had a compelling introduction that caused you to want to read more. So, you clicked on the “read more” button only to be met by a gate that required you to provide a half dozen pieces of personal contact information.
What did you do? You likely paused initially. There is a good chance that you abandoned your efforts to read the content. If the content was exceptionally intriguing and the source was one you knew and trusted, you provided the required information.
Whether to gate or not gate content is a common question posed by B2B content marketers. It is a great question and worth some thought.
I worked with a large B2B solution provider that gated all their content “because sales needed the contact information.” Their thinking was that if they are willing to fill out a form that provided personal contact information and the status of any active projects, they must be a sales qualified lead. But what if the content was a non-promotional article intended for the early buyer’s journey?
Personal Information is Currency
A good way to think about the reader’s experience when they encounter gated content is to consider their personal contact information as currency. By gating our content, we are asking the reader to give us something that has a monetary value to them and to us.
According to Wendy Jacobson, owner of Incredible Content and a regular contributor to Follow Your Buyer, it is important to “think about what an email address is worth to you in actual currency. Is it $1, $5, $20, $100? Whatever the worth is, the gated content needs to meet or exceed that worth.”
Understanding the Reader’s Experience
Adam Lofquist, founder and CEO of the Lofquist Group, maintains that gated content “distracts and interrupts your buyer’s journey. Visitors go to your content to learn about that specific idea or topic, not to be put in a marketing funnel. They want to be informed, not sold to. It is the company trying to make the buyer’s journey follow the company’s process, it simply does not work.”
Considering how the disruption impacts the reader helps content marketers be more intentional with its use. If you choose to employ gates in your content marketing strategy, make sure they play a meaningful role in your prospect engagement strategy. Consider the content, what phase of the buyer’s journey it is for, and how to follow-up with the prospect, if you do at all. This is fundamental marketing and sales alignment.
Lofquist also says that gating your content can have a negative impact on prospect engagement and states that “up to 90% of visitors drop off because of gated content, because they do not trust the company”, according to businessesgrow.com. Lofquist offers the following analogy: “if I were to offer you a free tasty taco but the stipulation was that I could come over to your house whenever I wanted, would you even think about taking the taco?”
Develop a Relationship with Your Reader-Prospect
Jacobson suggests “greasing the wheels first, by giving away a lot of value with your content.” This helps build your credibility as a thought leader and develops a relationship with a target audience. She adds, then when introducing a gated piece of content, it will be perceived as going above and beyond the value you’ve already delivered.
Lack of trust is the main reason readers abandon content when it is gated. If you haven’t taken the time to develop a trusting relationship with your readership, or prospects, they aren’t going to pay for accessing your content with their personal contact information.
Lofquist also recommends giving readers options by having “a sign-up form that is optional or add a “Contact Us” link or button. This empowers your customers to make their own decisions and you spend less time trying to convince those with little purchase intent to buy.”
Prospect Information is Gold
Once a reader has paid you for access to your content with their personal contact information, don’t spend it frivolously. The quickest way to erode the relationship you established with a prospect is to haphazardly use their contact information. The most common mistake is to follow-up in a way that is not aligned with where the reader is in their buyer’s journey.
I recommend delivering more of what they paid to access. If a reader exchanged their personal information to access an article on producing auto-injectable drugs, follow-up by sending them an article on proper packaging for auto-injectors during shipping.
Like most content marketing strategies that go awry or get abused, gating your content in a way that is not supporting your marketing and lead nurturing strategy will do more harm than good.
I’ll close by sharing with you something that Jacobson said, “I think it’s a good tactic when used sparingly.”
Special thanks to Wendy Jacobson, owner of Incredible Content and Adam Lofquist, founder and CEO of the Lofquist Group for sharing their thoughts for this article.