The Great Debate: Gated vs. Ungated Content
If there’s one thing you learn in marketing, it’s that everyone expects something for nothing. That product you’re promoting – Your prospective customers expect a free sample. The new technology you’re testing – Your prospective customers want a free demo. And don’t even get us started on expert advice. It’s a given that it’s free.
We’re not being cynical. Of course, giving away products can be part of a very successful inbound marketing campaign. But when it comes to advice and content – is it best to ‘gate’ your valuable knowledge and advice instead of giving it away?
Once you’ve put the time into creating valuable content for a client, the next logical step in your overall strategy is looking at ‘content gating’ and asking the question: Does gated content work?
So, let’s take a step back. What is gated content?
Gated content is anything behind a form. It’s content – an ebook, webinar, video or whitepaper – that requires a potential customer to hand over personal information in order to see it. Whereas, ungated content is free to be viewed or read at any time by anyone.
Both types of content are valuable and should be included in your overall strategy. But when should you ungate content? And when should it be locked up tight behind a form?
When to Gate Content
As a marketer, the first question I always ask is “what is your objective?”. If it is to get more leads and eventually sales, then gated content can be a good part of your overall strategy. But only if you have the web systems and lead nurture to support it.
Another key consideration is whether someone is likely to trade their personal information for the piece of content you’ve created. If it is a glorified ad, then probably not. If it is a blog post promoting your products, probably not. Your content needs to provide value for your potential customer, and so much so that they don’t mind signing up for whatever sequence of emails you’ve got planned afterwards.
Which brings us to lead nurture. There is absolutely no point in gating your content and collecting valuable information on your prospects if you don’t have a plan for what comes next. Make sure you have a plan for lead nurture, whether that is salespeople following up personally or follow up emails providing more value and advice. If you don’t have that in place yet, you’re better off leaving content ungated until you’ve got a plan.
The whole point of content marketing is to get information from your prospects, but it’s important to keep in mind that adding a form will drastically reduce your download rate, so only do it if it meets the criteria and is necessary.
When to Ungate Content
There are many arguments for ungating content and some great marketers have been arguing over it for over 10 years. There are both strategic and practical arguments for ungating content.
Strategically, it’s all about how many people you want to read your insights. A lot of people will be interested but see the form and think “forget it.” Similarly, those that do hand over their personal information to access the content are unlikely to share it online (via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email or a blog) if it is behind a form. Conversely, of course, that means those that do provide information are probably high-quality leads (you’ll just get fewer of them).
Then, there are a few things to consider. If you’re still figuring out your audience persona and don’t have highly targeted content, then ungate it. If your website doesn’t have any ungated content, add some so people can easily find out what you’re all about. If the piece of content itself is surface level or over simplified (information people can get from a simple Google search) then ungate it.
It’s also important to think about your prospective customers’ stage of awareness. You may be asking too much by requiring a form if they are still in the ‘unaware’ or ‘problem aware’ stage. But that’s a topic for another day.
The Takeaway Message
There is certainly a reason the great debate between gated and ungated content has been raging for over a decade: it’s complicated. All businesses want their content to deliver solid leads. But there are many strategic and practical factors to consider.
In short, when your gated content is valuable enough, it can boost leads and sales. But only when delivered to the right audience, in the appropriate stage of awareness, with a well-developed follow-up sequence.
If you need help figuring out what to do with the content you’ve been developing for your inbound marketing campaign – reach out, we’d love to chat.
Sarah Park is the Digital Director at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She oversees the development of digital marketing strategies for clients to drive brand awareness, and ultimately sales.