When most people encounter an online registration form from a company they either don’t know or who they feel hasn’t earned the right to ask for their information, they either abandon the form or they provide incorrect information. Maybe you do the same?
One of the biggest challenges in Online Marketing is the over-abundance of late-stage, product-specific and gated content.
This content is great for buyers who are ready to “buy now.” And marketers should employ strategies to identify and capture every one of these leads that we can for our businesses.
The problem is that not everyone in the buying process is ready for this type of content. Nor do they trust you enough to share their personal information. In fact, there is a reason the so-called “marketing funnel” is bigger at the top representing early-stage buyers: there are many more of them than there are late-stage buyers.
And so the question arises: which content should I make “registration-required” in order to maximize my lead capture while also reaching the largest possible audience of potential buyers?
What is Content Gating?
For definitional purposed, “gating” refers to the process of requiring someone to fill out a registration form in order to view or download a piece of content.
The registration form can request just one or 2 pieces of information such as email address and your name. Or they can go as long as your imagination allows, requesting items such as title, company, address, phone numbers, opt-in for future communication, if you are a decision-maker, if you want to be contacted by a sales person, name of your first-born child, favorite color and more.
The “Creep Factor” in Content Gating
In this Entreprenour article, Erika Chickowski (@ErikaChick) recounts how David Meerman Scott likens gating content to asking for someone’s phone number at a singles bar without even introducing yourself. She also cites 2 separate sources that researched the subject and found that un-gated content is 20 to 50 times more likely to be downloaded. Think about that: instead of getting 2,000 downloads of your whitepaper, you could get 100,000!
4 Factors to Consider For Content Gating
- Objectives: what is the goal of the content?
- Audience: who is the intended audience?
- Value: is it a 20 page research brief or a 400-word blog post? Each has a relative value for your audience.
- Uniqueness: can your audience get similar content somewhere else without a form getting in the way.
Generate Demand With Content Marketing
Joe Chernov, VP of Content Strategy has offered up a whole deck on content and demand generation. I totally agree with him when he says that content has tremendous value when mapped to the right stage of the buying process. He suggests focusing on content that advances the buyer in their journey.
Joe’s Eloqua colleague Jesse Noyes (@NoyesJesse) also has a great review of the options in this post where he quotes Chris Jablonski (@cjablonski), author Emerging Tech blog on ZDNet, who provided the following formula: 10% to 20% fully gated content, 20% to 30% name and email only, and 50% to 70% completely free.
This article from Hubspot does a great job of discussing the main reasons why content gating is so hotly debated. There are good reason to gate and good reasons not to gate content behind registration forms.
The benefits of un-gated content: The main reason to “set your content free” is that more people are likely to see it and they are also more likely to share it. This provides positive search results (SEO) for your site, more inbound links or “referral links” from other websites and ultimately more traffic and visitors to your website. The more visitors you get, the more opportunities you have to convert them to leads and customers.
The downside to un-gated content: Includes lower quality leads, unpredictable lead volumes, fewer conversions and less information marketers can use to nurture buyers with deeper content that is more relevant to their needs.
Hubspot recommendation: consider content by buying stage.
Deliver The Right Content And You Will Get Customers
In my post on how to sell-in Content Marketing, I talk about how anyone can do the simple math do figure out how to win more customers with early-stage content.
I’m not sure I did a great job explaining it, but the bottom line is found in what I mentioned above: un-gate your content and it will get exposed to 20 to 50 times more people. If you offer content that brings them to the next stage of the buying process, you are already converting leads you would have never found before. Because these prospects were getting the information they need from somebody else.
In the end, I think the answer lies in the fact that you cannot make gating decisions in a one-off fashion. You need a content strategy that offers the right content at the right time to reach the largest possible audience, to engage them with relevant content and to convert them into leads.
If you are looking for a much more eloquent answer, check out “How do you decide what content should require registration or not? Q&A discussion on Focus.com including some of the best content marketing minds in marketing such as Ardath Albee (@Ardath421), Michele Linn (@MicheleLinn), Doug Kessler (@DougKessler), Joe Chernov (@JChernov), Stephanie Tilton (@StephanieTilton) and more.
Follow me on Twitter @BrennerMichael.