Everyone wants to build their lead databases and prove the value of their marketing automation programs. Gated content is one way to do that, but B2B marketers need to resist the urge to gate everything.
“B2B marketer feel like they’re missing an opportunity to connect with someone if they don’t at least get their email address,” says Rich Dettmer, EVP and chief digital officer at Chicago’s Slack and Company.
Exercise equipment and solution provider Life Fitness uses both ungated and gated content to connect with decision makers at fitness centers, high school and college gyms, hotels and other businesses, notes CMO Judith Toland.
“Much of our content is ungated, because the essence of the fitness industry is a spirit of sharing what works,” she says. “But there is a benefit to identifying loyalists to our brands, so there is some thought leadership we gate to create engagement.”
To become a thought leader, brands need as many people as possible to read their content, notes Jatin Atre, CMO of CentralSquare Technologies, a provider of software platforms to help public service agencies manage emergency and administrative services.
“Whenever you gate content, there is an 80 to 90 percent drop off in the number of people who will access that content,” he notes. “You need to figure out if those last 10 percent are the people you want to reach. Is that compromise worth it?”
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Early in the purchase consideration process, says Dettmer, prospects aren’t looking for a product yet. They have a challenge to solve, and they’re looking for a solution.
For example, if a business owner has a fleet of trucks that are failing and they need to know if its time to purchase new vehicles, the first place they may start is Google. At the top of the funnel, they want to know if other fleet owners have had similar problems, and what solved their woes. But, they’re not likely ready to share their precious data.
“They’d prefer not to give their souls away at this stage, unless they’re going to get something really, really valuable,” says Dettmer.
Ungated content is what brands should be serving up at this point—the exception is for something like a webinar that requires registration, but even then, don’t ask for the world. Just get their basic information, and then build the relationship from there, perhaps including an offer for more content at the end of the presentation.
The desire to get prospects into your nurture system as early as possible is real and valid, says Dettmer. After all, everyone in B2B today knows that buyers are waiting further and further into their consideration process before they talk to a vendor—and then, they’re probably only going to talk to a couple.
“If you don’t get a hook in them early, they may not even know you exist,” he notes. “The sooner you can target people in market with messaging, the sooner you can get into their decision making process.”
The Right Time for Gated Content
However, trying to grab someone’s information too quickly is a move that will fail if the perceived value of what you’re offering in return doesn’t seem greater than the perceived pain of sharing their email address.
“If you come out on the wrong balance of that equation, all you’ll do is drive people away,” he says. “And then, you get nothing.”
Sometimes, it isn’t so much about gating or not gating, but what and how much you ask for, he notes. For example, if you’re not sure where someone is in their consideration process, don’t suddenly ask if they’ll have a project shovel-ready in the next six months.
The deeper into the funnel someone is, and the more interactions you’ve had, the more likely they’ll be ready to share. If they’re looking to download a calculator app from your site to see how your products will affect their ROI in the next quarter, they might be ready for the next step. But, if they’re just browsing your website for the first time, ease up.
“It’s too soon,” says Dettmer. “Its like going on a first date and asking what color bridesmaids dresses you’d like. It won’t work.”
Even with out a gate, there are still many ways to gauge the ROI of your B2B content marketing efforts. Secondary offer follow ups to an initial conversation boost lead gen capabilities, and looking at what content visitors view on repeat visits give brands a great idea of what is engaging prospects, Dettmer says. Cookies can also help retarget visitors and serve up gated content based on an initial visit.