Gated Content- To gate or not to gate?

Gated content is one of those terms used by marketers rather than real people. Marketers see it as a lead generator, a transaction of information for your details by filling out a form and only then can you download that sweet, sweet PDF.

On the other side of the coin, people visiting your website see it as a pain in the butt and a way to obstruct their journey to getting that sweet, sweet PDF of Knowledge.

I’ve been on both sides of that fence. I understand why companies will gate their content. It can be a reliable lead generator if your content is of value. On the other hand, I’ve filled out long forms on sites only to get content that was ultimately underwhelming. And then came the unrelenting sales calls. And the emails. The cost of that download was not worth the price.

It doesn’t need to be this way. While the Internet has conditioned us to get everything for free online, you can create a positive experience with gated content that you offer. At Good, we don’t gate content. You can learn all about brand onions, your brand tone of voice and why we think whisky websites are terrible. All for nothing. We’re happy to share. For us, the sharing of our knowledge is key to people to understand our point of view. It helps us get clients and helps current clients understand us better. But if you have to gate it, do it right.

So, when should you do gated content? Here’s my checklist:

Your content is sensational

I mean it, it has to be fantastic. The person that downloads your content should be in line for a promotion after reading it. It can’t just be run of the mill, it can’t be found elsewhere, and it has to offer a unique point of view.

You already have great content that you can access for free

At Good, we have great content that relates to our area of expertise. I’d be happy if we decided to create some sensational content that would provide massive value to those who choose to fill out a form. But without that foundational free content, it wouldn’t seem credible for us to gate content. You wouldn’t necessarily believe that we would have great content if you hadn’t sampled some delicious insights before we asked you for your name and email address.

There is no other significant way to generate leads

This is the tricky one. If you’re getting leads in another way, like a free trial, then don’t gate content. If you’re providing a high range product that has a long and complicated buying cycle and you want to add to your top of the funnel sales pipeline, then think about using gated content. If your primary offering is content then it makes sense to gate it; you can’t give that away. But if you’re a manufacturer and content isn’t your primary service, getting leads through content may work. Just make sure that the content is sensational. 

So you’ve made the decision. You’ve got excellent content to gate that provides real value to your customers. Great. But the work isn’t finished, you need to start thinking about how to gate the content. It all revolves around trust. Here are my tips.

Explain why it is worth downloading

It’s not enough to go “Download our great PDF about XYZ”. You need to get into why it is worth entering in your details to download. What is someone going to learn when they receive this content? This is vital for taking someone to the next step. You may know the value, but you still have to sell it. This may seem obvious, but I was amazed when I went around looking at gated content that just the fact that the content was on offer was deemed enough for me to fire in my details. You need to tell me why I’m going to get a promotion for giving you my personal information. This leads on to my next point.

Explain why you need the personal info

Ideally, the value of the content is commensurate with the amount of personal information you’re asking for. If you’re looking for a name, an email and a telephone number I’d suggest that you explain why you need this information. Under GDPR, even if you ask for this information, you still need consent to use it. I’ve often wondered why I’m being asked for a telephone number when it doesn’t seem obvious why it is vital for that content. The more information I’m being asked for, the less likely I am to sign up as it just isn’t clear why all that info is needed. Consider explaining why you need this information and why it’s being used. If you feel that giving that detail out front and centre would put people off signing up, then I’d say you need to consider this whole approach. If you can’t be honest with your intentions, then it needs some more thought. Probably around my next point...

Have a clearly defined customer journey

You have placed the best content ever behind a form. You’ve explained the benefits of this content brilliantly. The form is concise and transparent. You’re getting loads of leads in. But none are converting? Could it be that your next step, what do to do with your information, isn’t fully fleshed out?

I’ve had the full range on this. A call from a company 60 seconds after submitting the form. They’re never going get a sale from me; it’s too creepy. And then I’ve had someone call two months after the download which is way too late to be any use.

And then there is the worst of all — the continual calls. I had one company call me three times from three different people all with the same script. Not good and just put me off.

The best approach I’ve seen is where, after the download, you get an email from the company hoping that you enjoy the content in the download, asking for feedback on the content and then stating that someone from the organisation may give me a call in a few days to see if I have any questions further to reading the content. I like this, it makes me feel in control, I know what’s going to happen next, and my opinion is being sought. When someone does call, I’m more likely to take the call to at least say I’m not interested in having a question asked.

Ideally, all content should be free on the Internet. I get that purist view, but I’m also pragmatic enough to understand that some businesses only valuable asset at a certain point of the journey is their content. Some companies can’t give away free trials for products so need to gather leads through the content. It can work, but it needs to be built on trust:

  • Trust that the content that’s gated is first class
  • Trust that the information gathered is equal to the value of the content being downloaded
  • Trust that the information given is going to be used in the correct manner

The whole gated content thing is a minefield. I know that. Let me know if you’d like to chat through your options, and I’d be delighted to help.

If you'd like to read more on our views on content, you can read about the first steps in your content strategy and goes a little deeper with what content strategy is and why you need one.