Even with all the ways in which B2B content marketing is evolving, I'm still hearing a lot about the desire to control prospect behavior. See if any of these sound familiar:
- We don't want to send prospects to any page not on our website.
- We want to have control over where our content is displayed.
- We must gate our content to make prospects give us their information.
What I want marketers who are still having these considerations to ask themselves is – Why? Why exactly do you think this attitude will help improve your marketing performance?
Here are a few reality checks:
Allowing and enabling your content to spread beyond web properties you own has many advantages. One of them is credibility by association.
Depending on where and how your prospects become aware of your company may play a role in their willingness to engage with your content. If they see an article or blog post displayed on a community portal they rely upon to provide valuable information, their willingness to pay attention will increase.
Isn't this why many companies engage 3rd party experts to participate in their webinars or choose to sponsor their eBooks and white papers?
Another advantage is findability.
Unless you've got page 1 search result ranking for the keyword phrases your prospects use in a search engine, how confident are you that they'll find you?
Are you willing to give up prospects to competitors because their information is more accessible than yours?
B2B Marketers should be actively pursuing ways to get their content displayed across the web to gain exposure, brand awareness and increased engagement. Isn't that why we issue press releases? We need to start thinking of ourselves as media participants. Not just for press releases, but for continuous content distribution.
The more places your content is seen, the higher your reputation and the less effort prospects have to expend to engage with your company.
Gating content diminishes response and sends a message you may not intend.
No matter how much research has been done about the percentage of prospects who will leave without completing a form to access content (as high as 75% seen recently), marketers still apply this method of lead generation with determined purpose. Even to the point of blocking access to content that could predispose a prospect in your favor – like case studies. Yes, it's true.
What you're really telling prospects when you gate all of your content is – "I don't trust you." You're saying, "I don't trust that you'll return to my website on your own if you find something valuable in my content." You're telling them that they need to turn themselves over to you to tell them what to do next because you don't trust them to ask on their own.
The reality could also be that you don't trust your content to provide a compelling reason for them to return. If so, that needs to be addressed immediately.
Here's the thing. Your prospects are in control of how they want to buy. Your efforts to control them cause friction that keeps them from engaging with your company.
The idea that by controlling their access to content that you have control over their buying process is a fallacy. In fact, your prospects can find all the information they'll need to make a buying decision for a product similar to yours without access to your content at all.
The amount of information made available everyday is massive. If you want to differentiate your company and improve prospect relationships, it's time to give up control and focus on freely serving the educational and expertise needs of your potential customers.
Now, before anyone says that they have a responsibility to generate leads, I'll agree with you. It's all in the way you gate. You've got to think about what it takes to build a foundation of value that won't diminish response when you choose to control access.
The question isn't form or no form. It's have we earned enough credibility to justify the request for our prospects to share their information with us?
The funny thing is that by giving up control, it actually comes back to you in new ways that are more effective. Give it a shot. You may just be surprised by the results.