In Defense of Gated Content


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According to the blogosphere, and based on conversations with clients, there appears to be a movement afoot to free marketing content from the shackles of registration forms and offer everything from white papers to Webinars ungated.  Arguments from those who oppose gated content vary, but typically are variations of the following:

* Buyer-centric marketing – today’s buyers don’t like registration forms, and marketers should bow to buyer preferences rather than do what works best for the seller

* Less friction – eliminating registration makes it easier for potential buyers to engage with your company, and creates a better user experience and brand perception

* Privacy concerns – in an era where data privacy is a major issue, users may be hesitant to share their contact information due to fears of spam or potential data breaches

gated content

All of these points are valid.  However, the problem with the “to gate or not to gate” question is that pundits tend to present it as a binary, yes or no issue.  Either you gate content on your Website and elsewhere, or you don’t.  In reality, any decision to gate content is best viewed as more of a sliding scale, that is: how MUCH content to gate, and which assets, rather than whether to do away with registration entirely.

Those who advocate to make all Web content freely available, with no registration required, believe that doing so puts information in the hands of as many potential customers as possible. And that much is correct – not requiring prospects to identify themselves means that a greater number will come into possession of your content.

There’s just one problem: without registration, you won’t know who those people are, other than perhaps their company or IP domain, data that is notoriously unreliable, especially in this WFH era.  And that means that, short of retargeting ads, you’ll have next to no impact on when that individual re-engages with your company, which (if buying trends hold true) will be very late in the sales cycle.

A decision to ungate all marketing content is a gamble, and an unwarranted risk.  You’re betting, in effect, that 1) more people downloading and viewing content will automatically create more engagement and pipeline and revenue, and that 2) your content is sufficiently compelling to make that engagement happen with absolutely no further intervention or communication from your company. 

Ungating all content also means that the only measurable, actionable leads you’ll generate from your Website are from that small subset of prospects who have decided they’re ready to engage with sales, or take a demo, or request a trial. 

In Defense of Gated Content
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In almost all cases, the best model for B2B companies is a hybrid approach that gates some content, but not all.  For example, you could choose to gate high-value content such as analyst reports or proprietary research, but leave thought leadership, case studies, solution briefs, and product collateral free for the taking. 

The advantage of the hybrid approach is that it welcomes the casual visitor and yet captures the more ardent prospect.  It’s a balance.  Offering some content without requiring registration can help build trust and attract a broader audience while reserving more in-depth or higher value content for those willing to share their information.

In a hybrid model, the downsides of registration forms are mitigated, and abandon rates minimized, if the forms and landing page themselves adhere to best practices.  Landing pages should be specific to the document in question, reinforcing the value of the content on offer.  Registration forms should be short (3-4 fields maximum), because – once you have contact information in hand – you’ll have other opportunities to market to that individual and collect additional data over time.

Furthermore, the hybrid model is dynamic and more flexible.  You could, for example, choose to gate a white paper upon first release, but then make the same document ungated once its initial appeal has faded, or once the campaign to promote it has run its course.  You could gate a live Webinar, but make the recorded version free for viewing after a fixed window, say 90 days.

Rather than rely on a buyer’s good will to contact you when he or she deems it time, a hybrid registration model allows you to capture, and engage with, prospects at all stages of the selling cycle, then educate and nurture them over time, positioning your company and solution to best advantage (and increasing close rates) when those individuals are finally sales-ready.

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Howard Sewell
Howard has worked in marketing for 25+ years, and is president of Spear Marketing Group, a full-service B2B marketing agency. Howard is a frequent speaker and contributor to marketing publications on topics that include demand generation, digital marketing, ABM, and marketing technology.


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