Quit Poking the Bear with Gated B2B Content

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To gate or not to gate your B2B content?

This is a question that comes up repeatedly for B2B marketers and one we can’t seem to answer definitively.

Even though we know better, we seem unable to give B2B buyers what they want > unfettered access to information that helps them consider and manage change in the solving of their critical problems.

Why?

Because for a reason that may have worked decades ago when information was scarce, the powers that be cannot get past the idea that filling out a form constitutes a lead. Unless it’s a demo form—and sometimes not even then—filling out a form does not make someone a lead who is sales ready. If it did, sales reps wouldn’t shun your MQLs.

All of this said, it’s hard to answer the question because it’s not a definitive yes or no answer.

It’s more of an “it depends” answer. Based on context.

B2B buyers are not buyers until they decide they’re ready to solve the problem by buying a solution. And for all my clients selling complex solutions, that’s a process—and it can be a long one. The people who become your buyers must do a lot of research and discovery, learn new concepts, understand options, convince others, justify change, and figure out how to limit disruption and mitigate risk.

Completing all those “jobs to be done” requires a wealth of information. Forrester finds that buyer interactions have increased to 27 (across both marketing and sales) from 17 only two years ago. That’s an increase of 47%.

There are reasons for the increase:

  • Technology changes come faster – it’s likely if they’ve solved the same problem in the past, their options now are quite different
  • Buying is more complex – more people need to agree, more systems need to be integrated
  • Disruption in the marketplace is constant – in case the last two years haven’t brought that point home
  • The availability of high-quality information is overwhelming – buyers aren’t sure how to reconcile all that conflicting information
  • Buyer confidence is lacking – therefore they abandon buying because they can’t justify a purchase decision. Gartner calls this the biggest challenge in B2B buying.

It will help to identify when and why to gate B2B content and when to set it free.

Gating content is done to collect buyer contact information. Buyers hate this because they know they’re going to marked as a lead and bombarded with email, phone calls, and other intrusive attempts by marketers and sales reps trying to place their products.

They hate it because they’re not ready. Taking control away from them—or trying to—is poking the bear. You’re attempts to be “helpful” are failing in the eyes of buyers. B2B buyers want to drive their own process.

We need to not only let them do so but empower them to do it well. With less fuss, less effort and subtle guidance that’s unobtrusive but extremely helpful.

Reasons to Set B2B Content Free

Relationships thrive on a foundation of value exchange. Each party must get something out of it or it’s just not worth staying with it. So it goes for selecting vendors and partners. Making access to content easy also has benefits for both parties.

Benefits of Ungated Content

  • SEO for organic search that’s not available to content behind a gate. And search is one of the primary tactics’ buyers use to find content they’re interested in consuming, hence, your company.
  • Shareability and the data that goes with it. It’s easy to share a link. But if a buyer fills out a form to download a PDF, they’re going to share the PDF without you having visibility to that interaction. They certainly won’t send their colleagues to a form. For those of you using intent data, this is a key point for understanding the intent level of an account by the engagement level across the account.
  • Increased awareness comes from exposure to your company’s ideas, content, and brand because they can easily access what catches their attention. This also results in increased attention and engagement with your target customers.
  • Buying orchestration via subtle guidance in unfolding the problem-to-solution story. Since buyers have much to learn, marketers can help them by connecting content assets to unfold a story that makes sense. No dead ends. Given what they’re reading, what comes next? Don’t make them search for it, show it to them and prompt them to continue advancing in interest so you can get them to intent.

Options for Helping Buyers Show Intent to Buy

This is really the purpose of gates. But we put them in the wrong place. It’s often said that if you’re going to collect buyer contact information, you need to be sure the value exchange is there. So, we gate thought leadership and research reports.

The question we need to ask is if that content is illustrative of intent to buy?

Most of the time the answer is no. People want information for all kinds of reasons.

What we need to do is make it easy and less intimidating to reach out to us for more.

Think about calls to action. What can they tell us about intent?

“Request a No-Pitch Consult” is a different mindset than “Book a Demo” or “Contact Sales.”

Instead of gating content, why not give them options for how they’d like to interact with you?

There are a variety of ways to get buyers to identify themselves when they’re ready. Most often, buyer research finds that they put off engaging with sales reps because they don’t get the value they want.

We also need to update how we think about identifying interested accounts and buyers given the technology available to us, including AI and intent data. ABM strategies also come to mind.

Why not structure options to serve their needs as their context changes across their buying process?

  • Book 15 minutes to get your specific questions answered.
  • Find out how we serve [industry] customers like you in 20 minutes.
  • Get clarity on why to solve [X problem] in this short webinar on Thursday.
  • Learn 5 things to build your business case for X during our customer panel.
  • Subscribe to a 5-part series on getting [this outcome]

Be specific about what the CTA will get them. And stick to delivering on that promise. Perhaps if we make engaging with us more specific and valuable—aligned to where they are—buyers won’t be so hesitant to take part.

Gating B2B content should be reserved for the times when you can’t fulfill the request without it. This includes webinars, events, and meetings.

Given the content they’re viewing on your website, which CTA makes the most sense at that time? What further information will help them advance to the next step and build momentum toward intent to buy?

There’s no reason company websites limit buyer’s options to contact us, book a demo, or subscribe to our blog or newsletter.

Quit poking the bear based on what you want and get creative giving buyers more specific options for what they want and need. Of course this will depend on you having the buyer insights to do so.

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