“Gating content” or placing forms in front of eBooks, webinars, and whitepapers has long been practiced by B2B marketers.
You give access to a valuable piece of content in exchange for an individual’s contact information. Easy.
The question is, how relevant is this practice in 2018? And especially under the new GDPR regulations?
Before we address these questions, let’s first take a look at the three major reasons behind maintaining content gates:
Reasons for Content Gates
1. Lead Generation
The ultimate goal behind content gates is to generate leads. During the evaluation stage, prospects begin to perceive your company as an educational source of information and a potential solution to their needs and challenges. Content at this stage comprises of webinars, customer case studies, and even explanation videos!
The further prospects move down the marketing funnel and are more interested in your company’s offerings, the more willing they are to fill out a web form and therefore convert into a lead. Simply making this content readily accessible on your website (without any gates) translates into fewer leads.
2. Lead Nurturing
Filling out a web form doesn’t necessarily equate with sales-readiness. In fact, 50% of leads are not sales-ready when they first convert. The truth is, buyers require much more than a simple webinar to solidify their decision making. This is why nurturing leads with additional information– tailored to every stage of their buying journey– is key to the success of a sale!
Understandably, the only way to sustain such a relationship is by constantly sending relevant information – typically via email. You see, collecting an individual’s personal information (i.e. name, email address, company, position) is vital to creating an ongoing conversation.
The more data you have on leads, the better you can nurture them with personalized content. However, gated content is the only way to get into their inbox in the first place! Without the initial web form, your database is essentially blind to potential prospects.
3. Sales Conversations
Besides understanding the name and email address of a particular lead, it’s important to know various other factors, such as their topics of interest, significant pain points, and potential solutions.
Keeping your content gated offers a method of tracking relevant prospect interactions such as content visits and engagement, which make for a much more personal and engaging conversation. It also helps to navigate the sales process in a more effective direction. For example, if a prospect constantly downloads eBooks pertaining to ‘employee advocacy’, the sales rep knows to address ‘employee advocacy’ in their next sales call or email.
So now you may be wondering: if gates are pivotal to the success of marketing and sales, why would you eradicate them?
But perhaps the real question you should be asking is: what purpose do gated forms serve in terms of increasing MQL’s (marketing qualified lead)? How many potential buyers are you turning away by keeping content locked up?
Reasons Against Content Gates
Don’t get me wrong, content gates have their main advantages, but for the most part, they could be detrimental to your sales pipeline. Here are three reasons why:
1. Decreased Engagement
Let’s talk about the form itself.
Long, tedious, and not a very pleasant experience, especially in the eyes of a millennial with a short attention span.
If anything, gated forms are more likely to push prospects away from your content due to frustration or poor communication of value. In other words, if a person doesn’t see the value in giving out his or her personal information, they simply won’t view your content.
Additionally, visitors often assume that filling out the form will result in being pestered with tons of promotional news. Whether this is true about your marketing techniques or not, forms are not ideal when it comes to generating engagement.
2. Less Education
Besides their arduous nature, gated forms don’t aid in educating prospects.
Think about it, most prospects know very little about your company when they first visit your website. The only thing standing in the way of learning more about your company is the gate. If 50% of visitors don’t fill out the form, you’re cutting your lead base in half! That’s why keeping premium content gated can hinder your brand awareness and credibility.
With a seemingly endless number of alternative vendors competing for your buyers’ attention, it’s extremely important that your content comes first. If competitors offer a similar content piece that isn’t gated, then adding a form to your version puts you at a disadvantage.
3. GDPR Compliance
Before GDPR, it was easy for marketers to get consent prior to storing and processing an individual’s personal data.
But on May 25 – the day that GDPR is officially enforced – B2B marketers will only be allowed to email EU individuals who’ve officially opted-in to receive messages. In GDPR terms, “consent” must be explicit, unambiguous, and freely-given.
On the marketer’s side, consent must be obtained through clear and plain language, and separate from any other information. As such, content gates are going to add more constraints on obtaining an individual’s consent.
Let’s say someone arrives at your webinar landing page and all they see is a “play” button, no fill-out form. The visitor can freely watch your webinar without having to provide consent. Sure, they won’t appear as a “lead” in your database, but at least they’ll be educated with YOUR content.
Now imagine you were to keep your webinar gated. Under GDPR, your form would have to provide explicit information on why you’re collecting personal data and what users can expect to receive in the future. Using this approach will still result in fewer leads.
Either way, content gates serve as a disadvantage even under GDPR.
4. Skewed Pipeline
Ever measured the lead-to-customer conversion rate?
Just because someone subscribed to your blog, registered for your webinar, or downloaded your eBook through a gated form, doesn’t mean they’re a qualified lead. Worse yet, many leads often provide inaccurate data like a fake name and email address, which isn’t particularly helpful to your sales team.
Many times B2B marketers find that a webinar lead is far less “valuable” or “qualified” because they’re still in the early stages of the buyer journey. In contrast, a lead that came through a demo request or ‘contact us’ page is showing a keen interest in your product and is presumably more “sales-ready”.
Therefore, keeping your content gated doesn’t always draw in the right audience, which really skews your sales pipeline! Salespeople would much rather go after target accounts via social media than some high-hanging fruits who require more nurturing.
Ungating content doesn’t have to mean losing leads or decreasing conversion rates.
Before making any rash decision, it’s important to assess your current state. If the sales team is succeeding at converting webinar or eBook leads, then no need to change anything! Clearly, these content leads are the bread and butter of your sales revenue.
However, if you’re in a place where most of the leads you’re garnering are either cold or redundant, then something must change in your process! Instead of seeding your database with unqualified leads or wasting time nurturing them, you should be investing in building the relationship with relevant leads and pushing more of those to the sales team. And for that my friend, no content gates are needed!