Guess what fellow marketers – they’ve figured us out.
B2B prospects solved the illusion of gated content. A long time ago, actually. Yet, we, content marketing professionals continue to play a “game” of sorts, which doesn’t always lead to more qualified leads.
We write a thought-provoking, thought-leading, well-written long-form content piece or two. An e-book here, a whitepaper there, and maybe we designed a statistic-rich infographic. Then, we publish it on our corporate website, on an expertly-styled landing page. Then we push out some social media posts and display ads, beckoning browsers to come feast on our savory content.
So, when they take the bait and pull up a chair to our digital “dinner table” of knowledge, we serve them a form, requesting their contact information, and some insights into their business challenges.
If your website was a restaurant, and the maî·tre d’hô·tel asked for your address or phone number or why you are hungry, you’d likely turn on your heel and leave their establishment.
Much in the same way, so many prospects are bouncing from landing pages, to seek information elsewhere.
Prospects are tiring of the gated content game. Filling out forms, downloading a tasty morsel of content, then being contacted while they’re still “chewing” (AKA reading your content) is kind of rude, and usually presumes too much.
That’s why many CMOs and marketing executives at companies in the B2B arena, including SaaS providers, consulting firms, and industry-specialized manufacturers have swung open their content gates. Laid elements of their intellectual capital bare for all the digital world to discover, unprotected by forms, logins or gates of any kind.
And in light of all this, you ask: How can I drive qualified leads under circumstances like these? How will I know whether my content is working, or if it’s driving prospects through the marketing funnel, or off to a competitor?
Read on, and discover five ways you can unlock and unhinge the content gates, and still convert browsers to buyers.
1. Move the Gate to the End of Your Content
Let’s say your prospect evaluates SaaS marketing solutions and found an insightful eBook on a topic they’re interested in. You don’t ask them “who are you”, or “why you dare nibble the bait of an eBook before reading it?”. If they did read it, and they would still be “hungry” for more, then they wouldn’t mind filling out a form.
It might be a day after your prospect lands on a long-form content, or even a week by the time they read/watched/saw it. But they would have absorbed the content, and if the “appetizer” was compelling enough to prompt them to fill out a form, they would likely be a more qualified prospect than with a front-end form.
Offering further personalized content and/or a conversation with a sales rep after a prospect has digested your content is sure to separate “potential clients” from the “never-will-be’s”.
When the EU’s GDPR regulations are enforced, we’ll need to come clean with prospects about what we plan to do with their personal data. Collecting contact information after the prospect consumed your content may not be as simple as gathering it in advance.
But quality should always trump quantity. Content has been king for a long time, but consent is about to take the throne.
2. Spark Engagement with Relevant Leads
Your content forms may have generated hundreds of leads, but how many of them were actually qualified?
Instead of investing time in nurturing redundant prospects, you should be investing it in building the conversation with relevant ones and trying to push more of those to the sales team.
Whether your blog or social media is “home-grown”, or crafted by “hired help” freelancers – make sure your content is of excellent quality!
Sure, you don’t want to educate your prospects for free, but let’s face it – if a person really wants your gated content, they’ll falsify personal information to read the whitepaper or eBooks anyway. Yes, we’ve all been there!
Publishing great short-form content will increase engagement for long-form content, which requires a significant investment of time and concentration. Snack-size content invites prospects to engage more with long-form pieces and “reel in” a prospect slowly.
In other words, get potential buyers familiar with your brand before you ask for a deeper commitment, and enable them to gaze and admire you from afar for a period of time. Just as you wouldn’t ask every man or woman that came to a party to dance.
Strut your stuff with great ungated content, and assure prospects that, to get the best from you, they have to ask you on a “date” of sorts. If your content really rocks, your customers will be compelled to reach out or shortlist your business, as opposed to the other way around.
3. Adopt Social Listening and Customer Advocacy
Doesn’t it feel great to get positive feedback, especially when you didn’t pay or ask for it first?
If you follow the above advice and produce great content, a prospect may share it on Facebook or Twitter, and amplify it within their circle of influence.
Further, if you’ve implemented social listening tools, you can surface chatter surrounding your content and identify opportunities to introduce it into ongoing conversations.
Using strategies like customer advocacy can really help to get your content out there. B2C Companies like Wendy’s get a lot of credit for how they interact with customers and competitors on social media. Social listening can works very well in the B2B space too, as many of our customers have discovered.
Scheduling posts, interacting with followers, and publishing content based on topics your audience is buzzing about is far more effective than “spray and pray” social media strategies.
Bonus tip: encourage your audience to share powerful quotes from your content on Twitter mid-read, instead of before they read it, or after they read and move on to something else.
4. Dive Deeper into Content KPI’s
Now comes the real question you’ve all been waiting for: if/when you choose to stop gating your content, how will you track your content’s success if lead generation is no longer the focus?
First and foremost, you need to better understand the quality of your long-form content, and whether your website visitors are reading it. Think about it this way: when someone registers to a webinar, the conversion can be attributed to how short your web form is, NOT how great your content is.
That’s why you need to drill down on audience engagement with your content, not around it.
- How often is the content being shared on your blog?
- How often is content being clicked on social?
- What’s the bounce rate on your blog at which point do visitors bounce off?
- Which pages did users visit before watching your webinar?
- How much time is spent on a landing page?
- What’s the click-through patterns of content on your website based on demographics?
If you want your content to be read by your target audience, liberate it from behind digital gates and let Google bots and search engine crawlers run all over it. Write your content for your target persona, and help them find it with keywords you glean from social media analytics.
As B2B marketers, we should get comfortable with living in a post-gated content world. Let’s craft premium content, make it easier for prospects to consume it, and preserve intellectual property for those who pay for it.