Your customer is looking at some interesting marketing case studies on your website and all of a sudden a pop-up window appears. Enter your name here. What’s your email address? Where do you work? The case study they’re itching to read is gated content. Now what? Although it may not be what the customer expected, if you catch them at the right stage, it’s possible that they’ll exchange their data for your insights.
Content matters now more than ever. Consumers no longer make rash purchases, especially when that consumer is a business or brand themselves. The information they need is — or at least should be — right at their fingertips. They are going to read, research, and insist that the companies they do business with demonstrate credibility and competence.
Consequently, companies that have in-depth content and can build trust among their customers are bound to have better results. But how does gated content marketing fit in?
What Is Gated Content?
Gated content is content that is behind a lead-capture form. To see the content, the user must provide personal information such as name and email address. They may also need to enter other data, such as their company name, title, phone number, even the number of employees. Typically the content may include a checklist, template, white paper, e-book, webinar, contest entry, or something similar. It’s an exchange; the customer provides their personal information to access the content you offer.
Gated content is always free. For the company, it’s an inbound marketing strategy and lead-generation tactic. Generally, the content is a premium rather than a blog post, image, testimonial, infographic, or press release. There must be perceived value to the customer.
Pros and Cons
When you ask for personal data, you may turn customers off who simply aren’t at the right point in the customer journey. You may also lose out on an opportunity to extend your brand reach or gain a back link. After all, many people simply will not share content when it’s gated. That means it will never go viral.
But on the plus side, you’ll get hundreds or even thousands of people who are willing to share their information and perhaps even willing to be courted by you in the future. You can learn more about them, streamline your sales process, and prime the pump for conversion. Of course, you do need to follow up.
An argument can be made for either approach. So what’s the answer? Like most things in marketing, it depends on your strategy. If you need to extend your audience and raise brand awareness, it’s to your benefit to get that content in front of as many people as possible. If your goal is to get qualified leads, you should take names. There are few businesses that won’t need to do both, perhaps even at the same time.
With the right mix of content and a good strategy, that’s an attainable goal.
When Is Gating Appropriate?
To use gating effectively, you’ll need to get the timing right. When you are using content to move leads down the marketing funnel, you must use different content for each stage. Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) objectives include getting them to walk through the virtual door to find out more. At this early stage, selling is not the point. Entertain them with your blog pages and establish your authority, but don’t demand to know who they are.
Potential customers must pass through the awareness phase, TOFU, to the evaluation phase at the middle of the funnel (MOFU) to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) before they are ready to make a buying decision. This could happen on the first visit to your website, but in most cases it will take time.
You can’t expect consumers to give up too much information too soon. And even if they do, it may not result in an acceleration of the buying process. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, of turning them off to your brand and its tactics. At the very least, it’s a squandered opportunity to convert.
When To Gate Content
Before you decide to gate content, whether it’s a case study or an e-book, ensure that you understand your customers’ motivations and needs. You must have a sufficient amount of ungated content that they already understand what you’re offering, how great it is, and how it benefits them. When you do gate, don’t ask for too much in that pop-up form. Nothing turns off a likely prospect faster. Get only what you need right now.
Should You Gate Your Marketing Case Studies?
When customers come to your website, they may be looking for evidence that you can solve their problem. A case study is an excellent tool because it demonstrates how you addressed a client issue in the past. If you haven’t included them on your website, you should.
The case study can be a web page, a document, or even a video. Case studies generally include the following:
- Background: Analysis of the customer situation and pain points
- Objectives: Description of what the customer wanted to achieve
- Expectations: Hypothesis of how your products and services would help, including an explanation of how success would be measured
- Implementation: Details of the steps taken to achieve the stated goals
- Results: Outline of the outcomes and how they stacked up against the metrics
- Follow-Up: Lessons learned and next steps
Of course, a case study may not include all of the above. The more detailed your case study is, however, the more valuable it is to customers, particularly those who are ready to make a buy decision. Those are the customers who will gladly give you their information for a peek behind the curtain.
Nearly 80% of all customers will not convert. That’s the general statistic. Remember that 95% of customers select a vendor who gives them the information they need to navigate the buying process. Your customers want good information. These are the people you can close.
No, you should not gate standard case studies; instead, you should reserve gating only for case studies that have information worth gating.
How To Blend Gated and Non-Gated Strategies
It makes sense to gate the most detailed case studies. However, you can also provide similar types of information to those who have not yet moved down the sales funnel. Here’s how:
- Include testimonials and reviews in your non-gated content.
- Use mini case studies — i.e., those that are not highly detailed but provide a general overview of what your products and services have accomplished — to generate interest in a weightier piece.
- Follow hub-and-spoke content marketing strategies. Create a main page — for example, a pillar article — and build smaller articles around it. Gate the main page.
- Use video shorts to spark interest in webinars that include case studies.
You can use these strategies for all of your content. For example, you can provide a non-gated demonstration web page or video and request personal information for a customized demonstration. Once you have the information, make sure you have a process in place for what to do next. This could be a drip campaign or a sales call. Just don’t let good leads go unanswered.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to gated content, it can definitely be a sound part of your content marketing strategy. If you’re in doubt as to whether you should put content behind a gate, consider your goals. If building brand awareness makes more sense than lead generation, skip the gate. You might also check out your competitors to see what they’re doing. If you don’t think the content offers sufficient value to be gated, leave it available for all.
If you’d like more information on gating and how it fits in with your overall content marketing strategy, Hawke Media can help. Explore our free case studies today!
Pamela Michaels Fay is a business, financial, technology, legal, and lifestyle writer, whose work is informed by over 20 years of strategy, leadership, and organizational development consulting for Fortune 500 companies.