November 25, 2015

To Gate or Not To Gate

To gate or not to gate? That is the question (sorry, Shakespeare).

For marketers everywhere, deciding whether or not to require visitors to provide their email address in order to access a certain piece of content has become a real source of anxiety. On the one hand, gathering contact information is one of the critical first steps in generating leads. On the other hand, constantly putting a barrier between your visitors and your content can risk alienating potential customers and damaging your company’s reputation.

Finding the right balance is tricky, and unfortunately it doesn’t get easier after you’ve attained someone’s email address. You then have to decide how often you’ll contact them, what kind of additional content you’ll send, whether or not to gate it, and what criteria they’ll need to meet to become a marketing qualified lead. If you send too much, you risk annoying them. If you send too little, they might forget who you are and stop paying attention. At best, you’ll prove the value of your company’s knowledge and services and gain a new customer. At worst, you’ll be met with a flurry of unsubscribes and complaints about your intrusive marketing tactics (well, the truly worst scenario could be a lot more extreme, but we’ll spare you and not go there). If all of this is making your head spin, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Luckily, because this problem has become so ubiquitous in the marketing world, a lot of smart people have come up with a few general guidelines for using gated content effectively. Like anything in the world of digital strategy, there’s no exact formula for success and it’s important to remember that what might work for someone else’s audience might not necessarily work for yours. That being said, here are a few ideas to set you on the right path:

  1. Consider content type – Evaluating the type of content you’re sending and whether it’s high-value enough to be gated is extremely important. Content that lives at the top of the sales funnel, like Infographics and lists, for example, typically aren’t considered high-value and probably shouldn’t be gated. Whereas, content further down the funnel like In-depth white papers and e-books, on the other hand, ostensibly include enough detailed information that asking for an email address in exchange is pretty expected. Just make sure that whatever you decide to gate is unique enough that a visitor couldn’t easily find the information somewhere else for free.
  2. Figure out your goals – If you want a certain piece of content to be shared widely and build up awareness of your company, gating it obviously doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you want it to demonstrate your company’s in-depth knowledge of a topic and attract people who might be looking for a specific service you provide, gating can be really smart. In general, keeping a somewhat equal ratio between gated and non-gated content is a good idea. Some companies cite 40 percent gated to 60 percent non-gated is ideal, while others will go as far as 70-30. Figure out the ratio that works best for you to build your brand while still getting enough people in the sales funnel.
  3. Track personal preferences – Once you get someone’s email address it’s essential that the content you send them is actually relevant to their interests. If someone always opens pieces related to mobile technology but ignores everything else, for example, you should take that as a cue to cut the fluff and focus. Remember, it’s not about what you want your audience to care about, it’s about what your audience actually cares about. Tracking an individual’s opens and clicks is a great way to figure out what kind of content and topics they’re most interested in, then hone in your strategy based on that.

Still not feeling confident about your gating game? No worries! Get in touch and we’ll walk you through it.

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