Monday, August 15, 2022
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Gate or No Gate? Changing Trends in B2B Marketing

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The great gate debate continues to rage throughout the B2B marketing world. What once was a landscape full of sparse landing pages with lead gen forms has become an ocean of content. But still, there’s little consensus about how to get the most value out of what we marketers create.

Does ungating content devalue it? Does gating content make it inaccessible to the audience you’re most trying to reach? We all agree that getting people’s contact information is a value exchange. The debate is whether we offer the value first, or we demand that the reader do so.

Of course, there is no one answer to these questions. No two B2B audiences are the same, so a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. But it’s true that audience expectations as a whole are changing, and we need to change with them.

Here are some of our gating best practices.

1 — Match Your Tactics to Your Goals

The biggest question about gating is the simplest one: Is this content intended to raise awareness, boost thought leadership, or grow your audience? Then gating is a bad choice. Top-of-funnel content should, generally speaking, be as widely accessible as possible.

However, if your goals are mid-to-bottom funnel, then gating might make sense (more on that later). This means content for folks who are actively seeking a solution or evaluating vendors. These folks are in the market for useful content that helps make that purchase decision, and gating that content makes sense.

When you dig a little deeper, though, it’s not just about gated vs. ungated. It’s about how much content you gate, which content in the campaign should go behind that lead gen form, and how you bring the right audience to the content. With that in mind…

“It’s not just about gated vs. ungated. It’s about how much content you gate, which content in the campaign should go behind that lead gen form, and how you bring the right audience to the content.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

2 — Think Bigger Appetizers and Smaller Entrees

Let’s say your organization just sponsored some hefty original research. You know there’s a ton of intrinsic value in that research for your audience. The old-school practice would be to put all of it behind a gate, with just a few stats to whet people’s appetites.

There’s so much free content available now, though, that you have to offer more value before you ask for that contact information. For example, our client Prophix made a long-scroll, content-heavy power page to support their original research: The 2020 CFO Benchmark Report. With influencer content, plenty of stats and some truly gorgeous charts and graphs, the page is a destination unto itself. But for those ready for a next step, the page also directs folks to download the whole report as a PDF, or to contact Prophix for a demo.

Then there’s Content Marketing Institute, which puts out an exhaustive report on B2B marketing benchmarks every year. This past year, they published in conjunction with MarketingProfs and offered the entire report completely ungated, in easily embeddable and shareable format. These folks know that a thought leadership piece like this is worth more the more people see it. CMI’s annual report has made their name synonymous with content marketing, and that’s worth more than the leads they might capture from a gated report.

3 — Don’t Lock Up Your Influencers

In case you haven’t noticed, influencer marketing is one of our agency specialties. We love to work together with B2B influencers to create awesome content. We want to make it as easy as possible for influencers to share the great stuff we make together — which means ditching the gate if at all possible.

B2B thought leaders are going to be more enthusiastic about linking their audience straight to content, rather than to a landing page with a form to fill. 

I can’t think of a more compelling example than our client Demandbase’s recent Smarter GTM™ comic. This is a substantial, visually stunning, influencer-packed piece. And there’s not a gate in sight. Demandbase’s goal for this piece was to raise awareness of their new offering and establish thought leadership. So it made perfect sense to keep it ungated, even though it’s a ton of great content.

“B2B thought leaders are going to be more enthusiastic about linking their audience straight to content, rather than to a landing page with a form to fill.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

4 — Add More Value Behind the Gate

If we’re giving away the good stuff up front, what should we be gating? Look for ways to add additional utility to the content. Prophix did a great job at this with their Digital Transformation in Finance page. They created three mini-assets that spoke to specific audience segments, then embedded CTAs to each one in its relevant section. This way, Prophix is maximizing views to the report page, while also offering a lead-capturing next step for those who want it.

You don’t have to go the lengths that Prophix did to add value, of course. It can be as simple as offering a PDF download of a web-based asset, for portability and printability. Or you could offer a calculator, checklist, or other useful tool. 

5 — Less Gatekeeping, More Great Content

None of this is to say that you should never gate content, of course. If you have a bombshell industry report with insights that will knock people’s socks off, you may be able to make the value proposition. But most marketers will see better results in top-of-funnel content if it’s freely available. 

My advice: Give away the good stuff and treat gated content like a dessert, not a main course. Audience expectations have changed, and in the all-out war for people’s attention, a gate can be a fatal flaw for your content.

Check out Lane Ellis’ post for more advice on B2B marketing in 2022.

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