Recently, someone posed a question I hadn’t expected. He asked how I define “gated content”. I’m sure not everyone is familiar with “gate” as a marketing term, but that wasn’t what the asker meant. He meant: how did I define a marketing gate itself. This is something I hadn’t really realized was up for debate.
What Is Gated Content?
Let’s back up and define gated content. As determined by Tech Target: a piece of content (for example, a white paper) that requires a form fill (submission of contact information) prior to accessing, downloading or reading. This is also our definition – a “gate” is a form that requires information (at a minimum, email address) as the “key” to download content. But the content being delivered must be of high enough value to motivate someone to trade their contact information for it.
The person who asked had heard of gated content defined as content that required “a few steps” to access. This could be, for example, clicking from an email to a landing page and then to the content. But the crucial difference is no information was collected.
To me, this is not gated content. Yes, it’s content. Yes, there are steps to get there. But there’s no gate. There’s no key. The content is freely accessible and shareable.
You probably know why you would want to gate your content – it’s a source of inbound leads. These are people that you know have some interest in your offerings, because they’re giving their email (which they know you’ll use to sell to them) to get content you’re offering. They’re warm leads that are perfect for nurturing and qualifying for your sales team. It’s a MUCH better process than cold calling. And it all starts with a simple gate in front of a desirable content offer.
How Does a Gate Work?
We’ve all seen one. You see a promotion for a piece of content that sounds interesting (Read 10 Ways to Save $100 This Week, let’s say). You click to read more. But first, you hit a landing page (a simple, targeted webpage with just one call to action, or CTA) with a form (hopefully only a few fields).
The best forms are short, asking the bare minimum (start with email and name). If your form tool offers it, use “smart” fields. They are able to pre-fill or hide fields that are already known about users who have been identified by a cookie on a previous visit. Some tools, such as HubSpot, offer progressive profiling, letting you dynamically deliver different fields based on what the system already knows about a visitor.
Why Not Use Gated Content?
Not all content should be gated. Some, such as data sheets or case studies, should be easily available. The last thing you want to do is make it difficult for a lead to get information about your company or products when they are actively searching for it.
And there are certain types of content that encourage sharing – blog posts, videos, infographics. These are pieces you want to get a lot of eyeballs on. You want them to be easily accessed and shared across social and personal networks. Ungated pieces are also a great way to promote other content that’s a little further down the sales funnel (and gated!).
Strategic decisions of exactly what to gate and when are better saved for a conversation focused on sales needs and target audience. If you’re trying to decide how to use gated content as part of a content marketing strategy, I can help. Contact us today.