Ask a group of B2B marketers whether their Websites’ lead generation content (white papers, archived Webinars, case studies, videos, etc.) should be gated or not, and you’re likely to hear a wide range of opinions. At one end of the spectrum, there are those that believe gating Web content is the most efficient way to convert Web visitors to actionable sales leads. At the other, there are those who feel that making Web visitors navigate registration forms will turn away all but the most ardent prospects, and that content should be made freely available without barriers.
So the question is: To gate or not to gate? Here are 3 models to consider when making the decision on how to serve up lead generation content on your Website:
The “Free for All” Model
Those who choose to make all Web content freely available, with no registration required, do so in the belief that it puts information in the hands of as many potential customers as possible. And that much is correct – not requiring prospects to identify themselves means that a greater number will come into possession of your content. There’s just one problem: you won’t know who they are, or anything else about them, including where they are in their decision process. And that means that 1) the decision to re-engage with your company is placed entirely in the prospect’s hands, and 2) he or she will likely only engage with you at the very tail end of the sales cycle.
A free for all strategy is a roll of the dice. You’re betting that 1) a larger pool of prospects will automatically create more engagements for sales, and that 2) your content is sufficiently compelling to make that engagement happen with absolutely no further intervention or communication from either your sales or marketing team. It also means that the only leads you’ll generate from your Website are from that tiny subset of prospects who have decided they’re ready to engage with sales.
The “All You Can Eat” Model
Another common model of Web registration is the type that asks prospects to register on the site once, and thereafter be able to download or view content without any further registration. This model has a certain, logical appeal: it offers a low price of entry in exchange for unlimited content. Depending on the technology involved, the prospect’s behavior (once registered and therefore cookied) can be tracked on the site, giving the marketer a paper trail of all the subsequent content consumed by that individual.
The problem with the “all you can eat” model is two-fold. One, because the prospect is never required to provide more information, the marketer has no opportunity to augment that prospect’s profile through the use of progressive profiling. Outdated contact information will forever remain inaccurate because the prospect is never provided the opportunity to correct it.
Secondly, asking the prospect to “register” in this scenario, or (as is often the case) “create an account,” is making that person do something that he or she didn’t ask to do. If I’m the prospect, I want to download your white paper or view your demo, not register on your site, or create an account. Asking me to do something else creates an additional step in the process, a distraction, another mental hurdle, so to speak, and the success of your registration form will suffer accordingly.
The “Mix and Match” Model
A third model combines elements of the other two approaches. This model designates certain “high value” content on the site as gated, and everything else free for the taking. For example, you could choose to gate archived Webinars, analyst reports, and white papers, but leave demos, case studies, solution briefs, and product collateral ungated.
The advantage of this approach is that it both welcomes the casual visitor and yet captures the more curious prospect. Furthermore, this type of model is dynamic and more flexible than the alternatives. You could, for example, choose to gate a white paper upon first release, but then make the same document ungated once its initial appeal has faded, or once the campaign to promote it has run its course. Registration forms can be specific to the document in question (increasing conversion rates) and they can also be short, because you’ll have other opportunities to market to that individual and collect additional information over time.
A balanced model of Web registration, in my view, is the one that aligns best with modern demand generation techniques. Rather than rely on the buyer’s good will to contact you when he or she deems it time, a mixed approach allows you to capture, and engage with, prospects at all stages of the selling cycle, then educate and nurture them over time, positioning your company and solution to best advantage when those individuals are finally sales-ready.