B2B

How Do You Use Gated Content Without Pissing People Off?

By Aaron Taube June 2nd, 2015

Would you give us your email to read this piece? That’s a question many marketers are grappling with these days, and there are no easy answers.

While trading a downloadable white paper in exchange for someone’s email address is one of the most tried and true strategies in the B2B marketing playbook, there remains a fear that employing this tactic could dissuade would-be readers who might not want to give away their personal information. And even if they do choose to share their contact details, there’s still the possibility that your relationship with them will be damaged in the long run by cluttering their inboxes.

“It’s pretty useful, but people are getting wiser to it,” said Elevate My Brand founder and CEO Laurel Mintz. “I think gated content is important to grow your database, but if you’re not creating great content that is relevant no matter the time and place, people are going to drop out of that system.”

In other words, striking the balance between information gathering and providing valuable content requires a deft touch.

As best-selling author Seth Godin puts it, in order for gated content to be considered “permission marketing“—Godin’s vision for marketing’s future—marketers need to follow up by delivering emails that people will not only open but actively be excited for.

“Back when I was starting permission marketing, we did transactions like that all the time. But the challenge was, how do you make every email that follows the first one worth getting?” Godin said. “If all you’re doing is saying, ‘This is the price,’ then basically the person is being challenged to just delete like crazy until they remember to hit unsubscribe.”

How to do gated content right

When done right, gated content still provides marketers with a great tool for generating qualified leads that might otherwise be hard to find. Graham Hunter, head of growth marketing at Tradecraft, believes you get permission to send people stuff every time they open one of your emails.

Rather than considering whether gated content is intrusive to the reader, Hunter says marketers should be asking themselves what they’re trying to accomplish with each piece of content.

For instance, top-of-the-funnel content like listicles and infographics can generate the most awareness for your brand when it’s made available to anyone. And if you’re looking to generate traffic from SEO, putting a piece of content behind a gate will most likely damage its ranking.

Meanwhile, bottom-of-the-funnel pieces like e-books and white papers are likely most valuable when you can use them to generate leads. Plus, as Hunter points out, if you’re going to put in the time and effort to create a 20-page research report, why shouldn’t someone have to pay with an email address? After all, if your metrics tell you that your gate is scaring people off, you can always get rid of it.

“The thing is that we need to balance that aspirational thing that we wish we all could be with the realities of performance marketing,” Hunter said. “If people don’t see the value in what you’re doing enough to give you their email address, either they don’t trust you or they don’t think what you’re doing is valuable to them. If that’s the case, why even make them a lead at all?”

Of course, it’s also important to respect your readers and realize that people want to receive different amounts of content from you. If you’re worried about bugging people, you can always use software to implement email marketing campaigns where the content and frequency changes from email to email based on what people open and click on. This way, if someone only opens one of your emails a month, you’ll automatically serve them a portion commensurate with their smaller appetite.

Lastly, you can take an extra step toward preserving consumer trust by making sure your unsubscribe link is functional and easy to find. While you obviously want people to keep receiving your content, making the exit visible will go a long way toward ensuring subscribers don’t feel trapped.

Plus, if what you’re sending them is truly good, they’ll have no reason to bolt for the door in the first place.

“Really what you’ve done is allowed someone to give you an opportunity to impress them,” Hunter said. “It’s like someone taking a coffee meeting with you. They don’t know you; they’re just willing to spend 30 minutes with you. Impress them.”

Joe Lazauskas contributed reporting.

Image by 1000 Words
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