Gated content is any content that you seal behind a requirement – typically, a basic call to action that involves filling out a form or joining a customer loyalty program. It sounds like common sense, but in today's marketing environment, it can encounter problems. So let's talk about the four pitfalls of gating content– and if it still has a place in your marketing strategy.
Pitfall #1: Squeezing the 'Funnel'
This is a marketing term that essentially means, "Make it easy for new leads to buy things." Your sales funnel needs to be as broad as possible at the opening, when people are first introduced to your products or services. It makes sense, right? You don't want to scare anyone away, while also encouraging everyone in your target audience to move forward through conversions. Gating content, however, squeezes the funnel – it adds an extra step. And new leads, especially at the start of the process, are easily scared away by extra steps, even if it's just filling out a pop-up form. If you need to gate your content, put it toward the very end of the funnel where a decision has almost already been made. Otherwise, keep the funnel open.
Pitfall #2: Impatient Customers
Another push against gated content is happening in the way that customers respond to marketing. We've seen this occur in the last several years as buyers have gained more power and online customers have grown more impatient with certain types of marketing content. In other words, they don't like waiting for anything, spending too much time on anything, or getting distracted by anything. You can see how gating your content might rub them the wrong way! As a result, free-flowing, completely available content has become a go-to solution for winning over this new, demanding crop of customers.
Pitfall #3: Lack of Engagement
There's another, more strategic reason to be wary of gating content, and it has to do with how your company is perceived: Sometimes it's easy to get sidetracked by conversions and gathering data, and forget the core purpose of content – to improve your brand and increase engagement. When you hide content behind gateways, far fewer people see it, and it becomes more difficult for your content to do its original job. Drift has a very good blog post on this issue and why the company decided to leave this marketing strategy behind entirely.
Pitfall #4: Conversation Deterrent
There are some types of marketing content that you can't gate – and these tend to be some of the most important. Think about a LinkedIn conversation: In some ways it is naturally gated to LinkedIn members within the group, but you aren't gating it at all. It's a more free-flowing discussion or forum option: While still useful for lead generation, it cannot and should not be gated – you are trying to encourage conversation, not discourage it. Generally, any time you want to have a real talk with clients, you can't use gated content to do it.
Advantage #1: Naming the Lead
All right, we've talked about the problems. For this point, let's talk about an advantage of gating your content – the ability to define your leads more clearly. While free content can get you conversions, there's also a point where you need to say, "For this transaction to proceed, we need this information from you, and we can't just happily suggest it anymore." Here is where a gate on your content has a purpose: It's a relatively friendly way of turning nebulous leads hovering just out of reach into far more actionable leads with a contact sheet full of information. This not only helps improve sales, but also gives you more data to work with. This is why we're okay with using tactic further down the sales funnel!
Advantege #2: The High End Pricing Model
High end pricing – as you probably know – inflates the price beyond where it needs to be, to help give the appearance of exclusivity and elite features. This little trick is really common in the business world, but it can also work for gated content under certain circumstances. If you keep some select content available only for customers on a loyalty program, there's an innate expectation that this content is special, elite, reserved for the best. Fulfill that expectation, and gating your content is a great way to draw clients in.