23 August 2022 Alex Maidment

Content to convert - why you don’t need to gate content for an engaged B2B audience

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Every so often, I receive a flurry of emails (and even some phone calls) trying to sell me something or arrange a demo for a product or service I don’t remember signing up for. My first thought, being overly sceptical, is that my information has been sold on or passed on by someone. Really, though, it’s probably just email nurturing for something I don’t remember signing up for. 


Each time it happens, it makes me think: do people actually consume the content you create? With 80% of B2B content marketing assets being gated, it’s easy to believe that anyone filling in a form for your content is then consuming it, and it’s reasonable to ‘nurture’ those people. 


Sadly, that’s probably not the case. We’ve all been drawn in by a good title, a nice-looking eBook cover or image, only to be let down by the actual content once we’ve given away our details via a form. Then, you inevitably stick the PDF in the virtual bin before reaching the 2nd page. 


It’s time to start letting the content speak for itself. It’s time to go gateless.

Does gating content make marketers lazy?

Let’s think about why we gate content: to put a form on a page and only provide a piece of content once the user has filled in the form. For a long time, marketers have used it to generate leads, which they can nurture before eventually passing on to sales. 


The theory is solid - create something that genuinely provides value and then ask for some details in return. In practice, however, the theory begins to fall apart, not least because some marketers have started to spoil it for the rest of us. 


Consider the anecdote in the intro to this blog. We get drawn in by a snappy title and fill in the form, only to find that the content doesn’t live up to the promise. So you go somewhere else on the web to find a better content resource, but once again, you’ll have to fill in a form. Do you leave your email address and risk receiving more rubbish content (and become a ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’ for two companies)? Or do you just bounce and go and find the information somewhere else? 


The lazy element comes in when marketers know that, to add a new contact to their database, all they need to do is get someone to fill in the form. They don’t care if the content they provide is good, because they already have your details before you find out. 


Ultimately, this breaks the trust between the user and the process, and also likely results in an unengaged ‘lead’ who won’t buy from your company as they don’t see the value you provide. 


If you remove the gate, the content must speak for itself. It needs to be interesting enough, useful enough and provide enough value for a user to want to further engage with the company and maybe even progress to a marketing qualified or sales qualified lead status (whatever that might be in your organisation). 

There’s no such thing as being too busy

Another reason I’ve often heard or read for using a gate to provide content is that everyone is ‘too busy’ to read it now, so asking them to fill in a form to send it via an email means they can access it whenever they want. 


Again, the logic is sound. It’s a nice gesture to say: “Here’s a piece of content you can access whenever you like”, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for needing to gate the content. Instead, why not just ungate the content and have a call to action saying ‘Send me a version I can view later’, which then asks someone to fill in a form? 


I can honestly say that I’ve never been too busy to engage with a piece of content if it’s genuinely helpful or teaches me something, or if it helps me in making a decision. 


If the content you create is compelling and tells the right story, people will make time to consume it, but it’s your job to prove it’s good in the first place, and that’s tricky to do if you put the content behind a form. 

Marketing content is created with an audience in mind

Hopefully, we can all agree that the content we create as marketers is aimed at a specific audience. The audience will probably be related to the industry you work in and the user's role that is likely to be interested in your product or service. 


It’s marketing 101 - know your audience, buyer persona, customer profile or whatever else you might call it. 


This is key when you think about why content doesn’t need to be gated to still convert. Essentially, if you’re producing good content for the right people and then promoting it in a way that allows them to easily access it, you’ll build an engaged audience who wants to consume your content and actually wants to sign up for a meeting or demo. 

Forms still play an essential role in marketing and sales

Technically, you could go completely gateless - go old school and just have a phone number on the website for when someone wants to get in touch. But in the digital age, this is generally less practical. Also, people like the option of having a form to get in touch. 


It’s also nice to see where marketing content has led to an engaged contact that got in touch through a form on the website (with an actual intent to learn more). 


Going gateless doesn’t even mean opening up ALL of your content; it’s just about deciding what to ungate and where the value is for the user. For demo and contact requests, webinars and in-depth content where the value is evident straight away, gating your content still makes sense. 


Arguably, these are the conversions that should count towards your marketing metrics. The great gateless content you create can lead people to these forms and content once they’re already engaged. And that’s when you’re starting to generate actual leads that love your company for all you’ve shared with them for free.

Go forth and tell stories

The aim of the game is to make the gateless content you provide as engaging and valuable as possible. The idea behind this is that the more the audience engages with this open and free content, the more likely they are to engage with additional content that might be gated. 


Going gateless also leaves nowhere to hide - if your content isn’t good enough to help the user and encourage them to further engage with your company, then you know you need to rethink the messaging or story you’re trying to tell. One way to make the content engaging, beyond just ensuring it’s super relevant to the audience and helpful and useful, is to tell stories. Stories and anecdotes are easy to make the content relatable and hopefully keep the information engaging. 

You can learn more by filling in this form to download… I’m joking. If you would like to learn more about how gateless content can not only produce better leads and results but also how to get started, check out our gateless manifesto here.