Popping the age old question: To gate or not to gate

by Laurie Heller

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B2B marketers spend countless hours and resources on content strategy, buyer journey mapping, SEO, and content creation. The goals are usually to score marketing qualified leads (MQLs), influence purchasing decisions, and of course, drive revenue. Because of this, many marketers (ahem, us included) decide it's time to follow a rather contentious path gating content. I know what you're thinking. "Everyone is doing it and we need leads, right?" Wellllll, stop right there. Hear us out. 

Gating content can sometimes prevent a prospect from getting to know you. According to Gartner,  a typical B2B buying process involves six to 10 decision-makers., with each of them consuming five-to-six pieces of online content before getting close to a decision. But let's face it: not every prospect will be willing to hand over their golden email address to get your content. And yes, while it's true that leads may be more valuable to your marketing and sales team, at what cost? Turning half of prospects away? More importantly, how many people will share content that has restrictions on access?

B2B Buyers aren’t ready to say yes to the dress right away

Lead generation efforts are everywhere. And so are fake email addresses created by buyers intended to house spam, that four-letter word every marketer hates to admit to. But hey, can you blame them? It’s rare to find a website these days that doesn't create pop-ups asking a visitor for their hand in marriage (aka your email address).

But here's the catch: B2B prospects aren't always looking for exclusive information about your specific brand or product especially beginning. They don't know you and could be at the early or later stages of the buyer journey. When you think about it, you probably won't trust an overly eager seller either. Let's call it like it is:  prospects are probably not enthusiastic about your "invitation."

Digitally influenced purchases 

B2B shoppers typically browse online catalogs, websites and perform several Google searches to find products, compare companies, and find prices before making the purchase offline. Most B2B buyers start their curiosity at the broad level before narrowing it down to specifics. 

In one study, Google found that most B2B shoppers always considered more than two brands before making a purchase. Your available content needs to meet the buyer's needs at both levels, the broad analysis, and specific brand and company searches. 

And then there's the pandemic, which has changed behaviors quite a bit

It's essential to keep the impact of coronavirus on B2B buyer purchases. At the onset of the pandemic, businesses made tough decisions to reduce spending and survive. Purchasers became more responsive to educational content rather than promotional ads when making purchasing decisions. B2B purchasers move away from the noise and seek information that adds value to their purchase decisions as they work remotely. Gating informative content may actually be driving away your potential customers. 

A note to the digital haters of the world who think your customers don't live online

Don't be fooled into thinking that offline purchases do not engage online. The study mentioned earlier by Google shows that customers who were engaged post-purchase were more likely to purchase from a brand. For example, industrial manufacturers and industrial suppliers were 2× and 8× more likely to purchase supplementary products, respectively. Pack & ship suppliers were 2× more likely to repurchase the product from a brand. 

It's crucial to note that a B2B customer isn't loyal to you after making a high-quality purchase. A purchaser could be satisfied with your product but still move to a competitor that offers a better customer experience, or, ahem, doesn't gat their content. All customers are human beings with values and attitudes. An experience that transcends product quality and price is more likely to foster loyalty. 

For B2B marketers, this is an invitation to revise your marketing strategy to ensure that gating doesn't restrict long term inbound lead generation. Your customers need information about your products and personalized engagement to become long-term customers. 

So, should you avoid gating content altogether?

Gating content has several advantages, including generating leads and revenue. However, it has a lower reach than open access content and discourages B2B consumer curiosity. 

Our advice, it's best to strike a balance. Here are questions you should consider before gating any content. If the answer is yes to our 3 questions below, we suggest you do NOT gate your content.

  1. Is it a case study that gives a prospect a good reason to consider you?
  2. Is the content and/or information a prospect can get from a quick google search (aka it should be blog content)?
  3. Is it a survey that will enable you to create a compelling piece of content with proprietary data later?

If 1 -3 are a yes, it's a sign you need to keep dating your prospects without rushing into  buying them a ring.

Have a question about when to gate content or need help? We're here.


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