Guidelines for Gated vs. Ungated Content for B2B Technology Marketers

Your content marketing matters

That’s why the debate surrounding gated versus ungated content has been raging for quite some time. Do you ask readers to ‘sign up’ to read your content, or should you give it away for free?

It’s not a simple question to answer. In truth, there are benefits to both. But before you can make your choice, you need to know exactly why the debate exists in the first place. In this post, we take a deep dive into what gated and ungated content is, why brands opt not to gate their content, and how to decide on the right approach for you.

Defining Ungated And Gated Content

91 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, and for good reason:

  • 72% say content marketing leads to increased brand engagement, which essentially means that visitors develop an emotional connection (or commitment) with a brand.
  • Plus, a further 72% of technology marketers say it has increased the number of leads.

What’s more, thousands of pieces of content are available online for free. You navigate to a website and there it is: content that answers a specific need or problem. Ready for you to read on your desktop or mobile, without asking for anything in exchange. 

This is known as ‘ungated’ content.

Ungated content is an extremely important component of content marketing, as it allows you to demonstrate your expertize and value upfront. Ungated content is your opportunity to provide helpful and informative guidance, which in turn begins the process of building brand trust and affinity.

Look elsewhere, though, and you’ll soon see that a lot of content isn’t freely available. You arrive on a content page and find that the article, ebook, or white paper you’re looking for is locked away until you submit something in return (usually, your email address.)

This is known as ‘gated’ content.

So is gating content the right approach to take?

From the marketer’s perspective, gating is a tried and tested lead generation tactic. It brings a site visitor into your sales funnel, giving you the opportunity to then nurture them into paying customers.

And with 88 percent of B2B marketers relying on content marketing as a lead generation strategy, that’s no bad thing.

A lot of the time, this is a fair exchange between you and your prospective leads. If you have invested time and effort into producing work that is of genuine value, then people are generally willing to part with their contact details for it.

When done right, everybody wins with gated content. Leads get the answers they are seeking and brands can fuel their sales funnel with new leads who are (generally speaking) already partially qualified.

Yet, despite its simplicity and commercial potential, some brands are opting against gating content. 

Why?

Why Are Brands Choosing To Keep Content Ungated?

Research by Drift shows more brands, specifically SaaS providers, are turning away from gated content in favor of more direct methods of connecting with B2B customers. 

There are multiple reasons for this:

  • It can be a waste of good content. Visitors who aren’t completely set on reading a gated piece won’t provide their email address — they’ll just look for something similar (and free), elsewhere.
  • The internet is packed with articles, blog posts, how-to guides, etc., and people may feel the request for contact details is unjustified if they can find the same information on another site.
  • People are more security-conscious online than ever before. Submitting contact information is a leap of faith, especially if the visitor is encountering your brand for the first time. A comprehensive research study by Edelman found brands’ handling of personal data and their ability to track customers is a major concern.

The underlying issue here, is that of trust.

Buyers want to be able to trust brands. And when brands display trustworthiness, it is rewarded with loyalty. 

In fact, Edelman’s global study found that 81 percent of customers cite trust as “make or break” in their purchase decisions, and 62 percent who trust a brand tend to stay loyal to it in the long run. This hugely increases the commercial value of working hard to earn buyer trust and to maintain it. 

Problem is, in today’s climate gated content just doesn’t feel that trustworthy. 

Even companies with established, positive reputations may still struggle to capture leads through gated content if people simply don’t see the value of handing over their contact details in the first place.

This being said, there really is no hard and fast rule and gating your content may still be beneficial for your business.

So, Should You Gate Your Content?

As a B2B technology marketer, deciding whether to gate your content can be a challenge. Here are four key considerations to bear in mind:

1. Only gate content you consider unique or highly valuable

Gating may be appropriate if you have content of extremely high value — specifically: 

  • In-depth research that cannot be found anywhere else online
  • Step-by-step guides on complex processes
  • Innovative pieces that demonstrate authentic thought leadership
  • Content containing unique data you’ve gathered through first-hand research.

In each of these cases, it’s likely you’re offering readers something entirely new which they can’t find on other websites. People with a genuine interest in your brand or the subject matter may be more willing to sign up in exchange for this. 

2. You can gate enhanced versions of existing, ungated content

This may seem odd, but it’s true: repackaging existing material as gated content works exceptionally well. 

Taking a series of connected blog posts, articles, white papers or any other type of content and packaging them as a downloadable set makes for a tempting offer. 

But why would anyone submit their email address to download material they can read on your website for free? 

The key word here is “download”. Readers don’t need to have an internet connection to revisit the content in the future. They don’t even need to try to navigate back to the right page. 

Instead, they have a shortcut straight to your content, whenever they want it. It’s the perfect proposition if your content is designed to add value in business meetings or pitches.

3. Only gate content if your audience responds well to it

A simple but vital point to consider: you should only gate content if your audience has responded well to your gating in the past. 

If your previous attempts have led to weak or non-existent lead generation, or you’ve received negative feedback from your audience, you may want to re-think your approach. 

But if your gated content has driven conversions and generated valuable leads, keep it up. Just avoid making it your core B2B technology marketing technique. 

4. Only gate content when you understand your audience

You have to sell each piece of gated content to the right people in the right way. You’ll waste time trying to grab anyone or everyone’s attention — instead, just target those your content is relevant to.

So how do you do this? 

You can (and should!) study your analytics, monitor customer feedback, and segment your audience effectively — this will help you develop a deep understanding of your B2B customer base. 

Creating buyer personas is also an essential step for any brand. This gives you a more concrete vision of who you are targeting, and helps you establish key personality traits/interests to focus on in your gated content briefs.

In Sum? Gated Content Can Work, But You Have To Know Why You’re Doing It

To gate or not to gate; the discussion will continue to live on. For now, it’s up to you to decide which approach is right for your technology marketing.

To do so, remember:

  • Gating content can inspire B2B customers to question brands’ motivations and affect trust levels.
  • While gated content can generate valuable leads, the content on offer must provide the reader with real value they can’t find elsewhere for free.
  • Always be transparent about how you handle all data submitted to earn trust, as this is a major issue for buyers today.
  • Target the right segments of your audience with your gated content: tailor it to specific needs, interests and goals.
  • You should always have ungated content available, though. Never lock all content away.

Gated content has a place in B2B technology marketing, but only when it’s done right. 

Follow the tips explored above to offer prospects content they actually want to read and are also willing to provide their information for. Be strategic with your gated content, and you should boost engagement, generate more leads and increase conversions over time. 

Written by Tristan Pelligrino

Tristan Pelligrino is the Co-Founder of Motion. He’s a serial entrepreneur who started his career as a consultant with large IT companies such as PwC, IBM and Oracle. After getting his MBA, he started and grew one of the fastest video production companies in the country – which was listed on the Inc. 5000. Tristan now enjoys leading the content marketing strategies of some of the most innovative B2B technology companies in the country. You can find him on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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