Future of Forms, part 2, Decorative Blue circles and White cubes on a blue background with a PathFactory logo on the bottom left
Form Strategy

The Future Of Forms Part 2: Forms Face-Off

Not all gates are created equal, as mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series. Different situations call for different approaches. Ensure you’re making the best choice for your content gating strategy by understanding the types of content gating options and the pros and cons of each.

Hard-gating

Hard gates make form submission a non-negotiable. However, if you’re requiring a visitor to give up their info you better be sure that piece of content is worth it.

In some cases, it makes sense to hard-gate a high-value piece of content with a lead capture form.  But sometimes, hard-gating backfires. There are at least a couple reasons why someone wouldn’t fill out your form: either they aren’t that interested or you haven’t built enough of a relationship with them to earn their information. With hard-gating, you often take the risk of asking for too much too soon.
Pros of hard-gating:

  • Collect high volume of leads
  • Capitalize on high-value content
  • Allows you to create highly personalized buyer journeys

Cons of hard-gating:

  • Difficult to gauge quality of leads
  • Risk over-promising and under-delivering if quality of content doesn’t stack up
  • Leads may bounce if you present the hard-gate too soon in the buying process

Hard Gate infographic, showing a form to turn a unknown visitor to a known visitor with a hard gate, one a white background

Soft-gating

A soft gate allows visitors to get a taste of your content before being asked for information. Soft-gating ensures only the most interested prospects submit your form. By submitting the form they’re saying “I like what I’ve tasted so far… now give me the main course…”

Some soft gates can be set with a time-based threshold. When choosing this method consider the type of asset and length of the asset. You want your visitors to get a solid idea of its value before serving the form.

On the other hand, you don’t want to miss them entirely by triggering the form too late in the game. You can make a soft gate even softer by allowing your visitors to dismiss it entirely. That way, the form seems like a light suggestion rather than an order and the prospect feels like they’re in control.

Pros of soft-gating:

  • Tends to result in higher quality leads
  • Visitors validate themselves by telling you they like your content
  • Comes across as less aggressive

Cons of soft-gating:

  • Still creates friction in the content experience
  • Interrupts the flow of your visitor’s self-education
  • The ‘tease’ may rub a visitor the wrong way causing them to bounce

Soft Gate infographic, showing a form to turn a unknown visitor to a known visitor with a soft gate, one a white background

No form, no problem

More and more marketing leaders are joining the ‘non-gating’ school of thought. Rand Fishkin of Moz, for example, has taken the stance of being philosophically against gating any content, with a few exceptions. And David Meerman Scott has this to say:

“We offered a white paper as a download. We alternated daily between having it gated with an email address requirement and ungated. On the days that it was ungated, downloads were 47 times higher.”

Clearly, there are times when ungating is your best move. Ultimately, it depends on what your end game is and what you value the most.

Pros of ungating content:

  • Increases reach and shareability of content
  • Improves SEO
  • Increases brand affinity

Cons of ungating content:

  • You might miss out on key information that helps segmentation and personalization
  • Less information to pass on to sales
  • Can be difficult to convert unknown visitors

Engagement-based offers

Another (and possibly the most powerful) type of form to consider is the engagement-based form. These gates appear only after a prospect has reached a certain engagement threshold with your content.

Once a prospect has engaged with several pieces of content for long periods of time, a form could be the next best asset to serve as they may need to talk to sales or experience a demo. In that case, an engagement-based trigger could be just what you’re looking for. This means that after x number of minutes spent with content, or after x pieces of content have been viewed, your prospect has shown a higher purchase intent and will be presented with a form. Stay tuned for a deeper dive into these types of forms and engagement-based triggers in Part 3 of this blog series.

Engagement-Based Form infographic, showing how you can customize when a form is served based on asset engagement, on a white background

Regardless of your form strategy, always put your customers before your list size.

Remember, education comes first

As marketers, we’re constantly measured on the size of our ‘lists’. It can be easy to lose sight of our true goal: adding value to the lives of our customer and making it easy for them to self-educate and find answers to their problems. Keep that in mind when designing any content gating strategy and you’ll be set up for success.

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. The Future Of Forms Part 3: Embracing Engagement-Based Forms discusses the benefits of building your form strategy around content engagement and purchase intent and includes a handy-dandy flow chart!

Written By
Martha Prange
Martha is a talented Product Manager and muffin aficionado having worked at Toronto tech companies for the last 8+ years.

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