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Best Practices

The Future Of Forms Pt.1: Gated Content And You

Before we start, let’s get back to basics. What the heck is ‘gated content’ anyway? Gated content is any content sitting behind a form. That form requires a visitor to share information, usually personal and/or company information, before they can consume the content.

The reason we call it ‘gating’ is pretty straightforward. Much like a gate protects a starlet’s home on Mulholland Drive from prying eyes, a form blocks customers from seeing an asset… that is, until the visitor ‘buzzes in’ past security a.k.a. shares the necessary info to cause the ‘gate’ to lift. These gates can require a few or many fields to be filled before lifting.

In a survey of the top 100 SaaS companies, buyers were required to complete an average of 6 form fields. It’s also worth noting that over two-thirds of the top 100 companies are no longer using gated content as their main channel for generating leads. If there was a time to re-assess your form strategy and consider shaking things up a bit–it’s now. First, it’s important to understand both the benefits and drawbacks to gating content.

The great gate debate

Gating content can be a powerful tool for marketers. It’s one of the most effective ways to generate a volume of leads and capture valuable information about those leads, such as name, job title and company of the person who accessed the content. Individuals that invest the time and energy to fill in a form are more valuable to marketers. Knowing more information about your visitors can also help you segment them and create more tailored content experiences. A recent study by MailChimp showed that segmented campaigns have a 14.4% better open rate than unsegmented ones. Plus, the more information you have on an individual, the more your sales team can personalize conversations with them.

However, gates can hurt your marketing efforts as much as they can help. When delivered at the wrong time or in front of the wrong content, gates cause prospects to enter dummy data or, worse, bounce never to return again.

Picture this: you get an email in your inbox with the subject line “Free Industry Benchmarks 2017.” You think, “Great! I have been meaning to find some updated industry benchmarks.” You open the email and click that magical call-to-action button. The button takes you to a landing page with a few highlights from the report. You skim the page and encounter yet another call to action button before you can access the report, but in order to click it you must you must fill in your name, email, job role, company name, company website, and your 2017 budget. Suddenly this ‘free’ report seem slightly less so…

Factors affecting your gating strategy

That’s why the trend among cutting-edge marketers is to sacrifice this lead generation strategy altogether in favour of better content engagement strategies. Reason being, if visitors can engage with more content, they will become more educated. And the more educated they are about your solution, the faster they will reach sales-readiness.

The truth is, there is no hard right or wrong solution. It’s a carefully curated combination of gating and non-gating that wins. When choosing your strategy, here are some things to consider:

  • If leads are very hard to come by, or if your sole measure of success is number of leads delivered to sales: Choose a more aggressive content gating approach. Proceed with caution here as this may cause a lot of leads to bounce.
  • If your sales team is not accepting the leads you send over: This indicates a lead quality problem. Allow visitors to spend more time with the content before serving a form. This gives them a better idea of what the content is about before asking them to provide information. If they’re interested, they’ll be more likely to fill it. These leads tend to be higher quality.
  • If your buyer’s journey down the funnel seems to take for-ev-ver: Use a lighter content gating strategy. By removing friction, prospects can become educated faster. Ungate wherever possible to allow prospects to self-nurture without interruptions.
  • Need to improve engagement? If you already have a large database perhaps you can afford to give your content away for ‘free’. In this case, consider ungating everything. This out-of-the-box strategy can improve engagement and help prospects self-educate at a faster pace. Some industry experts such as Rand Fishkin of Moz are big fans of this approach.

When putting a form strategy in place it’s important to consider the different types of forms and when they’re appropriate to serve up to your audience. More on this in Part 2 and 3 of this blog series. The Future of Forms Part 2: Forms Face Off will pit different types of forms against one another and explore the pros and cons of each. The Future of Forms Part 3: Embracing Engagement-Based Forms reveals how serving forms based off of content consumption can transform the outcomes of your future campaigns. Stay tuned!

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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