Few B2B marketing topics lead to swords being drawn faster than gated content. Marketers
want those email addresses. Content people want their stuff out in the open. Who should you
listen to? Well, first let's do some digging into the effects of content gating.
Gated Content Is A Tradeoff
Gated content is defined by a transaction where a prospective reader or viewer gives contact
details in exchange for access to a piece of content, ideally something they value. In
marketing terms, gated content is a lead-gen
bottom of the funnel
) tactic that
basically works by trading some of the awareness
otherwise ungated piece of content would
create in exchange for leads. And since the end goal of B2B content marketing is usually
leads, this can be a fair trade, in theory. But in practice there's some irritating fine
print to consider.
The Awareness Loss With Gated Content Can Be Big
It's hard to know exactly how much awareness you sacrifice through gating, but there's data
out there suggesting it could be in the 50-70% range. That's a big penalty, considering that
of bids are won by vendors the buyer was already aware of before the buyer's journey
began. However, this loss will be less painful to some businesses, and in some instances,
than others (I'll circle back to this point in a minute).
The Lead Generation Might Not Be All It Seems
Assuming your marketing and salespeople are at least remotely competent, not only are you
sacrificing awareness when you choose to gate, you're also sacrificing the leads that lost
awareness would have eventually led to. Of course, those leads would have reached you later
than the leads you get from gating, perhaps years later, so there's a time factor to consider.
And of course, some of those leads aren't really sacrificed so much as delayed, as some will
eventually be reached and netted by future marketing efforts.
Lead Quality Might Suffer With Gated Content
When you choose to gate, you force at least some of your prospects into giving their contact
details at an earlier point than they would be otherwise inclined to. This will have two
effects on the resulting lead-gen. One, some of your leads will be false alarms for Seymour
Butts at email@example.com. And two, some leads will be prospects who aren't on the buyer's
journey yet (only 5%
prospects are at any one time), which could mean a lot of your
subsequent sales efforts will have little to show for it.
Got Marketing Data?
Some good news is that if your content marketing operations are fairly mature and consistent,
and you have lengthy and accurate data in your possession regarding your marketing funnel and
past content marketing activities, and access to knowledgeable people to interpret it, you can
make reasonable estimates as to what the lead-gen benefits and awareness tradeoffs of gated
content will be, especially if you know what percentage of your awareness content readers
eventually become leads. But there's still more to consider.
Some Need Awareness More Than Others
If you're a market leader, the awareness you give up through gating won't hurt you as much as it
would a non-leader
, because leaders get plenty of
attention from other sources. Also, if you're
addressing a close-knit ABM type of industry where everyone knows each other, the awareness
penalty also won't hurt as much. Though, of course, the act of gating itself may be questionable
if you already know who all your customers are (with factors like turnover and reachability via
other channels relevant here).
Some Need Gated Content Data More Than Others
Leads aren't all that's generated by gated content. You get a variety of other information
about your prospects (assuming they're telling the truth) even if they don't eventually pan out
as leads. Such information can tell you whether your paid targeting is accurate, for instance,
or whether your value propositions are actually proving valuable to the target
Does The Topic Reveal Intent?
As previously stated, leads for prospects not on the buyer's journey, or not close to starting
the buyer's journey, probably won't be as immediately useful to you (and they may be scared off
if you press them with a lot of hard sell tactics). But if you sell data center solutions and the
title of your content piece is "How To Select A Data Center Solution Vendor," you can reasonably
assume that a fair number of the people choosing to give you their contact details in order to
read this are either on the buyer's journey already or close (making the leads you win now through
gating more immediately useful).
Does The Content Have Authority?
Marketing content must offer something the audience considers valuable, and gated content more so.
A good way to create that perceived value is to have a third-party consultancy create the content
(and have their name on it), and not just purely for the prestige of the name, but also for the
perceived neutrality of a third party. And if you don't have it, there's another question you must
ask yourself before gating.
Does Your Brand Have Authority?
Are you considered a market leader, or even a noteworthy market rebel? Does what you say matter in
your industry? Are your opinions respected? If the answer is no to these questions, think twice
before gating content that doesn't have a consultancy's seal of approval, no matter how much you
paid for it, or how valuable you think it is.
Because getting that content in front of as many eyeballs as possible could be something that
drives a shift in the perception of your brand from also-ran to worthy of attention. In other
words, not gating your content might be what shifts those answers from no to yes. Or perhaps
getting more leads (and more resulting sales) now could be what drives that shift instead. Only
you can know (or at least make a reasonable guess) which is more likely.
How Broad Is The Audience?
If the potential audience for a piece of content is huge (i.e., "How AI Will Transform The Business
World"), the awareness cost of gating could also be huge. But the smaller an audience gets, the
lower its awareness ceiling.
And if a topic is very niche (i.e., "The Oil & Gas CMO's Guide To AI"), gating runs the risk of
practically nobody reading the content at all, which is something you don't want considering the
resources that tend to go into gated content. Thus, content for a mid-sized audience (i.e., "How
AI Will Transform The Oil & Gas Industry") might make for a good gating candidate, or it might
Frustrating, Isn't It?
I haven't really cleared up when to gate or not gate, but I'm afraid that's kind of the point.
There's a whole mess of variables to consider, and only you can know how they translate in real
However, I can tell you a few things. If you want to move the needle in your industry with a piece of
content, don't gate it. If you really want to make some money now, gate it. But don't just gate
content willy-nilly. Gate the topics most likely to attract prospects already on the buyer's journey,
or who just need a little nudge to get started. Gate beyond that, and you risk stealing from the
future to inflate the present, endangering your business's long-term health for short-term
One Other Thing....
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the word "consideration
" yet, and therefore you might
be wondering whether gated consideration content is a good idea. Well, my answer is there are a
few instances where gating consideration content might be a good idea, but they're rare. In fact
they're so rare that I didn't feel the need mention a consideration tradeoff earlier when I brought
up the awareness tradeoff with gated content.
Consideration content discusses your products and their features, a category of your products and
its features, or your advantages as a vendor more generally. The only category I see gated content
even possibly falling into is content that discusses a category of your products but doesn't mention
your products specifically ("Why Projectors Are Better Than Monitors For Enterprises").
And even in this instance, I wouldn't gate indiscriminantly. I would only consider gating as part
of an outbound campaign (email or paid social) sent out to people who might be thinking about a
monitor purchase. I wouldn't gate this if it were just sitting on your website waiting to be
found organically. The SEO loss could be big if you gate this way, and I wouldn't want to annoy
someone already sniffing around on your website. That's a good way to drive them to a