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Considerations for Content Licensing

by Hank Barnes  |  August 4, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Our research at Gartner shows that technology buyers are looking beyond providers for information they can trust.   Buyers place high value on 3rd party content from trusted sources, particularly expert reviews and analyst reports (any credible analyst, not just Gartner)–the top two types of influencer materials cited in recent research.     Therefore, we recommend that technology providers increase their focus, and possibly investment, on influencer engagement (this is covered more deeply in this report (clients only) and was discussed in an interview that I did recently with Jon Reed from diginomica).

But lets say you’ve developed relationships with influencers and they have written about you.  What next?  Do you license that content in some form or fashion or just link to it?  (Or just ignore it and hope it goes away?)  How does this fit into your content marketing plans?


The answer, like many, is that it depends on the specifics of your situation.  That being said, here are some ideas to help with the decision process.

1. What Story are You Telling?

For me, the first consideration for content licensing is that role the content plays in the story you are trying to tell.   The external content is part of the overall story–and your customers may make it part of their buying effort, whether you help them find it or not (see below)–but you can make the choice of how deeply you embed it.   You might decide just to license “reprints”—where the external content “stands alone”.   That works well from a stand point of building credibility or when you are highlighted in a comparative report.   Or, you might be able to wrap you own content around the external content.  In that case, you want to use content that builds on your story, rather than distracts.  Many influencers publish comparative reports (for Gartner, the Magic Quadrant is the most known) and lots of providers license them if they are mentioned.  But those aren’t great candidates to wrap into a broader story–there is too much content about others there.  It distracts the reader from your story.  On the other hand, if there is research that supports your position or vision in the market–even research that does not mention you by name–that is a great candidate for including in a broader narrative—it builds credibility for your story without distracting.

So before you even consider licensing content, figure out the story it is helping you tell.

2.  What is the Goal?

The second consideration is your objective in content licensing, beyond helping tell the story.   Are you looking to build credibility?  Prove that your market is real–and important for buyers? Validate your unique perspective on solving a need?  Or, are you trying to generate leads (I’m usually not a fan of gating most content in the name of lead generation, but some external content can be strong enough to merit a quid pro quo (we provide content that might be hard–or you have to pay–to get elsewhere and, in return, you share contact information)?  Now, if someone does register,  these are probably not sales ready leads–and please don’t treat them as such.  But those contacts could turn into leads through nurturing.  It is a valid goal–just not the only goal.

But if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, don’t license the content.

3. What’s in it for your customers?

The final consideration is the customer perspective.  How does licensing content help them?  Does it make it easier for them to find the information(remember-buyers look elsewhere for content and you, the provider are often not their first choice)?  Does it save them time and money?   Does it build confidence and trust in your organization?   If you license content, will your customers come to you looking for it?

Once you have answers to these three key questions, you can make a better licensing decision.  If you decide to license, the work is not done.  Next you have to implement the right programs and activities to achieve the goals, help your customers, and enhance your story.


Addendum: After some discussions in Gartner land, wanted to add one more consideration to the list, mostly it relates to item 2–the goal.  And that is “Can you do anything as a result of meeting your goal?”   For example, if your goal is to get a signficant number of leads, and you have no ability to assess those leads for the “good ones” and not enough people to follow-up on the leads, then why bother?

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: content-licensing  content-marketing  influencer  influencer-marketing  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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