That is the question.
As Marketers become more mindful of user experience and the need to offer buyer enablement— support that makes it easier for customers to advance through a complex buying process—Marketers are increasingly finding themselves wrestling with the decision of whether or not to gate certain pieces of content on their website.
If we want to simplify our website experience for users (we all do), that must mean we shouldn’t gate content. Right? Forcing a user to fill out a form to access a piece of content creates a hurdle in the user experience. Not to mention, a user might not even be willing to provide their information, out of fear of signing themselves up for unwanted supplier outreach.
On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to engage, nurture, and ultimately convert a lead if you don’t even know their name.
So then what is the right answer? To gate, or not to gate?
At Gartner, we’re starting to lean more towards keeping content ungated, largely due to some of the user/customer experience issues referenced above. We’re also starting to collect stories from clients who have stopped gating content, and are seeing improvements in commercial outcomes, which they attribute to making their best content more accessible.
The reality, though, is that many of you do have certain lead generation goals you have to hit, and your website is your primary source of generated leads. Additionally, for many Marketers, any suggestion to stop gating content would be met with push back from internal colleagues, such as Sales leaders, that is too much to overcome.
Regardless of which approach you take, there are a handful of steps you can take to set yourself up for success:
If You Decide to Stop Gating Content…
Make Late-Stage CTAs Omnipresent. In an absence of gated content, you can still use other calls-to-action to ask for customer information. However, these calls-to-action are usually going to be associated with tasks that customers typically complete later in their buying journey, when the user is more willing to offer their information. These types of CTAs might include something similar to “Schedule a Demo”, “Find a Dealer”, or “Speak with a Sales Representative”.
There are other CTAs that might not necessarily be aligned with a late-stage buying task, but a request for customer information seems more reasonable, from the user’s perspective, such as “Register for this Event.”
Just make sure the CTA is very clear, and the CTA link/button is incredibly easy for the user to find, and not buried deep into any given page.
If You’re Keeping Your Content Gated (At Least for Now)…
- Limit the Number of Fields. You should only be asking for critical, need-to-know information in your forms. There will always be more information you’d love to know about your customers, particularly for the sake of qualification, but limit (at least your initial) forms to the information you need to identify and contact the user.
- Consider Progressive Profiling. In an effort to keep the number of form fields smalls while still collecting information required for lead qualification and nurturing, many organizations are deploying “progressive profiling”, to avoid instances where a customer is asked to provide the same information twice. Here, after an initial form fill, the next time a prospect fills out a form, cookie tracking replaces any of the form fields already collected from the contact with new fields.
- Be Mindful of the Value the Gated Asset Offers the User. If you’re going to gate a piece of content, the user better find that asset worth it. Of course, every asset within our content portfolio was created with the intent of delivering value. However, we know that not every piece of content will offer users the same level of value. Any piece of content you gate needs to be teaching the customer something new. Not something new about your brand, but something new about themselves—tied to their business problems. “10 Reasons Why Our Solution is the Best” is not an article you should be gating.
Even if you have to stick with a gated content strategy, you can absolutely still take steps, such as those referenced above, to ensure an effective website experience and to advance customer buying journey progress.