The Marketers Dilemma: Gated vs Ungated Content

How much do you want this information?

Are you willing to give me your personal information to get it? Even though you know that means I could probably start nagging you endlessly?

These are the questions we are asking our website visitors every time we ask them to fill in a form to get a piece of content. This is “gated” content. There is a gate in front of it, and their contact information is the key.

Ungated content is not guarded by a form. Anyone can see it and download it anytime.

In my experience, most Microsoft Dynamics partners gate content such as white papers, reports and pricing calculators. Newsletters and blog posts are hardly ever gated. (Unless the site requires you to sign up for a subscription, but this is an entirely different model.)

I have seen some companies that ask you to fill out a form before you watch a video or view an infographic. This is just ridiculous. Have they ever heard of YouTube?  

The argument FOR gated content:

When someone fills out a form on a website in exchange for a piece of content, somewhere a marketing person is smiling. They know that they can use this contact information.

  • They can track it in their CRM system and report is as a lead, which makes the boss happy.
  • They can continue to market to this person with relevant content and messages and patiently nurture it into a sale. (This makes the boss happy too.)
  • The marketer can analyze the numbers to see what piece of content is most appealing to prospects and can plan future campaigns.

The argument AGAINST gated content:

Most people today are feeling information overload; they know that if they fill out a form, they will get more emails from you. 

  • The prospect will refuse to fill out the form and will leave your site, which means they will not see your valuable content.
  • The prospect will give a bogus email address such as which just clutters up your CRM system.

My Bold Decision

Two years ago we had more than a dozen white papers on the CAL Business Solutions website that were gated. I did it that way because that was the way it had always been done.  

As you know from my last post “How Much Information Should You Provide On Your Website” my online philosophy is “Just Be Open”. And I realized that I was not being true to that. After all, the whole point of outbound marketing is to educate your audience.

So I made the decision to ungate ALL of our content (except one piece). Let’s just give it all away for free. Three things helped me make this decision:

1)      I wanted my content seen by as many people as possible. I made sure it was well branded for my company, so that anyone reading it would easily know who to call for more information. I firmly believe that the company that provides the most information will earn the prospects’ trust.

2)      We do not use a fancy marketing automation system. So even though we were collecting the contact information we were not doing a great job of using it anyway. It was a very manual process to sort through the downloads and figure out who was a real prospect. And even if we did, I don’t feel that sending emails to these “cold leads” is the best use of our marketing efforts.

3)      I use to track my website visitors so I can see which companies visit my website and which pages they view. That way I know what content is the most popular. I can do this discretely without asking the prospect to tell me what they want.

I made one exception to our new open gate policy. I still require people to provide their contact information to use our Dynamics GP Quick Quote tool. This is information that is hard to get somewhere else. Plus, information about their company is needed in order to personalize the quote and I feel that a real prospect will see the value in this.

This decision has worked very well for us. Our website traffic, and Dynamics GP sales, continue to go up. 

I do realize that not every marketer has the freedom to make a decision like this for their company, but it worth consideration.

As a compromise, I have seen a few companies that require just one registration form that “unlocks” their entire library of content, versus asking someone to sign up for each piece.

If you do have gated content, please don’t scare prospects with your form. Some forms are a page long and ask for industry, revenue size, purchase timeframe, name of firstborn child, etc. As a marketer you don’t have the right to expect all this information so early on in your relationship with a prospect.

When I had forms for my white papers I asked for only minimal information. Name, Company, Email. If it is a real company email address, I can find the rest of the contact information on my own. If it is a generic @hotmail or @gmail, that means the person doesn’t trust me with their real email address and they are not ready to be contacted anyway.

I find that people, including myself, are especially hesitant to put their phone number on a form. I know that a marketer can find my company phone number online if they want it.  But if I willingly give it to them on a form this is basically a direct invitation to call me. And I don’t like getting phone calls.

For me personally, there is plenty of content out there that I can get for free. But if there is something that I am truly interested in, from a source that I don’t mind hearing from again, I will play the game and give my contact information (without my phone number).

I’d be interested to know your opinion as a marketer and as a consumer – is gated or ungated content better?

By Anya Ciecierski, Collaboration Works Marketing

Follow me on Twitter: @AnyaCWMktg