Many marketers believe that gating content behind a form is necessary to get leads from their website.
It’s true that when a team spends substantial time creating a valuable piece of content for their market they want to be able to quantify the results. A common marketing metric is how many new leads have been added to the sales pipeline as a result of this resource.
However, is gating content the only way to generate leads from your website?
The answer may surprise you.
I’ll share some insights about gated and ungated content, and also provide you with a better way to collect leads from your website.
Advantages of using web forms to gate content
Lead generation is the obvious reason for why organizations gate content. You can do a lot with just an email address. You can enrich that data to paint a pretty picture on who the lead is and what organization they are from. Lead capture is a significant step in building lists and segments for future marketing.
Hint, hint: You can still generate leads without lead capture forms … stay tuned!
Quantify content marketing initiatives
So you want to prove to your executive team that content marketing is contributing leads to the sales pipeline? Or adding new revenue to the business? This is a worthy goal since many marketing teams are under pressure to produce measureable results. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are a common key performance indicator (KPI) on executive-level dashboards.
Advantages of NOT using web forms to gate content
Prospects will determine what’s valuable, so that you don’t have to
It’s easy to get caught up in creating an arsenal of ebooks, guides and cheat sheets. After all once you start rolling with adding forms to downloadable resources, it’s difficult to change course. This reaches down (and up) to everyone within the organization and no one knows what they should gate and what they shouldn’t anymore.
By ungating everything you let the user decide what’s valuable. Unpack an eBook and put it into a blog post and see how many views it gets. The user then drives the value pendulum and not the organization.
The future is now
It’s no secret that the Webosphere has become saturated with new content over the last 10+ years. We have gone from 1 website in 1991 to 1 billion in 2014. Organizations need to prove their value upfront and without barrier. Users are becoming increasingly disenchanted with contact forms and “educating prospects” is no longer a value proposition for a company.
When to use web forms to gate content
You have an amazing asset that if you didn’t turn it into a lead magnet it would be a shameful disaster
If you work hard to produce a strong lead magnet that you know is unique to you and that there is absolutely no way another company can replicate it, wouldn’t it be justifiable to ask a user for some information before they get it? Absolutely. Here are a few examples of lead magnets that we think are justified behind a form:
KlientBoost is a top PPC & CRO agency in California. They packaged their internal training resources as a lead magnet. I don’t know about you but if I need an operation, I want the best Surgeon. If you want the best content from experts in that category you’ll be willing to give up a little bit of information to get it.
What makes this Pipedrive sales email course so valuable is 1- it’s taught by Timo Rein, co-founder of Pipedrive, so you know it’s executive-level, and 2- there’s social proof.
You have a highly competitive product or service
Sometimes capturing an email address is a competitive advantage. Companies that compete in fragmented markets or that have hundreds of competitors view it as a leg up if they have a large database.
Other companies that have a niche market can easily put all their prospective customers into an excel spreadsheet, for example. The value of a lead magnet then falls to the wayside since reaching this market becomes neither a marketing problem but a timing issue. The cost/benefit of producing marketing assets also becomes null when the market is small and finite.
When NOT to use web forms to gate content
You have superficial content that is broad and not deep
How the content on your website is packaged says a lot about your company. If you have a ton of mediocre blog content it doesn’t really scream to a visitor to download a gated resource, does it?
On the contrary if you add a ton of value in your blog posts and then offer up a gated resource as collateral, visitors are more incentivized to convert. A hard and fast rule for gating a resource should be how much value are you providing otherwise. If you aren’t doing a good job on your web content dont even think about creating downloadable resources… yet.
You don’t have a process for lead nurturing
Many SaaS organizations like Leadfeeder don’t put much value on building a list of marketing qualified leads, or adding to our email database. Our tool is so easy for users to test-drive that we are better off inviting users to trial the product as opposed to download a resource or join our marketing list.
Not to say that marketing qualified leads (MQLs) don’t have a place in our future, it’s just not a priority at the moment.
Buffer has a similar strategy when a while back they announced it was better for them to get free trial signups than it was to add new users to their email list.
This is Kevan Lee’s view, current Director of Marketing at Buffer:
This has been our chosen path for the past several years. We built an email list (currently at 44,000 subscribers), we share articles with the list, and we don’t do anything else. What this essentially amounts to is a long-term, customer-driven sales cycle: essentially a soft sell or, in some ways, a zero sell.
It’s about defining a clear marketing strategy and aligning all your initiatives against what will work for your business model and sales organization. Check out this article by Grow & Convert it sums up nicely the benefits of lead nurturing vs direct conversion.
How does marketing collect leads without gating content?
Unpack content into blog posts OR start adding your most valuable content to your blog
This will have positive benefits to SEO, after all you are adding more web pages to your website and hopefully providing your users with little friction to navigate your site. As you start to increase traffic to your blog posts you can then layer in additional calls to action or lead magnets.
Build a microsite
Create a microsite, which is basically a long webpage or multiple web pages that users can navigate separate from your main website, and of course no content is hidden behind a form.
This is similar to putting all your best content on your blog. A good example is from Mailshake: Cold Email Outreach eBook. Sujan Patel put all of his best insights about cold outreach into a Playbook microsite.
After you have these rich resource web pages, and the traffic is flowing, you can start using a tool like Leadfeeder to identify leads that visit your website.
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