Gated content is not a 'magic bullet' for selling stuff
Over the past five years in particular, I’ve naturally veered into the inbound aspect of digital marketing. As it happens, the general methodology and ethos sits well with me.
‘Inbound’ to me, means:
You don’t push a hard sell on people
You don’t spam them
You don’t bombard them with content they don’t want
You don’t go on about yourself - and forget the audience
What you do do, is attract people who already have that ‘live’ need or desire for what you’re selling, through relevant and engaging content.
And… one of the big tactics used in inbound marketing all the time is that of gated content.
Gated content simply means that you’re putting a form in front of a piece of downloadable content (a white paper, report, toolkit, etc…) so that the user has to hand over some data before they get what they perceive to be of future use to them.
This type of ‘exchange’ is common and conventional these days. Contrary to what some people might tell you, most people don’t actually mind handing over a few details about themselves (name, email, job title etc) if they think the content at the end of the form will be worth it.
I’ve seen this time and time again from ex-colleagues:
Them: “People won’t fill that in / people don’t like forms.”
Me: “We’ve had 3,522 downloads of that PDF in 3 months.”
It is, in fact, a very effective tactic for attracting inbound leads, whether that’s through paid or organic traffic; filling the funnel is the first hurdle to get over and to get the old pipeline going.
It’s about letting the prospect come to you - not stalking them, hounding them or harassing them with cold calls and mailers. It’s far more sophisticated than that.
It is the modern way.
What I’ve noticed in the last couple of years in particular is that some companies are leaning on gated content more and more (which is great in theory), but what they’re offering at the end of the form-fill amounts to content that’s best used to line your cat’s litter tray.
More than that - some companies then decide to hit you with a barrage of mailers and phone-calls, even if you’ve not ticked that GDPR-essential box to say you’re happy for that to happen.
I’ve decided not to name and shame anyone here, but there’s some right crap out there masquerading as valuable content.
In comparison, high quality gated content offers genuine insight and value to the reader, and through each issue, your brand is adding one more building block of credibility and trust to their perception of you.
A download is not permission to start mailing someone things they never opted in for.
A download is not permission to start calling them about a product or service they might not be in a position to consider.
A download is not permission to sell user details to a third party (who then begins harassing them with points 1 and 2 above).
To summarise, I guess what I’m saying here is that yes, absolutely use gated content to attract prospects, build brand awareness, trust and credibility for your product and service in the marketplace.
Just make sure that content is excellent content, and that you’re being helpful to your audience through that download.
It shouldn’t ever feel like a ‘trap that someone’s falling into.