B2B Marketers Need to Update Their Thinking on Gated Content

June 7, 2019

By Greg Zakowicz(opens in new tab), senior commerce marketing analyst at Bronto(opens in new tab)
5-minute read

In short:

  • Since today’s consumers value convenience, gated content is becoming generally less effective as a marketing tool.

  • Alternatives to traditional gated content include easy-entry and ungated content.

  • Audit your gated content and subsequent emails, and explore whether an alternative would serve your goals. Remember that gated content isn’t “bad” if used correctly.



Gated content(opens in new tab) -- or putting a valuable piece of content behind a registration form (i.e. a gate) -- is a staple of B2B(opens in new tab) marketing strategy, and we know why. For attracting and qualifying new customer prospects, lead scoring(opens in new tab) and creating buyer personas, it certainly holds a ton of value. 

But the B2B marketing landscape is changing(opens in new tab), rendering gated content less effective than it was in the recent past. One reason is the rise of the millennial workforce.

Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force(opens in new tab), and 45% of B2B technology buyers are millennials(opens in new tab), making them the largest cohort in this area. One attribute that stands out with millennials is their expectation of convenience(opens in new tab). And filling out long forms to receive a piece of gated content is far from convenient. 

But this is more than a millennial discussion. All consumers’ days are getting busier(opens in new tab), and the sheer volume of information and mediums on which to consume it can be overwhelming. Between webinars, white papers, podcasts, infographics, YouTube and social media, quickly deciding which information will provide the most value is imperative for consumers researching a solution to any problem.

Considering this shift in the landscape, my own experience in commerce marketing(opens in new tab) and the continual conversations I have with both marketers and customers, I think it is time to re-evaluate the traditional gated process.

Value for value

Seemingly every piece of content is gated these days, behind a form(opens in new tab) that asks the user for information like their first and last name, the type of company they work at and their role.

Herein lies a potential problem: With so much gated content and organizations so aggressive with follow-ups like marketing emails, anecdotal evidence shows audiences are becoming more selective about the gates they choose to enter. They weigh the expected value of the content against the inevitable follow-up ordeal. 


When deciding whether or not to gate a piece of content, the thing to consider is: Upon seeing the promise of your content, does the prospect believe your company can solve their immediate problem(opens in new tab)

If the answer is not “most certainly yes,” then you should expect to receive some (potentially inaccurate) information via the form you’re using as a gate. Your concern will then pivot organizationally, toward how much value you’ll find in that (potentially inaccurate) information. 

With this in mind, organizations should consider rethinking the traditional method of gating content in favor of a more, dare I say, millennial-friendly approach.


Alternatives to traditional gated content

I propose two alternatives to the traditional “fill out a long form with your information, then receive a piece of content” sequence.

  • Easy-entry

Knowing that users want more convenient access to content, consider gating it only minimally. Keep your form short and simple, and collect only essential marketing information such as email address and the type of company at which the user works. This is a moderately successful way to receive accurate information that allows for a start to an email prospecting series(opens in new tab).

  • Ungated content 

Simple, right? This option involves making the content easily shareable and available for consumption. If you choose to do this, you aren’t necessarily “sacrificing” a lead: If the content satisfies the user’s momentary needs and they indeed need your services long-term, they will continue their research with you. 

That user may also share your content across their networks, further expanding your reach. And in the way of SEO benefits(opens in new tab), you’ll potentially attract more qualified traffic to your website with ungated content. Just make sure Google can “read” the content,(opens in new tab) especially if it’s a PDF.

No matter which alternative you choose, it’s critical to focus on the call-to-action (CTA) within the less- or ungated content and point to a piece of content that is more heavily gated. 

For example, your CTA in a shorter piece of content could be to download a larger, more thorough report. After reading the shorter piece, the prospect will have realized that they need help and that your content — and by extension, your organization — has the answer. At this point, visitors may be much more likely to provide additional, accurate information in order to get to the longer piece of content.


Auditing your gated content and email series

There are a handful of questions to ask when auditing what kind of gated content you create, how you gate it and how you follow up via email series(opens in new tab). These questions can guide you toward a more effective use of gated content. They include: 

  • Do prospects find your content valuable? 

Sure, a prospect who supplies a bunch of information may be an ideal lead for the sales team, but if the prospect doesn’t get value from your content, then it doesn’t help your brand reputation in their eyes.

  • Do you want a prospect to share your content if they find it valuable? 

If so, it’s best not to gate it. Here’s an example: A prospect fills out a form to access an easy-to-read, five-page report. If they find the report useful, great. But the user won’t share it with their network, because it’s gated. Any hope of exposure to a lookalike network is gone.

  • Does your company send out different email series based on information collected on the form used to gate content? 

This might include the prospect’s role, industry or size of company, measured via revenue or employee count.

  • How confident are you in the accuracy of the information collected on that form? 

If the user gives you false information just to get your content, they’ll receive the wrong marketing emails from you, and your sales team will receive inaccurate information.

  • How important is collecting a trove of information at the initial stage of the gated content journey? 

It may cause more abandonment than benefit. In this case, consider the easy-entry approach.

  • How is your gated content performing?

Understanding your benchmarks and identifying areas of opportunity are important. In using traditional gated content, have you seen a decrease in the ratio of leads to site visits, or of conversions from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead? If so, this might indicate that the gate is either causing abandonment or the quality of data is suspect.  

Beware of over-gating

When filling out a gated content form, I often provide my alternate email address (along with a false name, address, etc.). I then receive an onboarding email series(opens in new tab), and these emails link to even more gated content. This always frustrates me, because I had to pass through gated content to receive the emails in the first place. The way I see it, these additional forms are an unnecessary hurdle.

If your prospect passes through a simple gate, such as one that asks only for their email address and company type, it may be alright to ask for more information during your onboarding series. The prospect has shown interest and is recognizing your organization as a solution to their problem, so you can reasonably expect the information they give to be accurate and valuable. If your initial gated content form is long, however, I recommend avoiding additional gates in your onboarding series. Doing so could result in the prospect abandoning your onboarding process altogether.


The verdict on gated content

So, is gated content bad? Absolutely not. 

There is definitely a place for it. But as the shift in workplace generational cohorts continues to evolve, organizations should have thoughtful conversations about when and how gating content may work against them.   

It all comes down to value. Ask yourself whether the value of the content a prospect receives matches the value of the information provided in exchange. 

If someone supplies a litany of information and receives a superficial PDF in return, they’ll most likely think twice the next time your company offers up a piece of content.

And if a piece of content lives on the web but nobody reads it, does it really exist?


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