Lead generation is at the core of every marketing campaign of both startups and established businesses. It makes it possible to target the right market, increasing the chances of closing a sale.
There are many popular methods of lead generation out there, from social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising to seminars, meetups, and conferences. And you have probably tried a few of these strategies in your campaigns already.
Today, we are going to talk about one very effective lead generation method – gated content.
What is gated content?
Gated content is any valuable material – a white paper, webinar, podcast, article, research study, product demo, etc. – that is hidden behind a form. The prospect has to leave their details and contact information before accessing the content. It is a trade-off.
I define it as the use of bait to seduce a prospect into giving up their email address. I will show you how to go about it and how to promote your gated content.
But let’s first be clear on when you should use this tactic.
When to use gated content for lead generation
So, why hide your content from the prospect after working so hard to get them to your site?
The truth is that people will rarely provide their details when there is no incentive involved. And yet you need their email addresses to carry out your marketing campaigns.
Here are two tips to guide you through creating gated content and getting the contact details you need.
1. Consider your goals
If your focus is solely on creating brand awareness, gated content might not work. Not every prospect will be open to sharing their personal details despite the reward involved. And this reduces the number of people your content reaches.
Gated content provides a powerful marketing strategy to use when working on generating leads. You get the readers’ contact information in exchange for your content. However, to make the most out of this strategy, ensure that the content provides high value that will entice your audience to give up their personal details.
It also helps if you already have a sizable audience as that increases your chances of getting a reasonable amount of leads.
Here is a flow chart you can use to evaluate should you gate your content or not.
2. Check the length of the content
The length of the content will determine if it is suitable as gated content or not. Long-form content acts better as gated content as it leaves the impression of something of higher value.
Consider locking content like an eBook. Short-form content like a blog post is better suited as ungated content.
3. Is this content already available for free?
There is no much point in gating an ultimate guide to guest posting for example, if Neil Patel and Bryan Dean already have 4k+ word guides available for everyone.
How to use gated content to generate and nurture leads
You now know when to use gated content, on to the how.
Pay attention to the buyer’s journey
The buyer goes through three main stages.
- Awareness – This is where the prospect feels that they have a problem and is carrying out research to understand and point it out.
- Consideration – At this point, the prospect has given a name to the problem. They are researching an approach or product to solve the problem.
- Decision – The prospect knows what kind of solution they need. They are making a purchasing decision regarding the products or services that they perceive will provide the best value.
The ideal point to use gated content is in the consideration and decision stages of your marketing funnel.
At these two points of the buyer’s journey, they are past the awareness stage. They know they have a problem, and are looking for the right solution.
Use e-books, webinars, and case studies for the consideration stage. Product demos and free consultations will work best for the decision stage.
Ensure that you actually provide value
High-quality content is a priority. Make the prospect’s efforts to fill the form worth it. Rather than focusing on creating content that will build up your email list, focus on providing actionable content. Make your content aligns with the buyer’s journey.
You should focus on the specific area of your expertise in the industry. That will help you to provide content that is verifiable, true, and original.
When you prove yourself as reliable and dependable, you increase conversion and encourage customer referrals.
Optimize your leads
Collecting a gazillion emails will get you nowhere if your leads are not engaged.
Segment your audience. It will help you hit the right pain points with your marketing messages instead of annoying your prospects with irrelevant emails to the point of having them unsubscribe.
Keep your emails short and prioritize value over promotions. The lead should benefit from opening the email. Of course, always include a call to action.
You need to find the balance between sending too many emails and sending too little. According to HubSpot, running 16 to 30 email campaigns a month (to segmented groups; not blasting every single prospect with 30 email every month) seems to generate the best response. Anything lower or higher than that reduces the open rate and click rate.
Experiment with different types of gated content
There are different types of gated content besides those I have mentioned. There is no harm in experimenting with different approaches.
- A preview: Stimulate the buyer with a sneak peek into the quality of content you provide. Show only the introduction or gate the second half of a long and valuable article.
- Short article: Capture the buyer’s interest with a summary of the content. Then offer to provide the content more comprehensively through email.
- A free email course: Your audience will need to provide their details to access the course. You will get leads and get the chance to establish yourself as an authority in the field.
- Free trials: A free trial allows your customers to test your product or service without an obligation. All they need is to fill out a form.
- Contests: Contests enable you to engage with your customers and increase traffic to your website as you generate leads.
Measure your success in lead generation
You need to know if your gated content strategy is working. And this is only possible with the use of analytics.
Analytics will help you track the conversions directly linked to the gated content. You get to understand your audience better and know what works with them. This then enables you to make improvements.
There are a number of metrics you can use to track performance of your content:
- Conversion – The most obvious measure. It shows how much leads are you getting from your gated content. You can check these numbers through the analytics of lead generation tools you use. That being said, the most accurate tracking will be if you set up goals in Google Analytics.
- Email – The number signups will show the percentage of leads generated as a result of the gated content. The number of unsubscribes will indicate how your audience is engaging with your content.
- Sales – Track the percentage of revenue that is a result of your gated content.
How to promote gated content
Google cannot crawl content that is hidden behind a form. And this means using SEO tactics to draw organic traffic and promote your content will not work.
But you can still get the word out there about your valuable content. And if you play your cards right, you will get high levels of engagement.
1. Using social media tools
Social media tools such as Sumo Share allows you to add social share buttons at the end of your content. Aside from that, they provide a quick way to setup recurring promotion schedule for your gated and ungated content.
2. Paid promotion
Besides using social media tools, you can also use paid promotions on many different channels to get people to pages that feature your gated content. Here a few tips on how to choose the right PPC channel for your business.
Use influencers to promote your content to their followers and link back to your landing page. The influencer should be relevant to your niche, such as industry experts and business leaders. They will readily share your content, especially if it is original research. That being said, there might be some fees involved when they realize your focus is on lead generation.
One simple way to get more eyes on your gated content pages is to link to them from other high traffic posts on your blog.ed content. Interlinking is a good SEO practice in general and this method has an additional benefit of not being too invasive or pushy.
A few examples of the gated content strategy
Let’s look at some companies that are providing gated content the right way.
Infusion Soft by Keap provides gated content in the form of live demos. The form is not annoyingly long. It only requires the lead’s names, email, and phone number. Rather than using a “Submit” button, Keap uses a “Watch Now” button that makes the whole transaction sounds less salesy.
By keeping it simple, they attract more leads.
The company has used the same strategy with their tools, such as Keap Grow, Keap Pro, and Infusionsoft.
Is the strategy working for Keap?
Considering that over 200,000 small businesses use InfusionSoft, we could say the company is doing pretty well. Keap also made $100,000,000 in 2017 alone, impressive.
High authority publications and blogs use a type of gated content strategy known as content locking. Readers are expected to subscribe first before reading the article. Such publications or blogs are usually highly regarded, so readers do not mind subscribing.
Backlinko is a great example of a resourceful website. The blog is filled with insightful content. Some blog posts are accessible so that readers can see how valuable the information is, but some are hidden behind a form. This blog post, for instance, is only accessible to subscribers.
The only way to unlock it is by providing your email address.
How is Backlinko performing with this strategy? As stated on its website, the blog has more than 110,000 email subscribers.
Asana is among the top task management softwares in the market. Its website is quite resourceful as well.
This ebook forms part of its gated content is only accessible after filling a form that requires details like name, business email, phone number, job title, employee size, and more.
At first, you might think that they ask for too much information. The more information you require, the less your conversion rate will be. This is confirmed from multiple different research studies done by giants like Hubspot and Unbounce.
People at Asana are surely aware of that, so why do they take this approach? First, they probably believe that they have a really strong offer. Secondly, they are willingly sacrificing their conversion rate on this form in exchange for increasing their sales conversion rate (the idea being that they get so much relevant information about the prospect which can be used to create more personalized nurturing campaigns that convert well).
Gated content is an excellent method to improve your lead generation. The best part is that they are quality leads. It is up to you to ensure that you continue to deliver valuable content to their inbox and nurture your leads the right way.
One important thing to remember is that Google does not index content hidden behind a form (at least not without some workarounds). You will have to make an extra effort to get people to your pages that hold gated content.
Lastly, work with what works for your audience. Change the type of content if it is not getting the right response. And keep an eye on the strategies your competitors are using.
Apply these strategies, and your lead generation is bound to improve.
Sumeet Anand is a Digital Marketing Expert skilled in SEO, Social Media Marketing, and Content Marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @Sumeetanand143 or connect with him on LinkedIn.