Content gating has been a staple for generating new leads for years. It’s a simple idea with proven results. Prospects have a thirst for self-education, and brands are in a position to offer educated insights. To exchange some contact information for the educational material seems like a small price to pay for a prospect, and the result is normally positive for both participants.
But just because something works well doesn’t mean it can’t be innovative.
For too long, gating content has followed the same rote practice:
- Create the content offer
- Build a landing page to promote the content offer
- Add a form (i.e., the gate)
- Require people to submit the form to access the content
Like I said: simple and effective.
But let’s spice things up. Not only can changing how something’s done be more fun, it can also improve the performance. And, as marketers, improving the performance of a campaign (and having fun) is the best part of our jobs.
So in this post, let’s discuss nine ways to spice up your content gating methodology.
1. Premium Formats
Publish your long form content on your website as you would normally. You may use your CMS (content management system) to do this, but however you manage it, the result will be an HTML-built webpage that can be crawled and indexed by search engines. In other words, it can rank for keywords and bring in more organic traffic.
To use it as a lead generation tool, you can offer a premium version of the content in a different format. For example, you may publish it as a well-designed, professional PDF that can be printed and shared off-line. Alternatively (or in addition to), you can provide a slideshow deck with your information that prospects can incorporate into their own slideshows. This is an especially good idea if your content is research and data heavy.
Ideal for Industries: Consulting; financial services; insurance
2. Research Reports
Speaking of data-heavy content, if your business produces a lot of data and analysis, this is a great opportunity to think about content gating differently.
You can freely give away your analyses and conclusions on your website (again, a great way to grow your organic traffic), but your raw data—the spreadsheets of survey responses, pivot tables, etc.—can be packaged up and offered as a piece of content only accessible for those who provide their contact information.
Ideal for Industries: Financial services; life sciences/pharmaceutical; non-profits
3. The Mid-Point Gate
Like the two previous ideas, the mid-point gate requires publishing the entire content on your website. The twist is that when a visitor has scrolled halfway down the page—the mid-point—a popup modal appears prompting the user to submit a form in order to access the remaining content.
Ideal for Industries: Consulting; management; technology; recruitment; financial services
4. Bite-size Serials
Does your audience need in-depth, research-heavy content to be successful in their day-to-day lives? But are they too busy to dedicate half an hour to slogging through 5,000-word ebooks? If so, then the bite-size serial approach might be your preferred solution.
Give your prospects the opportunity to opt into a serialized enewsletter that breaks apart the large ebook into manageable chunks that can be read in short bursts of time. You can offer to send a series of daily emails for a span of time. For instance, you can send short, 100-word emails that cover small subtopics from the complete ebook over a span of seven days.
The prospect wins because they get the content they need on their schedule and at their pace, and you win because you just got another lead.
Ideal for Industries: Consulting; management; health care; insurance; financial services
5. Reading Caps
Employed by online news publishers like Harvard Business Review, reading caps allow for a limited number of “freebies” before blocking your access. These caps usually last a month for periodicals, but it incentivizes some users to pull out the credit card and subscribe.
Now you’re not requiring a fee for your gated content, but the same experience could apply your site. In the resource section of your site, you could limit anonymous visitors to a maximum of five ebook downloads before blocking further access until the prospects sign up for more.
This is a great idea for those companies who tend to get a lot of drive-by downloaders. You know the type: The user wanted to read the ebook, but they’re not your intended audience. Providing a cap on accessible ebooks would help to further differentiate the qualified prospects.
Ideal for Industries: Technology; management; insurance; consulting
6. The Serial Teaser
If your business typically publishes serial content, such as a six-part series on how the Affordable Care Act will impact small businesses, then a serial teaser is a great way to not only generate leads, but also to generate some buzz.
You can publish your first part of the series as an open, accessible piece of content. Upon finishing the article, you can then prompt your prospect with a teaser to access the rest of the series by submitting a form.
The teaser will help to establish trust between you and the prospect, as they will have seen the value of your publication and trust the rest of the series is just as good, if not better.
Ideal for Industries: Financial services; insurance; education; health care
7. Crack Open the Vault
We’ve discussed the importance of creating evergreen content in the past. For those of you who have not only mastered the evergreen strategy but have also created content that people return to time and time again, then you should consider the “vault” method.
You are probably familiar with the “Disney Vault.” It’s what Walt Disney Studios calls its policy for putting its beloved animated movies on moratorium. Whenever the company releases one of its movies from the vault, sales jump as people clamor to get their hands on these scarce products.
But you can employ this model for your business as well.
Let’s say you have a piece of content that is so valuable and useful that prospects often return to your website to re-read or re-engage with it. It might be a comprehensive report or an interactive tool.
You can put this piece of content in your own vault. What was widely accessible is now temporarily on moratorium. You can then have people sign up to be notified when the content will be released from the vault. This an especially good idea if you can also use this time in the vault to update and refresh the content or tool, adding to its value.
Ideal for Industries: Publishing; retail; entertainment; technology
8. Email Only
This is actually an old concept that I think can be revisited with great success. In the early days of content marketing—before websites were really easy to publish content—savvy marketers would use emails as their publishing channels. They would deliver complete articles within the body of the email. No blog. No call to action. Just plain, simple email.
The email-as-a-publishing-platform is still a viable option for providing premium content to prospects. It allows you to truly provide exclusive content to those who sign up. The content won’t appear on a Facebook page, on LinkedIn, or in a Twitter feed. The only way to access the content is by signing up and providing contact information.
Ideal for Industries: Consulting; management; publishing; insurance; financial services
9. Coming Soon Signups
The last method on our list is so simple, it might seem obvious, but I rarely see companies employing it.
Most content marketers have a publishing calendar. They know what’s coming down the pipe and when it will be released.
Why not share that information with prospects?
Not the entire calendar, of course, but you should promote upcoming premium content.
Working on a quarterly benchmark report? Let everyone know with website promotions and social media posts. Allow people to sign up ahead of time to be the first to know when it arrives. Or better yet, incentivize prospects by offering early access for those who sign up.
Ideal for Industries: Financial services; consulting; entertainment; technology; clothing
I don’t believe gating content is going anywhere fast. The tried-and-true lead generation tactic seems to be here to stay. But like smartphones, sedans, and security codes, updates are required. A first-generation iPhone would be laughably useless, and the same is true for content gating.
Think outside the box for how you gate your content. Test new ideas and see what works. You may be surprised where your innovative, iterative process takes you.