How should marketers leverage content? Which content should be free? Which content should be gated to genereate leads? We asked B2B Marketing experts: “How should B2B marketers balance the need for free content (helpful for prospects decision making) Vs. the need to have content that produces a steady flow of good leads (that can directed to sales team)?”
“Give to Get – Yes, it works.“
Ardath Albee’s Bio
Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist. Her company Marketing Interactions helps companies with complex sales and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. Ardath’s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale is now shipping!
Ardath Albee’s Tip
Give to Get – Yes, it works.
Lead generation requires that a prospect become motivated enough to fill out a form and give you at least some information about themselves. In order to motivate this conversion, the prospect must decide that the content you’re promoting on the other side of the form is worth whatever you’re asking for in exchange. Webinars and white papers are two content formats generally considered “meaty” enough for prospects to risk that filling out the form won’t cause unwarranted intrusion into their very busy lives.
What marketers need to understand is that they must lay the foundation to establish the credibility that motivates lead conversion by freely sharing their ideas and thought leadership content. For example, in status quo a potential prospect has zero motivation to self-identify. They haven’t decided they care enough, yet. If your company provides content to help them learn why they should, they’ll be more inclined to opt in for further information because you’ve helped them understand the urgency for solving the problem.
In my opinion, all content should accomplish either lead generation or play a role in creating momentum toward purchase. Content is the fuel for marketing programs. It has a job (or many) to do. By mapping content to buying stages your content will address prospect needs from status quo through purchase decision. Think right time, right information. Transitioning prospects through each stage of the buying process works best with a combination of free and opt-in content. This way, no matter where the prospect is on their path to purchase, they’ve got options to interact with your company in the way that serves them best.
Marketing in an environment where prospects have infinite resources at their fingertips is no longer only about “capturing” the lead so that you can pursue them. It’s about using contagious content to enhance their problem-to-solution experience with so much value that they can’t help but to choose your company as the partner they know can help them succeed.
Ardath Albee Recommends
“What are your goals for a certain content piece?”
Patsi Krakoff’s Bio
Patsi Krakoff, Psy.D. aka The Blog Squad, is a Content Marketing Specialist helping professionals and small businesses with Content Strategies including smart blogging.
Patsi Krakoff’s Tip
This is an important question. There’s a great discussion of whether to make content “gated” (requires reader to type in email address) or “non-gated” from Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 and David Meerman Scott of WebInkNow.
It depends on what are your goals for a certain content piece. When I work with clients to plan out their content strategies, everyone seems to know they need online content, but very few professionals have clearly defined the goals for each channel.
If it’s to get the maximum number of eyeballs, then non-gated makes sense. However, make sure that embedded within the content there is a call to action. Make sure you build into the content a desire to know more or do something else.
You don’t want your reader to finish the piece, say “that’s nice,” and then move on to something else. Non-gated content must have a strong appeal to readers, offer a compelling reason to read it, and then provoke the reader to take an action:
- Spread it to friends and associates, send it on
- Post it to their own blog or sites
- Talk about it on Twitter, FB or LinkedIn
- Visit your site and get a bonus
- Be so impressed with it, they want more of your information or programs
- Enter your site and engage further, subscribe
- Enter into your information product funnel
- Become a client
Gated content must also be compelling, quite often it solves a pressing problem. It will help build a marketing database list of interested people. But again, you want the readers to take action, not just say, “Oh, thanks.” The same action points listed above are important.
I advise clients to save their longer pieces with more complicated solutions for gated pieces, simply because clients expect a little more when they’ve had to hand over their email address.
Free content: (Non-gated)
- Blog posts
- Video clips
- Podcasts, MP3 files, Interviews
Lead generating content: (Gated, email required)
- White papers
- Special reports
- Surveys, quizzes
- Workshop programs, audio recordings
- Interviews (MP3 files)
- Journaling software
Information products: (For a fee)
- Workshops, courses
- Membership sites, group forums, coaching
- Subscription-based information, newsletters
- Consulting packages, either individually or group
For more information (non-gated), please visit www.writingontheweb.com. Patsi Krakoff, Psy.D. is a journalist, psychologist and content marketing specialist for professionals who want a strong presence on the Web.
“Buyers will find out about your company with or without you.”
Craig Rosenberg’s Bio
Craig Rosenberg is Vice President, Products and Services at lead generation company Focus. He is the author of the very popular sales and marketing blog, the Funnelholic and can be followed on Twitter at @funnelholic.
Craig Rosenberg’s Tip
To gate or not to gate: The Content Marketing Question.
Honestly, I am not sure there is one singular answer to the topic of what to gate or not-gate with content as different business models lend themselves to different strategies. The most important thing to start with regarding content in today’s day and age: the buyers will find out about your company with or without you. They can be on blogs, twitter, or research sites. Today’s marketing department addresses this by becoming more like a publisher than ever before with a strategy that always includes free or un-gated content. (BTW, the “gate” is the reg form versus “un-gated” which is no reg form)
What I have done here is put together some vendor examples for marketers to drive ideas from:
- Solarwinds – If you follow technology, you know that Solarwinds is “white-hot”. Check out how they handle the gating question, they put everything about the product on their site including product description (I don’t have to get qualified by some inside sales rep to get a data sheet) and pricing (same thing, I don’t have to jump through hula-hoops to get the price of the product). Remember what I said in the beginning of this, buyers can find product info without you. By providing the information in front of the gate, Solarwinds is ensuring that there are a part of the conversation about their products. While they gate their webinars, the concept of their site is “ungated” content will get buyers to the point where they are willing to make some kind of commitment. The “gate’ guards against this committed buying action: a trial, a demo, or actually buying the product.
- Genius.com’s Connected Marketer – Remember, marketing departments acting as publishers? Genius’s blog is a constant flow of free content designed to help marketers from the top contributors in the marketing world. Essentially, a website for marketers. Here is a great example of their approach to helpful content, they recently ran a poll of the top bloggers on marketing automation – on their list was one of their competitors! How many of you are ready to create true third party content, even if your competitor gets value. They have created the blog to get people visiting frequently just like a vendor-neutral site. They only gate their whitepapers, e-books, and webinars.
- Focus.com – Yes, I work at Focus, but I figured I might as well throw in our strategy – right? What we do at Focus is have an “anything goes” with free content, the users can talk about anything they want with everything in short form. Our primary rule for gated content is to gate our research papers. As a vendor, when you are making the decision to “gate” or not, why not start with what actually converts? You can make people register for something, but if nobody does…what’s the point? Third party research converts, people are always willing to put their information down for that so we gate it as our way to generate leads. Vendors should leverage third party research as well, throw it behind the gate and you will get leads.
I hope these examples help get your mind flowing. But just keep in mind: step #1 is getting into the mindset that it is “OK” to give the content away for free.
Recommended Resources from B2B Marketing Experts
- Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals
- Ardath Albee’s blog Marketing Interactions
- Rebel Brown’s blog Phoenix Rising
- Brian Carroll’s blog B2B Lead Generation Blog
- Patsi Krakoff’s blog Writing on the Web
- Mac McIntosh’s Sales Lead Insights: A B2B marketing Blog
- Marketo’s Modern B2B Marketing
- Howard Sewell’s blog, The Point
- Tom Pick’s blog Webbiquity
- Content Strategy: The Future of Marketing (via Joe Pulizzi with Christine Halvorson)
- Outputs, Outtakes, Outcomes…Oh My! (via Beth Harte)
- Charlene Li’s and Josh Barnoff’s book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
- Laura Patterson’s book Marketing Metrics in Action
- Hugh MacLeod’s Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
- Cashing in With Content (a classic by David Meerman Scott)
- Get Content. Get Customers. By Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett
- Brian Carroll’s book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale
- Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web
- Mapping Content to the Buying Process – Slidecast
- Velocity’s The B2B Content Marketing Workbook
- B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study 2009
- Sales Lead Expert’s Learning Center
- B2B Marketing Fundamentals Don’t Change
- Keeping a Closer Eye on Content ROI – CMO Council
- Marketing and Sales Alignment – Marketo eBook (New!)
- Creating Sales Opportunities with Lead Scoring – Genius.com white paper by Ardath Albee
- There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute – Esp. in Social Media Measurement – Anna O’Brien (Random Acts of Data blog)
- The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook (Ebook)
- How to Choose Your Carrot: Effective Lead Generation Offers for High-Technology Marketers (White Paper)
- Marketing Edge podcast