This report analyzes how software companies take on the challenge of Inbound Marketing. It explores how they engage their audience, what content is working for them and how well they convert.

It consists of 33 software companies, tracking 325 thousand unique monthly visitors, and more than 1.5 million content interactions.

All data in this research was created with BrightInfo’s algorithm. In essence, it automatically and continuously analyzes your content, understanding it almost at a human level. It also simultaneously analyzes audience interests, individual behavior and crowd behavior. By matching the two in real-time, it serves accurate, personalized and relevant content recommendations and then listens to form on-landing pages as they are being filled to track conversions and conversion rate. This leads to content scoring based upon performance – from popularity to actual conversions.

We sorted the software companies’ activities by conversion rates, then compared leaders, followers and laggers.

Engaging Audience with Content

Here is the problem: getting eyes on your content is becoming increasingly difficult. A recent report found that as much as 70% of the marketing content created by brands goes completely unused as marketers struggle to find quality online real estate in which to display their content. In addition, the proliferation of channels and information, an increasing variance in audiences, and fragmented data are all contributing to this major problem for content marketers.

Top performing companies engage more of their audience with their content. While this appears to be a must in order to increase the absolute number of conversions, it is not in itself enough to boost conversion rates.

What to do? Stop hiding your content in that Resources section no one visits, and start actively engaging your audience with content recommendations. Why is it effective? Because the science behind personalization and choice enables content recommendations to counteract three psychological phenomena, all related to the “paradox of choice.”

  • It reduces “analysis paralysis” – over-thinking that leads to inaction
  • It cuts the rate of horrible decisions – making a random decision due to the vast amount of information
  • It prevents user disorientation

Take it one step further and serve personalized content to gain some pretty cool perks. Data accumulated in this research suggests that:

  • Personalized content offerings, combining contextual and behavioral hints, increase conversions by up to 300%
  • Personalization helps marketers better understand the buyer journey: for example, our customers learned that up to 40% of conversions take place on pages without any forms
  • Personalization helps marketers generate online leads at a much lower cost – $3 to $6.

Mastering the Science of Gated Content

Gated Content is content that is held behind a form, whereas ungated content is publicly available on your site. Software companies use gated content to generate leads, and they invest a lot in it, as it needs to have a higher value for readers who are required to leave contact information in order to get it.

Top performing companies use much more gated content to engage their site visitors. Companies that gate 60% or more of their content convert 132% better than companies that gate 40% of their content and 650% better than companies that gate 10% or less of their content. Here is what it looks like visually:

How Successful Software Companies Distribute Their Content
So, should you gate all of your content? Not necessarily. Here’s why:

  • The effect seems to peak at around 75% gated content: companies that gate more than that do not convert better than companies that gate 60%-70% of their content.
  • Open content had a lot of value – starting with generating traffic to your website and assisting your audience in making up their minds before they actually convert.
  • Businesses that sell complex value proposition products such as software solutions or marketing strategy services need to engage with the online prospect throughout a phased buyer journey, making a mix of locked and free content more effective. Read more about it here.

What to do? Either produce more gated content – which is effective yet expensive – or be very selective on what content you engage your audience with. Using your latest item – such as a blog post and a video – is a very common practice, but data suggests it may not be very effective.

Engaging Your Audience at the Right Stage

The overwhelming majority of your audience is not going to convert from a single touch-point. In fact, Mckinsey recently found that the decision journey consists of at least six touch points. To make this is even more interesting, they happen on different channels. The results will not surprise online marketers: 65% of buyers are frustrated by inconsistent experiences.

What do you do with this on your owned media – your website? While producing different content assets is costly, it does pay off. This is easily measurable for gated content – webinars, eBooks and whitepapers – but is also true for the more elusive assisting content, meaning content that was consumed before the user navigated to downloading gated content.

Top converting companies “prepare” the conversion with Middle or Bottom of the Funnel content, such as infographics, data sheets and case studies. Least converting companies have blog posts, meaning Top of Funnel content, as their most assisting content.

What to do? Your content should reflect your funnel – and offer different content for different stages of the decision journey. Open content such as infographics, data sheets and case studies may not convert directly, but they play a key role in the decision journey, especially for lower-in-the-funnel conversions, which are typically of higher value. Learn how to produce this kind of content effectively – and how to measure its indirect impact.


Content production is costly, and most Inbound Marketers make the mistake of burying it on their content hub.

By using content recommendations and engaging more of your audience with your content you can increase the total amount of conversions.

Add Content Personalization to the mix, and you can serve your most relevant content to each individual. This 1-to-1 marketing is extremely effective in surfacing relevant gated content, helping companies to scale content conversions.