gated_content_strategy.pngMany companies have a strategy to gate certain types of content in an effort to acquire names for their prospect database. Gated content is simply content that sits behind a registration form.

The concept is that the content is valuable enough, in-depth enough or detailed enough, that a prospect will pay for the content by providing his or her email address. Once a prospect supplies their email name, it’s common to deploy an outbound marketing automation strategy (or nurturing track), designed to convert prospects, i.e. leads, into paying customers.

With the advent of modern marketing tools and practices, most B2B product- or service-oriented companies use an inbound content strategy to drive eyeballs at the top of the funnel (TOFO), converting those eyeballs to emails mid-funnel (MOFU), then converting email names to customers through the mid and bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

Lead volume vs. prospect conversions

As long as conversions are improving throughout the funnel, lower traffic at the top of the funnel does not have to equal a negative. In fact, it can be an advantage to have fewer, but more qualified, people entering the top of funnel, because you don’t create extra spin cycles between your marketing and sales process trying to educate prospects on what it is you actually do. In other words, increasing top-funnel lead volume only means more work if leads don’t convert.

The theory behind content marketing and lead generation is to create better-educated prospects higher in the funnel, attracting better educated prospects through self-selection who have more affinity toward your product or service – all of which will lead to better conversions throughout the funnel.

A practitioner’s experience with gated content

Carrie Reber, VP of international marketing at Datto, understands well the dance between content marketing and lead generation. I recently spoke with Carrie about her gated content strategy, where she shared some surprising yet impactful results. Her team recently tested gated vs. ungated content in their name acquisition strategy.

Note, Datto sells managed backup services, and works through a channel sales strategy via MSPs (managed service providers) to small businesses who don’t have an IT department, or to companies with IT departments who outsource this particular function.

This creates a multi-layer marketing and sales process with a big emphasis on what we call “influencing the influencers.” Reber is a long-time technical marketer who is applying modern marketing methods to her complex buying process.

What her team found in their A/B tests may surprise you. Typically, the conventional thinking is that fewer steps in the conversion process will result in higher conversions, by creating a path of least resistance.

In this case, “conversion” equaled an email name acquisition. Carrie’s team was launching a new piece of gated content via social channels. They were curious how they might increase the number of registrations for this piece of gated content. The A/B test included two different offers:

  • Offer A: The CTA (call to action) went directly to a registration page for the gated content.
  • Offer B: The CTA went to a related blog post, which contained a registration link for the gated content asset at the end of the post.

Which offer do you think performed better? (Spoiler alert, I gave you the answer in the headline.)

Contrary to popular conversion models, the second version of the test outperformed the first offer almost 2x. Datto’s theory is one of give-get: by giving more, they were able to gain more from the prospect. By giving more to the prospect before asking them for anything, they were able to convert more prospects to give their data in return.

Carrie and her team at Datto uncovered some key lessons on how to use content to get potential customers to pay you with data or information. It’s also an important reminder to continue testing conventional wisdom to determine what performs best with our individual audiences.