If your usual steady stream of leads is drying up to a trickle, you may want to consider gated content as a lead-generation tool. Our Head of Content, James Chalmers, explains how to do it successfully.

Humans are nothing if not adaptable. Compared to many other animals, we’re furless, fragile things. But here we are, doing our weird human stuff on every continent on the planet, something no other mammal can lay claim to. 

(We’ve also mostly mastered the whole fire thing but it would be unbecoming to brag, especially when some birds have too.)

This adaptability has held us in good stead during the current coronacrisis. Almost overnight, countless commutes have gone from cross-town to cross-room, and all those meetings that could have been emails have become just that.

But one of the biggest swivels has been the events industry. Seemingly overnight, enormous conventions have been transformed into live-streamed events. 

If events are where the bulk of your marketing and sales leads come from, however, this shift from in-person to online can cause your usual steady stream of prospects to dry up to a trickle, or worse.

 

What’s a marketer to do?

Marketers need to adapt quickly. How? Gated content.

It’s a simple premise — creating an asset that is tantalising enough that your target audience will hand over the email addresses and other key data in exchange for getting their mitts on it.

Here are a few key principles to make gated content work for you.

 

1. Make it worthwhile

White papers, ebooks, guides, handbooks, deep dives — the most popular type of gated content gets called many things, but the uniting factor is that the content offers more value than the average blog post. 

This isn’t just a function of length; a 1000-word blog post padded out to 2000 words does not an ebook make. 

There are two chief ways for gated content to be made valuable enough to be worth an email address: by offering information that is not available elsewhere, or by collating information

The first is often done by commissioning original research — having exclusive data that is useful to the audience you’re targeting is a straightforward way to build compelling content.

But that’s not always possible, particularly given the long lead times often needed for quality research, not to mention the fact many marketing budgets are being cut right now.

An alternative approach is to strive to be a definitive guide about a particular topic. Sparing people the time and hassle of having to look all over the web to find the information they are looking for is a powerful way to build gratitude.

Consider this example we worked on with 3D printing firm Markforged.

Markforged wanted to educate engineers about the applications for 3D printing in manufacturing, so created an in-depth resource on just that. In fact, it was even called the Buyer’s Guide to 3D Printing in Manufacturing. The downloadable PDF compared each of the main methods of 3D printing out there, breaking down the pros, cons and applications of each.

Bringing all that information together made for a highly valuable resource.

Mahlab hosted a landing page for the Buyer’s Guide on its create website, pushed readers to it via our regular create newsletter and social media.

The result? In less than a month, Markforged had almost 230 highly qualified leads.

 

2. Give people a taste

When human resources software providers Sage wanted to start conversations with HR professionals across Australia, they also took the path named Gated Content.

In this instance, they polled more than 500 HR leaders to gain some valuable and exclusive insights they could share with their target audience.

But they didn’t just tell their would-be leads that it was valuable — they showed them.

The landing page highlighted some of the most engaging findings from the report, making it bloody obvious exactly what readers would get out of handing over their email address.

The result? More than 130 qualified leads.

 

3. Keep it low friction

Countless tugs of war have been played out over email and Slack channels between marketing teams and sales teams over what information to ask for on a landing page, and with good reason.

Ask too many questions on a landing page and you’ll scare away too many precious potential leads. But ask too few and you’ll end up with a list of leads that are less qualified than this guy.

Alas, there is no magic formula for how many fields is the right number, but think laterally. Do you need to ask company size if you can divine that from the company name? And do you need to ask the company name if you can divine that from the email address?

Making some fields optional is a good way to split the difference between too little and too many. If you do, keep in mind that it is a better user experience to mark certain fields as optional, rather than their counterparts as required.

 

4. Think about distribution

Of course, the most compelling content and the slipperiest landing page won’t do you much good if there is no-one around to see it.

In the examples above, Markforged and Sage partnered with Mahlab to reach an already existing, highly engaged new audience.

But there is another route as well. When Salesforce wanted to generate leads, Mahlab ran a campaign that guaranteed organic social sharing.

We spoke to 50 leading sales influencers and asked them for their best little nuggets of advice along key themes, and then took those nuggets and hammered them into the 50 Pro Sales Tips for 2020 ebook. We then asked each of those 50 people featured to spread the word, even giving them custom social assets they could use.

The result? Almost 40,000 organic LinkedIn impressions and hundreds of form-fills in the first 24 hours alone.

 

5. Gate expectations 

Done well, gated content is a powerful way to start new conversations with new prospects. But like all content, doing it well demands a deep understanding of the target audience.

This means understanding what your audience wants to find out more about, how to reach them and how to sway them into handing over their contact details.

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