Thursday, March 18, 2010

To Gate, or Not to Gate, Marketing Content?

An ongoing debate in the B2B marketing community is whether a person should be required to register in order to gain access to marketing content.  Requiring registration is usually called putting the content behind a "gate."

The arguments for and against registration are fairly easy to summarize.  Proponents of requiring registration argue that for most B2B companies, the purpose of offering content is to generate leads, and you don't have a lead until a person identifies himself/herself.  Without registration, content offers simply can't generate actionable leads.

Proponents of making content available without registration argue that this approach will cause your content to spread much further and thus make many more potential customers aware of your company.  David Meerman Scott is an advocate of this view, and he shared an example to make his point in this blog post.

My view this that a significant amount of content should be made available without any registration requirement.  Ungated content is becoming a critical component of B2B marketing because the way business buyers make purchasing decisions has changed dramatically.

We now know that B2B buyers are researching potential purchases long before they are ready to talk with a salesperson.  Most of this research is conducted online and, increasingly, through the use of social media.  We also know that B2B buyers are performing a lot of research anonymously.  A recent survey by DemandGen Report and Genius found that:
  • 70% of buyers began their research by using online search or by visiting a vendor Website
  • 78% of buyers started their purchasing process with informal information gathering
  • 44% or buyers conducted anonymous online research
The reality today is that many early-stage buyers are out there actively looking for useful information, but they aren't ready to "raise their hand" and identify themselves.  Yet, many of these buyers will be prepared to engage with potential sellers later in the buying process.  If you make valuable, high-quality content freely available to these early-stage buyers, you can create a favorable "first impression" and provide these buyers a powerful reason to engage with your company when the time is right.


  1. I'm with you, David. I think it's critical that B2B marketers regularly produce and distribute freely available, high quality content to build awareness, interest, and conversation. Registration forms, especially long ones, turn away many otherwise interested prospects -- and many of the so-called "leads" that arise from registration are of little value, and simply clog up marketing and CRM databases, especially since people often register with personal email addresses to avoid giving away their company names.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Rob. I think some of the reluctance to make content freely available is a result of the current economic environment. When business conditions are tough, both marketers and salespeople are under pressure to produce short-term results. By requiring registration, marketers can at least point to the number of "leads" they've generated even if, as you say, many of those leads are of little immediate value.