Many marketing experts and thought leaders have chimed in on this issue, and there are reasonable arguments supporting both approaches. I won't repeat all the arguments in this post, but below is a sample of the opinions you can easily find on this topic.
- Lead Generation: When to Use Registration Forms by Michael Brenner
- Brave B2B Marketing: Overcome Content Gating Dependency by David Myers
- To Gate or Not to Gate, That is the B-to-B Content Marketing Question by Ruth Stevens
Over the past few years, I've seen the views on this issue shift. Five years ago, I think most marketers believed that virtually all content resources should be gated, although a few marketing experts like David Meerman Scott have been arguing for some time that most content should be freely available. My sense is, most marketing experts now believe that companies should make a significant amount of content available without requiring registration.
In my view, the marketplace will ultimately resolve this issue, probably in favor of making most content resources freely available, but this won't happen overnight.
In the 2013 B2B Content Preferences Survey by DemandGen Report, participants were asked: "Which type of content assets are you willing to register for and share information about you and/or your company?" The table below shows how the survey participants responded.
These findings demonstrate that a majority of business buyers are still willing to register and share basic information to gain access to most "long-form" content resources. The results also show, however, that most buyers are not willing to share detailed information to gain access to content. Even in the case of webinars, which are usually viewed as high-value content resources, only 20% of survey respondents said they are willing to provide more than basic information.
Many companies are now making a substantial amount of content freely available, and as this practice becomes more prevalent, potential buyers will expect to get access to content without registration. This expectation will likely make buyers more selective about the content they are willing to "pay for" with contact information. They will still be willing to register if they believe that a content resource will be particularly valuable, but if the resource looks or sounds like others that are freely available, they will be much more likely to ignore it.
For marketers, the fundamental question is: Would you prefer that business buyers consume your branded content anonymously, or would you prefer them not to consume it at all? I believe the answer to this question is clear.