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12 Mar To gate or not to gate

Within publishing and events businesses there is a common debate which takes place around whether to ‘gate’ sales documents such as media packs or sponsorship prospectuses behind an online form, or whether to allow users to access the content for free (un-gated). And when we say free, we really mean without an exchange for their personal data.

With the new data regulation (GDPR) coming to into effect in May 2018 this is becoming a hot topic of debate and will certainly need carefully consideration and planning by all sales and marketing teams.

Let's take a look at some of the common practices used in the industry today and weigh up the pros and cons to see if we can get to the bottom of this long disputed this discussion.

The Gated Sales Brochure:

Advantages: The advantages of using this approach are clear, you have content which is potentially valuable to the user so they are willing to part with a small amount of personal information in exchange for access.

The sales team and marketing team have instant access to data which they can choose to put into an email nurture campaign, email directily or call the individual and pitch. 

Disadvantages: Asking a potential customer to part with their personal details might be a deterrent and they may abandon their enquiry and search elsewhere.

Secondly, (and I think we've all been there) your customer is at the beginning of their decision making process and by filling out personal information they may feel as though they are going to be harassed by a pushy sales person when they haven't finished their investigation.

Investigate: With the new data protection act coming into effect in 2018 this approach would require transparency from the publisher by informing the user that parting with their information may be subject them to email or a phone calls from your team. 

The Un-gated Sales Brochure:

This is where a user clicks a link on your website and is able to view a sales document without parting with any personal information.

Advantages: This approach scores highly on user experience, the user is able to gain access to relevant content easily without parting with any personal information. They aren't harassed by sales calls straight away and they are free to continue their decision-making investigations.

Disadvantages: The first disadvantage is obvious, your sales and marketing teams no longer have a potential lead and so in many departments it is considered a lead lost. Some argue that by giving away (what some businesses would regard to be high value content) the media pack or prospectus could end up in a pile as the user hasn't been made to ‘work for it.’

The Form Fill & Then….Disappointment:

Another common method (mostly driven by proactive sales teams), is asking the user to fill out a form with the promise of accessing the document, but on completion of the form the user is told that somebody from the sales team will be in touch with them shortly to find out more about their goals and challenges around attending the event.

Advantages: Fresh meat for the sales team and a prompt call could catch the prospect at the right time when they are trying to make their decision.

It’s tricky for competitors to download your all important sales documents because it is being screened by the sales team first.

Disadvantages: From a users' perspective it's one of disappointment, they have taken the time to fill out a form, part with their personal information, only to find they will be contacted by a member of the sales team - exactly the reason why the were reluctant to fill out the form before taking a leap of faith.

In its worst case this method can be very frustrating for the user. If the sales team isn't proactive they may have to wait a few days before they get a call. This is not only inconvenient for the user but can be frustrating for the sales team as their call may interrupt the prospect at a time when they are not ready to decide.

B2B buyers are on average 56% of the way through the decision-making process before coming into contact with your sales team (CEB) – buyers often need to experience your brand a little before being asked if it’s the right for them by a sales person. A lot of the work that goes into helping the prospect choose is done before they come into contact with the sales team.

Exploring Potential Solutions

If we are going to ask a potential customer to part with their data in return for a brochure they must feel as though the content they are accessing is of higher value than the free content which is readily available on the website.

One approach would be to 'reframe' the way that the potential customer perceives their decision making priorities. Featuring top-level information about the event, speakers, topics, show features on your website and then tell them how their customers have changed the way they buy. The customer is offered access to valuable insights which are essential for them to know before attending any event based on your unique insight.

Beware of Imposters: Many users are willing to fill out a form, however the information they provide is false. Every database must have at least one MickeyMouse@Disneyland.com from that user who just doesn't want to give up their personal information. So how do you get around this? The answer is quite simple and it provides a test of how much the user wants to read the gated content. Once the form is completed by the user, the user is informed that the brochure has been sent to the email address they have provided. This is why Mickey Mouse's inbox must be jam-packed with unwanted sales brochures.

Common Misconceptions: Now, to any good marketer this is going to sound ridiculous, however the following has been heard before in senior management meetings; "we shouldn't gate our content because we will lose the SEO in the PDF document". As most of us (should) know, a PDF’s content does not have the capability of being picked up by search engines. The landing page on which the PDF document is hosted must do all the SEO work. 

Quick Tip: When requesting personal information from users who wish to download your media pack, use a 'light form'. This means asking the user for the least amount of information possible at the form fill stage. Decide what information is vital to your marketing/sales strategy and consider what stage the user is in their decion-making process. Include how many form fields you think your prospective customer is willing to fill in before they abandon it for something easier.

Some Conclusions: If you want to openly share your sales brochure with the world,  its content doesn’t differ from that of your website's and you merely wish to provide a document that prospects can walk away with; then un-gated content is the way to go. In this scenario it is really important the document does the ‘selling’ as the sales team are no longer in control. How does a document do the selling? Take a look at our blog post on CREATING EFFECTIVE SALES COLLATERAL.

If gate your content and email it to the clients immediately after the form fill then the document must be telling the prospect something different from what's on your website. From a user's perspective they are expecting added value and will feel duped into giving their personal details away.

A great approach allows your sales collateral to be downloaded un-gated from your website, however the document engages the user, provides them with unique insight and is beneficial to both their individual role and their business. The document reframes perspectives, provides industry insight and help them to understand why attending an event of this nature should be their top priority. Finally, there should be a strong call to action which would prompt the prospect to get in touch with the sales team. See our article on WHAT MAKES A GOOD MEDIA PACK?

A Final thought: If getting lead data is an essential part of your sales team’s set up and still you want to keep your media pack available to all, there is a workaround: Strategically place articles, white papers and benchmarking reports close to or along the prospects’ user journey to entice them to fill out a form and access high value content. Ask the user to subscribe to receiving useful information on how their audience buy or behave. If your sales documents are working, then they'll get in touch with you anyway. 

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