Gated content, if you happen to be unfamiliar with the term, is any kind of marketing content – white papers, e-books, special reports, webinars, newsletters and other stuff I can’t think of right now – that has a form your prospects must fill out before they can access it. Over the last 10 years or so – aided by the popularity of Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing in which he articulated the idea of trading something of value for the “right” to start a conversation with buyers – gated content has become a tech marketing standard for getting buyers to opt into your marketing funnel.

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The system worked well for many years. People who wanted to access your content were willing to give up their contact information (even if it some of it was fake). But over time, two bad things happened.

  • Tech marketers gated too much “sales-y” content without regard to whether or not it was truly valuable to the reader. Prospects began to question what they were getting.
  • Buyers – and everyone else on earth – wised up to the fact that submitting a form would be immediately followed by a call from a sales person and a barrage of automated email messages that had little to no value.

IT buyers hate it.

Nowadays IT buyers tell LinkedIn the number one reason they won’t connect with a vendor on LinkedIn is because they don’t want to get slammed with marketing materials.

Hide too much content behind forms and your prospects simply won’t see it. They’ll get the information elsewhere – and believe me, unless you are a devoted and gifted content marketer, the information is available elsewhere.

But wait! This doesn’t mean you should un-gate all your content.

IT buyers will fill out the form eventually.

IT buyers are wiling to reveal themselves to you, especially on LinkedIn. The difference between now and a few years ago is that you have to work harder to earn the buyers’ trust and interest before you’re rewarded with a completed form.

As Mike Weir of LinkedIn says, you want IT buyers to feel “I like you, I like your opinions, I want to know more.” This means you have to give more – and better – content without requiring a form to be completed. You need to prove to your prospects that you really can help solve their problems; that your content is worth opening themselves up to sales calls and marketing email messages.

Here’s how we use gated content for our clients on LinkedIn:

  • Remove the forms from in front of all but the very best content.
  • Provide plenty of non-gated content that shows value. As your buyers are exposed to this content they’ll become more open to completing a landing page form.
  • Publish a blog. It’s the best way to showcase great content consistently without making buyers jump through hoops. We often link to landing pages from blog articles.
  • Test the success of posting group discussions that link to a landing page. More and more group owners are blocking this type of post.
  • When gating content keep the form as short as possible. Don’t ask for information that’s not actually going to be used. Requiring a phone number on a landing page form will vastly reduce the number of people who fill it out.

In summary

Gated content is not without value. In fact, it’s still an effective way to get potential buyers into a marketing funnel. You need at least one piece of gated content and probably more so you can compare the effectiveness of each.

But today’s marketer must work harder to get buyers to fill out the form. That means providing more non-gated content than ever before.

If you want to know more about how to be more effective on LinkedIn, read our latest report 12 Costly Mistakes Tech Marketers are Making on LinkedIn. Warning: this content is gated.