In the world of content marketing, every marketer must make a decision on what information should be provided openly, and what should require registration to access. Traditionalists will argue that the concept is straightforward – information that is more valuable should be deemed “worthy” of registration to gain access. With registration, however, comes an expectation of future follow up, be it in the form of a call or email from the sponsoring party. This knowledge dissuades the reading of your material, working against your desired objective.
Today these lines are blurring, which is causing some angst for those of us involved in content marketing.
What is the right balance? The answer is “it depends” … who are you are targeting, and what is your objective?
Who is Your Audience?
If you are targeting the millennials or younger audiences, forget about trying to gate any content you want them to actually read. They simply won’t do it. And, if they do, it will be with a “bogus” email address and contact information you won’t be able to use anyway. Here your best strategy is to post good content often and provide an easy way to share it across social media. This will get your message out. Over time, it will generate interest worthy of further discussion.
The next question is about what you want to accomplish.
What is Your Objective?
My experience has taught me that the decision to pursue content marketing really comes down to two reasons: Lead Generation or Branding. Of course, these goals are not always mutually exclusive. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume one objective can be seen as a primary goal.
If Lead Generation is your goal, then the purpose is to gain contact information for your target audience. That means some sort of registration is needed. But, that doesn’t mean registration is required for all material. Obviously, website content is listed openly for search engine indexing and visitors to read. The next level of interaction might be to offer more detailed or valuable content seen as valuable to your audience. An example might be a sponsored analyst market research report with data that is not readily available for free.
Dedicated landing pages should be prepared for such documents so you can best measure how many visitors landed on the page, and then how many of those visitors actually completed the form to access the content. Response rates can then be measured to evaluate if your message and content is appropriate, if it matches your audience’s expectations, as well as if it was deemed worthy enough to register to access.
But what about if your objective really isn’t to just collect names and contact info? What if you are trying to position yourself as a subject matter expert, which would then lead to new business? For example, what if you are a non-profit association serving your particular industry or market? What if the value you provide the marketplace is more based on influence or authority? And, if you can demonstrate you are an active, relevant voice in that marketplace, might it then be in your best advantage to openly publish content that is valuable?
Drawing the Line of Thought Leadership
It is under these circumstances that the decision of what to share gets tricky. If you are a “young” of new company, perhaps one that is still establishing itself in the marketplace, then providing access is probably more in your best interest to build street “credentials” and demonstrate you are a thought leader. Once you have built your brand awareness, however, then the research you perform will be deemed as highly valuable, and in most cases, worthy of purchase – beyond a simple registration page, but at a level where money is exchanged for your content.
A great example of a later stage company is Gartner, a research firm with 1,000+ analysts. Their reports are highly relevant and insightful – clients pay thousands of dollars a year to access this information. Gartner should not give away their content.
On the other end of the spectrum might be an industry trade association, say operating in an environment where significant industry changes are occurring and new competitive threats are now emerging. This type of organization might be short-sighted in believing that none of their content should be shared with the general public. At the current time, potential membership firms that aren’t yet a member are not likely to pay to gain access, but might be influenced to join if they believe such membership will position themselves (by association) as being part of a “leading” thought leadership group.
Another potential strategy is to release some of the information for free, and to request a different type of “payment” for the full report. This could take the form of providing three references, or to agree to participate in a future market research study. LNS Research has adopted this content marketing strategy, and has achieved success so far.
What is your strategy? Are there other options to consider? My recommendation is to adopt a blended strategy – give something away for free to entice engagement as well as please your younger audience. At the same time, other content should be at a level of value that your prospective audience is willing to “pay” in some way to then continue the engagement. Are there other ways to gate content such that a reasonable ROI on your content marketing program can be achieved? It would be great to hear from you.