To Gate or Not To Gate -- Should You Give Away Your Whitepaper or e-Guide?

We've all experienced this before: we visit a website, and a pop-up showcases a whitepaper or e-Guide that we can download or have emailed to us if we provide our first name and e-mail address.  This is how most businesses use content to build their e-mail marketing lists, which comprise of leads they can nurture over time towards conversion into a sale or appointment with a sales person. In automated marketing parlance, it's known as "gating" your content.

Should you do the same with your firm's website? Or should you provide such content for free, without requiring a visitor's name and contact information? After all, if your content is free, then anyone (including your competition) can download it without your having captured their name and e-mail address. To some, this is a lost opportunity for building your e-mail list and nurturing a prospective client towards becoming a paying client.

The way I see it, much depends on the rest of the content on your site. 

Think about your own experience -- would you provide your name and e-mail address for a piece of content when the un-gated content on that website is less than impressive? Conversely, if what you've read so far on that website impresses you (it's useful, succinct and well-written), you're likely to be more convinced that the gated content should be just as valuable too. In short, when it comes to gating your own content (such as a report, white paper or e-guide or even a survey), it's going to have minimal efficacy if what you provide for free to visitors isn't up to par.

So before you spend money on a marketing automation tool with all the bell and whistles, go back to the fundamentals: make sure you provide good content. These tools help you capture leads so that you can nurture them, but the return on your investment is seriously curtailed if you fail to persuade visitors of the value of what you're gating. In other words, if the "open" areas of your website are lacking (e.g. lawyer bios, informative videos, FAQs, testimonials, case wins/studies, appointment-making plugin, contact form, blogs etc.), you're not going to entice visitors to sign up onto your e-mail list. You're not going to capture e-mail addresses via the marketing automation tool you've set up.

In short, gating is something you can do only if the freely accessible content on your site is compelling, unique and useful. If you don’t have enough of such content, then gating can be counter-productive and it may be better to simply keep everything – including your excellent e-guide – off your site until you've improved the rest of your content.

One last tip: it's crucial not to disappoint anyone who provides her contact information to receive or access your gated content. If it's not up to their expectations, you're going to lose a valuable prospect (lead). It's got to be as good as your un-gated content i.e. timely, informative, and easy to digest.

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