We’re going to share with you a tried and tested method for generating leads online, organically. That means not using paid advertisements or purchasing lead lists. The strategy entails using organic (nonpaid) content to attract people to your site who fit your targeted buyer personas. Once they land on your website, you offer them something of value in exchange for their contact information.
How does this work? Let’s get started.
What is gated content?
What is gated content? Gated content is defined as content that requires users to provide personal information to access the content. There are basically two types of gated content: paid and unpaid.
Paid gated content: If you’ve ever landed on a newspaper’s website and been blocked from reaching a subscribers-only article, you’ve hit gated content. That is a specific type of gated content that is blocked by a paywall. In order to access it, you’ve got to subscribe.
Unpaid gated content: If you’ve ever landed on a website and been asked to fill out a form in order to download an ebook, free template, video or some other content, that’s “free” gated content. We put “free” in quotation marks because technically you’re not paying for it with money, but you are providing personal information in exchange for accessing the content. By completing the form, you show interest in the content creator’s products, brand or service, and you enter their lead pipeline.
Types of gated content
Gated content is a great way to generate leads. It involves using content that requires the reader to provide their contact information before they are allowed access to it. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as requiring users to enter their email address or sign up for an account before they can view the content.
When creating gated content, it’s important to make sure the offer is attractive and valuable enough for people to give up their contact information. This could include offering exclusive discounts, free trials, or access to additional resources or information. You should also ensure that your call-to-action (CTA) is clear and concise so that readers know exactly what they need to do in order to gain access.
What can you offer your readers that would be valuable enough for them to “pay” for it by giving up their contact information? Here are some ideas:
- Ebook: A downloadable multi-page PDF that could be about the state of your industry, a complete guide to learning about a key topic
- Template: A form or digital tool commonly used in your industry
- Offer: A coupon, discount or special offer
- White paper: A summary of proprietary research in your business or industry that would benefit your audience
- Webinar: A video where one of your subject-matter experts holds a workshop or mini-seminar
Ebooks are some of the least expensive types of gated content you can create. You can repurpose how-to manuals or materials from presentations, workshops and other “leave-behinds” by converting them to a PDF and offering it for download.
Tips for creating gated content that match your customer journey
Create content that appeals to your audience and potential customers at every stage of their journey. For simplicity, we’ll say that your basic buyer’s journey is three stages: awareness/interest, consideration, decision. Yes, you’ll find more complex customer journeys, but they all follow the same basic premise. A customer journey begins with an awareness of a need followed by research and evaluation, followed by a purchase.
Gated content at the awareness stage
At the early stages of the customer’s journey, they are aware of a need or something sparks their interest, but they’re not yet ready to commit. Because of this, they might be more likely to bounce if you ask too much of them to access gated content. Keep the fill form simple at this level — name and email address. That’s also known as a low-friction ask.
You can still use your email marketing workflows to validate that they are providing a legitimate email address before granting them access, but remember that your audience at this stage is hesitant. They are just beginning their research, and if you ask too much of them, you could lose them to your competitors.
The best gated content for awareness/interest-level people include how-to ebooks and PDF downloads that contain educational information to help them learn more about you and your brand, as well as the problem their researching. Here are some examples:
- For an HVAC company: Maintenance checklist for your heating and air conditioning units
- For a tech company: How [your SaaS platform] works and tips for selecting a tool that matches your needs
- For a real estate company: Complete guide to buying your first home
Note that in all of those, the publisher is not trying to sell anything.
Gated content at the evaluation and consideration stage
At this stage, the potential customers know what they want, and they are considering options. They might be comparing you to a competitor, or they might be trying to decide if they want to do it themselves or hire a professional. Either way, your job here is to provide gated content that helps sell your goods and services.
Because the customer has shown interest in you, they may be willing to pay for your gated content with a little more information. Gated content at the evaluation and consideration stage can be a little more intrusive, so to speak. In addition to name and email address, you can ask questions to help your sales and marketing teams segment them into the right workflows:
- For a B2B, how big is their organization?
- When are they considering to make a change or purchase?
- What industry are they in?
- Where do they live (ZIP code)?
Note that in this stage, the publisher still isn’t selling anything, but they are promoting their solutions.
Gated content at the decision stage
Technically, at the decision stage, the potential buyer is already in your lead pipeline. They’ve evaluated their options and it’s now a matter of saying yes. At this stage, your sales and marketing teams are nurturing the lead to convert. Some of the tactics that they might use include:
- Solutions briefs, showing the specifications of how your goods or services work
- Case studies
- Data and research
- Free trial
Note that in this stage, the potential buyer is highly engaged and likely to want to try your product or speak to your sales team.