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The great debate of whether to gate or ungate your content has no end. And, as much as we’d like to, we’re not going to have a definitive answer–except to say that it depends. Knowing when to gate and ungated content can make or break your account-based marketing (ABM) program. So it’s relevant to know the scenarios where gated content is better than ungated and vice versa. It’s also essential to understand how B2B selling has changed recently.

B2B Selling Has Changed

The B2B buying journey is becoming increasingly digital as older generations retire and younger generations take their place. The time buyers spend with sales people is one of the biggest changes. A recent Gartner study found that 70% of the buying process is complete before a buyer ever fills out a lead form. What’s more, buying committees only spend 17% of the purchase process talking to a supplier. Taking into account the people you’re competing with, sales people only get 5%-6% of the time a prospect uses to make their decision. That means your content is responsible for influencing nearly 95% of the decisions in the buying process. That’s a heavy lift. It also means you need to nail the gated vs. ungated question.

The Role of Content in ABM

It should be clear that content is important for a successful B2B strategy. But how does it fit into an ABM strategy? In traditional content marketing programs, the goal is to drive as much awareness as possible. ABM, however, is a hyper-targeted strategy, meaning awareness is important in a much narrower sense. Essentially, ABM content needs to be crafted for your ideal customer profiles (ICPs). It’s the difference between fishing with a net and fishing with a hook. In ABM, we need our content to be a hook.

So if we’re looking to create content that can support the majority of the B2B buying journey and be hyper-targeted for specific ICPs, then should we gate content or leave it ungated?

Gated vs. Ungated Content in ABM

It’s important to understand the difference between gated and ungated content. Specifically, the advantages and disadvantages of both and when to use them. 

Gated Content

Gated content requires the user to take some action before gaining access to the content. This typically means filling out a form with their contact information. This is the main benefit of gated content. It gives us a good lead generation tool and captures valuable data because we ask the user to give up their information in exchange for the piece of content. This is particularly useful (if not mandatory) for businesses without an ABM platform like Rollworks or 6Sense. Gated content can also give the user a sense that the content is more valuable. The most common types of gated content are things like whitepapers, industry reports, and online courses. Some examples of good gated content come from companies like McKinsey or Gartner. 

While gated content is great for lead gen, it is not so great at increasing brand awareness or website traffic. It also doesn’t typically give you any SEO benefits since the content is normally downloaded as a PDF. There’s also some evidence that suggests users are becoming more skeptical of gated content and less willing to give out their information. Perhaps the biggest downfall of gated content is that it’s not easy to produce. Since the user is giving something up in return for the content, you need to make sure the content is actually high quality. This means spending more time and resources to ensure a good end product. 

Ungated Content

Unlike gated content, the user doesn’t have to give out any information in order to access ungated content. This means there is a higher chance your target audience will interact with it. As such, ungated content is useful when you’re looking to build brand awareness and trust. It also helps expand your organic reach. One of the biggest benefits of ungated content is SEO. Because ungated content typically lives on your website, it can be accessed by search engine crawlers. This means you can improve your search rankings while providing useful content to your audience. Some examples of ungated content are blog posts, 10x content, and infographics. 

The biggest drawback to ungated content is it doesn’t generate leads or give you any information about the user. Which can be a problem if you don’t have an ABM platform. If you do, then you may just need to adjust how you think about leads in order to make an ungated content strategy successful.

ABM Content Strategy 

So how should you design your ABM content strategy? All gated content to maximize lead gen? All ungated to optimize SEO and brand awareness? Like most things in life, it’s a matter of balance.

Finding The Right Balance

The most important thing is to have clear goals or problems your content strategy is trying to solve. For example, if no one knows about your company and you need to increase brand awareness, you’ll probably want to use ungated content more. Conversely, if you have healthy web traffic and good social reach, then you’ll probably want to solve for lead gen with gated content. You need to recognize the limitations of both strategies and use them when appropriate.

For most people, a hybrid approach will make the most sense. This gives you the benefits of each strategy. It also helps segment the content based on the buyer’s journey, ungated content at the beginning and gated as the user gets closer to becoming a lead. You could also use something like progressive profiling, asking for a little information at the beginning of the journey and asking for more as the user gets farther down the funnel.

Testing and Metrics: Evaluating Content Performance

Gated or ungated, it is essential you use the right metrics so you can measure the success of your strategy. If you judge the success of your content program off the wrong KPIs, you won’t know if your efforts are working or not. For ungated content, typical KPIs include website traffic, engagement, and social shares. Typical KPIs for gated content include conversion rate, lead quality, and download rate. 

So should you use gated content or ungated content? Well, as we said in the beginning, it depends. The most important thing is to understand the goals of your content strategy. Once you understand the problem you need to solve, you can implement a hybrid approach that leverages the strengths of each and limits the weaknesses of both. 

At RenderTribe, we help customers build an ABM strategy to drive more sales and accelerate growth. Our RenderLab process helps you identify the unique pieces that fit your marketing strategy and align your plan with overall business objectives. We help build the foundation for measurement, expertise, and the tactical execution needed to support the plan. Contact us today to see how we can help you align sales and marketing activities to achieve your revenue goals.

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