I specifically held this one back to be the final piece of the B2B marketing sucks series. I met Nicole when she was the Content Director for 6sense. I knew from the first couple minutes of conversation that she was not only a Modern Day Marketer, but someone who was working with her internal team to make it more about the user experience and less about what's in it for the marketer. I recorded a podcast episode about how building revenue teams can help bring together marketing and sales around what matters most...the customer. I learned a ton from Nicole in this conversation so I asked her to contribute to this series. When she sent me her response I was shook. It encapsulated everything that was going on in my head for so long. I shared with my team internally and couldn't wait to share it with all of you. Nicole is doing some freelance work now. If you are looking for help look no further.
Gated Content (Still) Sucks
By Nicole Klemp
I’ve been in love with writing since I first learned how. I remember sneaking onto my older brother’s electric typewriter when he wasn’t home to write “my stories” as a little girl. Fast forward to college, and I set out to study journalism — before deciding to switch my major to marketing about halfway through. At the time, we were approaching what we now all lovingly refer to as The Great Recession, and I figured business would be more lucrative than journalism (but creative enough that I could still flex my writing muscles).
Fast forward a few years into my career, and this idea of “content marketing” was starting to take off. I remember how thought leaders at the time described it as a way for marketers to educate people through storytelling — my two passions colliding!
Unfortunately, I feel like what started out as such a positive thing has become a little bit... underhanded. Too much content out there today is less about educating buyers and more about the bait-and-switch.
Hey, Prospect! Look! Click here for something interesting! I’ll let you read a little bit of it… here you go… GOTCHA! First, you must provide your name, email address, company name, job title, astrological sign, family medical history, and top 3 favorite Seinfeld episodes (in order) before you can proceed.
Look, I get that the point of marketing is to acquire new customers and make money. But when the ultimate goal of content goes from education and brand experience to lead capture, somehow all that beautiful storytelling gets watered down — and that sucks. When content is used primarily as a way to lure in prospects (who may or may not even be in the market to buy, let alone in a decision-making position), the content can lose its credibility and feel less authentic.
Let content fly free
Let me preface all this by saying, I personally have no problem paying a price for content — when appropriate. I pay for my subscription to the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal. I pay for Netflix and HBO and Apple TV. I want to support the journalists writing culture-shifting exposés, and I want Netflix to make another season of Bridgerton (it’s the only reason I survived 2020)!
But brand journalism doesn’t fit this model. The onus is on a company to create branded content that helps to earn your business, by being relevant and addressing real problems. You shouldn’t owe a company something simply because you want to read their trends report. Especially when filling out their form means you’re promptly treated to a solid dose of arm twisting in the form of unwanted cold calls and emails asking you to set a meeting. It’s like swiping right and then immediately getting a marriage proposal.
I love that Southwest “bags fly free” commercial from a few years ago… the one where they take on their competitors who charge these ridiculous bag fees, and Southwest baggage handlers yell, “why do they hate your bags?!” It makes me think of the way companies put their best stuff behind a form. You would think they would want as many eyeballs on it as possible. Why do they hate your interest in consuming their content?!
By just letting people access your content without having to hand over their contact info (which many simply won’t do and will bounce as soon as the form pops up), you’re removing friction and allowing them to engage with and learn from you. Then when they are actually showing intent to make a purchase decision, they’ll be warmed up and familiar with your brand and likely more receptive to a conversation with your sales team.
And on the other side of this coin are the kickass content creators on your team, who are free to focus on just making great content that’s creative and useful, that will leave your audience with a positive experience and impression of your company. There’s nothing worse as a content creator than to produce this amazing piece just to have it locked away behind a gate. You’re proud of that work and want it to see the light of day.
Make it accessible and data-driven
I should be clear on the fact that I’m no stranger to gating content. I did it for years. Most of my past companies ran a lead-based (or primarily lead-based) marketing strategy, and gated content was a big part of that. We had to do it because we had to “generate demand.”
But technology has advanced, and with the right stack, marketers and sellers have the ability to uncover demand, in real time, at the account level. And this is key, because most B2B buying decisions aren’t made by just one person… an entire committee of 10+ people can be involved at any given time. So one little lead on a downloaded research report doesn’t mean it’s time to start bombarding a person with calls and emails. Outreach should happen when an account (i.e., a company in your ICP) is showing intent and the data is telling you they’re in-market for a product or service like yours, and that it’s a good time to engage.
This revelation has completely changed the way I think about content strategy, and how we use content to enable buyers throughout their journey. B2B content today needs to be data-driven and accessible. The content our team creates is open and available for people to access and learn from, to love and to share, or to say what is this garbage?? and slam their laptop shut if they so choose. The power is in their hands; we’re just here to tell great stories.
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