This article was written for LinkedIn on April 2 2018. View it in its original format here.
At QikServe, we recently started work on a web site refresh and I’m delighted to say that our new site will no longer contain any ‘gated’ or ‘premium’ content that requires visitors to share their contact details to access.
With significant changes to GDPR coming up in May, companies are going to have to think carefully about when, where and how they ask people to share their personal details. But this blog is not about the pros and cons of gated content or the impact of GDPR on B2B marketing – these have been well-covered by many others.
In my view, a gated approach to content is fundamentally the wrong way to engage with your audience.
I think it’s quite rude behaviour to demand that someone gives you something of value on a vague promise of something in return. If someone approached you on the street, held out their closed hand and asked for all your contact information in exchange for what was inside, would you do it? Probably not, right?
Ultimately, you are asking people for a very valuable asset – their personal contact details, which they give blindly, trusting in your promise of sharing something of value in return. Unfortunately, that blind trust has been being eroded due to low-quality or irrelevant content being used to capture personal data.
What makes a valuable lead?
Have you ever been bombarded with irrelevant information that you’re not interested in after signing up for some report that sounded like it might useful and turned out not to be? Me too. And so you find ways around it – submitting false information or at least information that doesn’t really help the company identify you properly, like using a personal email address – solely set up for the purpose of all the sign-ups we have to submit every single day.
When all of this happens, the company is not generating a lead – it’s polluting its database. And what exactly is the real value of a database full of such ‘leads’ anyway? A lead is only valuable when they have a genuine interest in what you are selling.
The pressure to show a return on marketing investment has created a demand for measurable results that prove marketing is ‘working’ – as long as you’re delivering a certain number of leads every month, then everything is great.
This has led to a mentality where marketers focus on capturing as many leads as possible to get the numbers up, with the intention to nurture them through the funnel and hand over to sales. While gated content has the potential to help serve this goal, I don’t believe it’s the right way to build lasting, meaningful relationships with people that you want to attract and retain as customers.
Producing and promoting quality content that is of value to your customer is still as important as ever. Content is valuable, especially the kind that tends to be gated. eBooks, reports and whitepapers are expensive to create and marketers want to be able to show a return on their marketing investment. And that’s a good thing, but it’s important that we also understand the impact of our work – without this knowledge, how do we know we should keep doing something, do more of it, or stop it all together?
I’m asking marketers to look at the bigger picture, and to consider the factors that will compel your audience to connect with you and share their contact information willingly, rather than grudgingly.
Focus on building an audience, not leads
I hope most people would agree that, in life, we build more meaningful, valuable connections when we share and are generous with others – giving help freely when we are able to. I believe it’s the same in marketing when it comes to content. If we are more generous, more giving and more open with our content, then people will come back for more. You earn their trust based on your ability to deliver consistently valuable and interesting content and by having real dialogue. Even when people disagree with you, it can still be a valuable conversation and can help you build a genuine audience.
And, once you earn people’s trust, you will find that they are much more likely to approach you and share that personal information willingly, and, even better, you know they are already interested. That’s what I’d call a high value lead.
So that’s why you won’t be seeing any barriers to content from QikServe in the future. Just a whole lot of great free content for you and those around you…
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