There's Nothing Wrong with Gated Content
Updated: Mar 10
The issue is marketers having opinions on channels and tactics in the first place.
Table of Contents
There are no "good" or "bad" marketing tactics or channels
Gated content: enemy no. 2 behind corporate jargon for the new wave of B2B marketers.
Both fake enemies with faux saviors – "write simply" and "ungate your content."
I'm tackling enemy no. 1 in another longer post. But I stand before here you today to prove why my client, gated content, is not guilty.
In an attempt to find primary source statistics, I read more gated content in the six months that I lasted writing long-form content for B2B SaaS companies than any person should be subjected to.
I can tell you that the gated-ness of gated content is not the issue.
The two actual issues with gated content
Issue 1: The quality of the gated content isn't high enough that it warrants gating.
Gated content is often garbage fluff with stale stats that can drop IQs if read too frequently. It's also usually about 70% graphic design and 30% actual content.
The amount of information companies require before hitting "Download" is just short of one's high school transcript and original birth certificate. That is not hyperbole.
In other words, gated content is not a marketing issue. It's a transactional issue.
Issue 2: The level of engagement that ensues after downloading the gated content is at odds with the level of purchase intent present when someone wants to download the gated content.
The idea of a linear marketing funnel is everything that's ever been wrong with B2B SaaS marketing. Whether we're shopping for a new coffee table or enterprise software, humans do not buy in a linear fashion.
Even if they did, their buying behavior can't be controlled in a neat little funnel. I don't blame the person who came up with this. I blame the thousands of B2B marketers who went along with it for twenty years.
That being said, gated content is typically present at the top of the funnel (TOFU).
But given the barrage of contact that ensues from a company after someone hits submit on the lead gen form you would think it's a bottom of the funnel (BOFU) tactic.
I've experienced it firsthand.
Companies bloat their sales team to blow up the phones and inboxes of people like myself, a former content writer, who literally just wanted to read an ebook so I could once again be lied to in the footnotes about the age of the data advertised in the title of the PDF, not buy enterprise software. (Most gated content isn’t just fluff, it’s dishonest fluff.)
Am I arguing in favor of gated content? No.
If your goal is to distribute your content as widely as possible, is gating it the best move? Probably not.
If you have an in-depth case study highlighting how your company solved a hyper-specific problem for a customer, and you want to solve this hyper specific problem for more people, gating it might be the move.
Just like the issue with most B2B marketing isn’t that it’s boring, it’s that it’s not in line with how customers actually buy, the issue with gated content isn’t that it’s an ineffective tactic, it’s the content itself and what happens after it’s downloaded.
There are no "good" or "bad" tactics marketing tactics or channels
There are tactics that are relevant to your target audience and objectives, and those that aren’t.
It’s not a matter of whether or not SEO “works.”
It's a question of: is the time, effort, and money it takes to write a quality blog post, buy backlinks, then distribute the content, worth the ROI compared to a lower-cost content approach (e.g., a YouTube channel)?
It’s not a matter of being “pro” or “anti” AI.
It's a question of: is the time, money, and effort it takes to buy and learn AI worth it for the tasks it addresses?
AI has some helpful uses. But it cannot garner SME insight nor provide a unique POV. These are two of the hardest parts of SEO content.
So for the hype surrounding it and the fear it arouses, I would say AI doesn't deliver.
I do marketing for a restaurant group with two different concepts. Same city, similar target audiences, $20 difference in average ticket size.
But they require different strategies and tactics.
PPC ads aren’t “bad” because the results were lackluster after running them for 90 days with one. The search volume wasn’t there and the keywords were expensive.
Social media isn’t “bad” for the other one. The client’s budget is just better spent making sure they show up on Google for “italian near me.”
For anyone who thinks this example doesn’t apply because “B2B SaaS marketing is way more complicated than B2C," you’re wrong.
In short, there are no “good” or “bad” tactics or tools.
There are tactics and tools that are worth the time, effort, and money because they can automate time-consuming parts of a job, and those that aren’t.
B2B SaaS is complex, it is not complicated. (Also, do you know how many decision makers you have to appeal to for restaurants or kids’ toys? Usually a minimum of two, often more.)
B2B SaaS marketers think their industry is so unique, that their job is so hard compared to “easy, straightforward” B2C. In reality, most B2B marketers actually wouldn’t last 2 seconds in B2C.
But the reason B2B SaaS marketers think their job is so difficult is because they refuse to get to know their customers. (Some don’t even have any.)
Skipping this crucial step would make any marketer's job hard.
B2B marketers – you're not brave
Many B2B marketers go head to head with innocent tactics and obvious, safe issues in their content. This allows them to position themselves as "authentic" and "contrarian."
The enemies they choose to fight are merely symptoms of a much more serious disease called not knowing their customers.
They’re worrying about petty details because they really don’t understand business.
B2B marketing doesn’t have marketing issues. It has business issues that trickle down into marketing.
There’s no other way to explain how B2B marketers got away with being so bad at their jobs for over twenty years.
Now they’re throwing tantrums over not getting the respect they allegedly deserve after two decades of throwing budget down the drain and terrorizing sales with weak leads.
But the much larger, more serious issue is that companies think that the opinions of B2B marketers on the Internet who have no idea who their target audience is, matter.
Companies and founders, you listening to B2B marketers – who once sang gated content’s praises – is what got you into the mess you’re in now.
And you’re looking to them to save you, again.
They won’t. Only knowing your customers deeply will.
Marketers and copywriters, it is not your job to have an opinion on tactics or words. I don’t know where any of you got the idea that it was.
These things are just tools in a toolbox. There is a time and a place for most of them. It is not your job to have an opinion on them.
It is your job to learn the tools, then get to know your ideal customers on such a deep level that you instinctively know which ones to use to attract them.
Nothing more, nothing less.