Regardless of what you do or offer on a web site, the question inevitably comes up:
Should we require a form to be completed?
Contact forms, support forms, and other kinds are necessary of course. But, what about content – videos, eBooks, free software, and other types – that you work hard to produce for consumption? You should get something in return for that right?
Maybe. There are different schools of thought and some great studies on the topic of gated content, including one by a personal favorite, David Meerman Scott. I also agree with another perspective out there urging that you ask not if you should gate, but when.
A Real-World Exercise in Gating Content
Recently, I was part of a real-world exercise in comparing gated versus ungated content. The results were surprising and actually close to the results David Meerman Scott theorized in the above link. Removing the required form got the content in front of a lot more people – almost doubling the audience.
The downside of course is that you limit long-term engagement opportunities. But, there are other considerations as well: What is the real value of that long-term engagement? Are you counting conversion of prospects? Or, maybe you’re after a softer metric like future newsletter shares or likes on Facebook.
Some Parting Thoughts
We all offer free content – nobody gates an entire web site. Therefore, we all treat the prospect engagement process as a funnel with different stages. At some point in those stages, we need to know who this person is. The question is when and where in that funnel. Products and services are different and require different approaches to audience engagement. For this reason, be wary of any one-size-fits-all recommendation.
I believe attitudes on content access are changing. People are expecting more and more for free. They aren’t as willing to share their information – or invest the time to share it perhaps – if the information isn’t reasonably perceived as necessary. And, often if they are willing, it turns out to be I.P. Freely completing the form again.
The best approach is to maximize free, useful content for as long as possible in the funnel. Then, gate the content for which there is a reasonable justification for the audience to spend time completing a form.
Meanwhile, provide as many opportunities – and varied methods – for prospects to reach out on their own. The resulting interactions will be the most authentic, most engaging, and most rewarding for all parties.
You’re also less likely to hear from I.P. Freely or Jacques Strapp.
What do you think? Do you have a place where content could be made more easily accessible to a wider audience? Also, be sure to take a look at these content marketing tips for more ideas.