Hard vs Soft Gating: The Benefits of Soft Gating
My firsthand experience of hard gating
We were in the market for an ABM solution and my manager tasked me with preparing and presenting a proposal at the next (weekly) team meeting.
I started my journey by searching for “ABM Vendors” on Google, and it was an avalanche. So I figured I’d look into the shorter list of vendors who appeared in a recent research report.
I visited their websites, they all sounded the same, used the same jargon, not a lot of value there…hmm. After wading through the marketing fluff, I came across exclusive content, aptly named- ABM Journey Playbook, how to choose an ABM vendor… it sounded promising!
Here’s the catch
When I clicked on the link, it took me to a form that I needed to fill before I could download the eBook. They wanted all my info, just short of the social security number.
The thing is, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted the information or products they offered yet, so how could I really know if giving up my information was worth the eBook behind that gate?
I abandoned the page and went elsewhere, or I could’ve just given them fake info and still downloaded the content. Kind of embarrassing to admit, but according to some research I’m not the only one doing this:
This tactic is called “hard gating” and many content marketing specialists use this technique to collect contact info and generate leads.
Look at Amazon, for years they gave us the first few pages of a book we are interested in so that we can read it before we buy it. So, why can’t this be the same way in the B2B world?
Using hard gating for lead generation
The ways in which buyers are consuming content is often requested on demand. Platforms such as Netflix and YouTube make personalized content available on-demand. And B2B buyers are no different; they are educating themselves by reading or watching an abundance of content before making up their minds on buying a particular product or service. As a website owner or marketing specialist, it is better for you to provide those buyers that information on your own website rather than them learning about it through a third-party, or even a competitor’s website.
What is soft gating?
Soft gating is another content marketing technique in which users can freely access your content. Forms asking for contact information are still shown in this technique as well, but users have the option of declining to fill them out and are still able to access the content they want.
It can be safely said that while hard gating content may have been successful in generating sales leads historically, by modern standards, the numbers are not that high. This is why I highly recommend soft gating so that leads can now be generated from enthusiastic, willing users. As a content marketer, here are three direct benefits:
● Higher quality leads
The leads generated by soft gating are expected to be of higher quality as the users have provided their information willingly. This data has higher chances of being legitimate because the users had the option of not filling out the form and yet, still decided to invest the time and effort. This also shows you that these users trust them with their information.
● More content engagement
Since the website has not made it mandatory to fill out forms to access content, those users can still engage with that content and understand their offerings better. This results in a higher chance of them contacting you themselves to potentially purchase a good or service.
● Lower bounce rate
There is a high probability of a user simply exiting your website and never returning if they encounter a mandatory hard gate. By allowing them access to your content and making the form optional, websites can ensure that fewer users bounce away.
Employing the right gating strategy
Since users tend to try and comprehensively understand the content before they reach a decision, it becomes crucial to employ the right gating strategy. If a user thinks a website is making it difficult for them to access what they need, they may decide to never visit that site again. It is critical for content marketers to figure out when exactly in a user’s content engagement and discovery journey that soft gating should be implemented. Depending on your needs as a content marketer, your gating strategy will vary:
● Hard gate: If you have very exclusive content
In such a case, you can look into hard gating. This may provide you the leads your sales team needs, but it would also mean a higher number of users bouncing off.
● Soft gate: Better quality leads
If your concern is the rejection of leads by the sales team, it means that the users you are trying to reach are not getting enough time to understand your content. In such a case, you could try employing a softer approach to gating where you provide them more information before displaying the form and making the form optional.
● No gate: If the leads are taking a lot of time to engage
If your concern is focused on the time it’s taking for the leads to become actual paying customers, you could try to completely remove the gate wherever it is required so that users have as few hurdles as possible in their journey down the marketing funnel.
● No gate: If the focus is more on engagement
If generating leads is not your primary concern, you could remove gates entirely and provide your content truly free of cost. This will ensure that the prospective customers can access and engage with all your content without any impediments and can still get all the information that they need.
When is your user most engaged?
Engagement-based soft gating is one of the most efficient and proven content marketing techniques. It focuses on finding out when exactly a user can be assumed ‘engaged’ enough for the form to be shown. Such a gate could be placed based on certain parameters like:
· Time spent on the website by a particular user
· Number of articles read by the user
· How much time did they spend engaging with each piece of content
This means buyers should only get a form of any kind if they have shown real interest with their high level of engagement, and hence, greater intent of becoming a paying customer. These leads can be safely assumed to be some of the best quality possible.
As we talked about in our blog, the marketing funnel plays an important part into where content marketers could start to make customers more aware of their products. For customers to make it through all the stages of the marketing funnel, gates may be strategically placed at different stages in order to keep the customer interested.
Regardless of which gating strategy you decide to implement; it is important to keep in mind that it is ultimately the users’ understanding of the topic that matters most. The better users understand your content, the more likely they will engage with you. And by making certain content available to your customers that your competitors refuse to do by placing gates at later stages, you do not have to compromise your chances of making a customer out of someone who is simply browsing your product.
Partnering in your AI automation projects
If you are interested in exploring soft gating as a strategy, let me introduce you to the Social27 Playlist. It delivers a collection of binge-worthy content to your buyers that is directly mapped to their needs and unique areas of interest, personalized content served on-demand.
At Social27, we strive to understand your business needs and jointly develop the right AI automation strategy with the help of a step-by-step framework and best practices from across the industry. Subsequently, our automation products and solutions can enable rapid deployment and value realization.
Please visit social27.com for more information. We would appreciate the opportunity to partner in your intelligent automation journey.
Social27 is an AI powered Automation, Augmentation and Analytics platform. Social27 Playlists empower B2B marketers to deliver a personalized and ‘binge-worthy’ content experience in real-time. Our AI Assistant identifies buyer intent, qualifies leads, and schedules meetings; accelerating sales and revenue growth. Social27 Deal Room automates all the repetitive and time-consuming processes in the deal workflow, keeping all calls, contracts, and compliance in one place. And finally, the Partner Ecosystem Accelerator enables velocity across your ecosystem by enabling a #NoFriction customer journey.