Trust sits at the cornerstone of any successful sales relationship. But that trust can be elusive in today’s digital age, especially regarding B2B gated content marketing. So how can you ensure your gated content builds trust rather than erodes it? Simple. For starters, don't commit these seven deadly sins that undermine your gated content marketing efforts, and follow my tips instead.
Gated Content Sin #1: The Generic Swamp
We live in a content-shock world. A 2023 DemandGen report found that 54% of respondents felt overwhelmed by the amount of content available and that quality of all of that content is far too often lacking. That means mediocrity won't just slow you down; it will sink your content and inbound marketing efforts. Try these two tactics when you're ready to navigate beyond the quicksand.
Address Real Problems with Pinpoint Accuracy
First off, ditch the buzzwords. I've talked about the power of the Telling Detail approach before. Phrases like "cutting-edge solutions" or "synergistic approaches" have been so overused that they've lost their impact. Your audience needs to know that you understand their specific challenges. Dive deep into their industry, discover their unique needs, and articulate them better than they can. This isn’t just about market research; it’s about customer empathy.
Tailor, Don't Generalize
Tailor your gated content so finely that it speaks to the individual concerns of your prospective clients. They need to hear their pain in your content using their words and see their use cases or business challenges. Utilize the powers of AI and machine learning for predictive analytics that help you understand and anticipate your customer’s needs.
Avoiding the Generic Swamp isn't just about what you say; it’s also about how, when, and why you say it. When you get this right, you’re not just another company; you become the trusted guide that can lead your customers out of their own swamps. By combining specificity with credibility and a deep understanding of your customer's issues, you transform from an easily replaceable generalist to an irreplaceable expert.
Gated Content Sin #2: Serving Moldy Bread
Would you eat moldy bread? Of course not. And just as you wouldn't consume bread that's past its expiration date, your audience won't bite on content based on stale, outdated data. In the inbound, content-driven sales prospecting world, stale content equals expired trust. When you're creating your gated content, consider the following.
The Half-Life of Data
Data isn't timeless; it has a half-life. Gartner research claims that 63% of data becomes obsolete within one year. What does that mean for you? Content built on outdated data isn't just old; it's discredited. You lose your aura of expertise, and by extension, your audience's trust deteriorates.
The Cost of Irrelevance
Old data translates into irrelevant content. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. Sure, you may trick a prospect into downloading one irrelevant piece of gated content, but over time, the audience notices, and your analytics will show it. Decreased time spent on your non-gated content or dropping click-through rates on your follow-up materials are red flags. That's your metrics screaming, "Your data is stale, and your prospects are losing their appetite for you!"
Gated Content Sin #3: The Trojan Horse
NOBODY likes the old bait and switch. But we've all seen it before — a tantalizing headline like 'The Definitive Guide to Boosting B2B Revenue in 2023.' You're intrigued. You give up your email, keen to dive into insights that promise to elevate your business.
But what you get is far from a guide; it's a thinly veiled sales pitch parading as 'solutions.' Or worse, it offers a number of compelling ideas or thoughts, but you have to "talk to a team member" to learn more about how the company can help you grow that revenue 🤦♂️ or implement the concepts discussed. Argggg!
Welcome to the Trojan Horse, one of the most damaging tactics in B2B content marketing. Here's how it backfires and what to do instead.
Broken Trust = Lost Opportunity
When you bait-and-switch, you break an unwritten trust contract with your reader. Not only are they less likely to engage with your content moving forward, but you've also managed to paint your sales team as untrustworthy as well. So while the marketing team is high-fiving their killer KPIs (downloads/subscribers/MQLs) your sales team is asking, "WTF is up with the gated content leads? We can't get them to move forward in the sales cycle." All because you didn't realize that no one wants to be 'sold to' when they were promised education or insights.
Transparent Value Over Covert Selling
If you want to sell, that's fine, but don't disguise it. Authenticity wins every time. A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute shows that transparency in content increases buyer trust by up to 39%. If your gated content has a sales component, be upfront about it. You'll gain respect and, more importantly, greater willingness for long-term engagement from your audience. Remember, you're building relationships, not just leads. Stick to genuine value; you won't just gain a click—you'll earn trust.
Gated Content Sin #4: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
How often do you come across gated content that promises "The Ultimate Guide to X," only to find it merely scratches the surface? In my opinion, this is the most common B2B content marketing sin — under-delivering on your content promise. When your gated content advertises an in-depth guide to solving a complex problem yet delivers only a superficial overview, you've not only lost an opportunity to engage but also risk eroding trust. This isn't a case of bait-and-switch like the Trojan Horse; this is about failing to fully deliver on what you've explicitly promised. And who wants to do business with someone that doesn't follow through on a promise?
In a B2B landscape where 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was FIRST to add value, according to Corporate Visions, over-delivering with truly complete content can establish you as that first valuable contact and a long-term trusted advisor.
So as my very first boss used to say, promise a lot—deliver more. You could say this is the golden rule of B2B gated content marketing 😊.
Gated Content Sin #5: The Annoying Ex
We all know what it’s like to have an "Annoying Ex" — someone who just can't take a hint. In the marketing world, this manifests as retargeting ads that follow a prospect around the internet long after they've made a purchase or decisively chosen not to. I'm sure these retargeting ad campaigns work, otherwise, they'd have died off like their ineffective digital ancestors. But when retargeting turns into stalking, you risk a potential future relationship because you're too focused on creating a transaction today versus investing in a relationship forever. Let's not forget that sometimes it makes sense to stop pursuing a lead. Not only can the strategy be irritating, but it can also misuse your limited marketing resources. Here's why.
Ad Fatigue and Audience Alienation
Excessive retargeting can lead to ad fatigue. Your audience becomes so used to dismissing your ads that they subconsciously ignore them. We've all experienced it, especially if you watch championship sports events. By the end, you've seen the same ad so often that your brain effectively ignores it, even as you sit watching the television. Worse, these tactics can alienate your audience. We all know we're being tracked online, but none of us enjoys the reminder that retargeting creates.
The Budget Drain
Your marketing budget isn't infinite. Every retargeting ad aimed at an uninterested or already-converted individual is a wasted impression. According to Google Ads data, click-through rates plummet after about five exposures to the same ad. You're not just wasting opportunities; you're also wasting your budget.
Smart Targeting: The Antidote to The Annoying Ex
So, what's the alternative? Try smart targeting based on user behavior and lifecycle stage. Retargeting shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all strategy. Use your data to identify where each prospect is in their buyer journey. Are they in the research phase? Have they looked at pricing? Or have they already made a purchase? Tailor your ad content and frequency accordingly.
Gated Content Sin #6: The Interrogation Room
No one likes to play 20 questions. This is why the path to your gated content shouldn't feel like a walk into an interrogation room. Overly complex forms with endless fields are not just irritating; they're a fast track to abandoned downloads. In today's B2B landscape, where user experience often tips the scale in favor of engagement or abandonment, streamlining your form fields is not just an option—it's a necessity.
"But I need that data for targeted marketing," you argue. That is a fair point, but there's a more thoughtful way to go about it. Enter progressive profiling. This technique allows you to collect information in bite-sized chunks, gradually enriching your understanding of your prospects as they engage more deeply with your content over time. The first touch might ask for an email and a name; a subsequent piece of gated content could ask for company size or industry.
Simplifying your form can be the difference between a download and a bounce. Avoid overwhelming your audience with a lengthy "interrogation" out of the gate. Instead, progressively cultivate a more nuanced, respectful relationship with your leads by asking for additional information only when it makes sense. This approach keeps your audience engaged without feeling invaded while furnishing you with the data you need for nuanced, effective prospecting.
Gated Content Sin #7: The Silent Treatment
The cruelest sin in gated content marketing is ignoring the leads your content marketing worked hard to obtain. If someone's taken the time to engage with your material, the last thing you should do is leave them in the void. However, following up isn't a simple game of 'one-size-fits-all.' Reach out too quickly, especially with a sales pitch, and you risk scaring off a potential lead who might have been merely curious but isn't yet ready to be corralled into your sales funnel. Conversely, complete silence after a download is a colossal waste of a potential sales opportunity.
Here's where tools like Behavioral Email shine. Think of follow-up emails as Phase II of your gated content. These emails should expand upon what your initial offering covered, serving up additional, actionable insights that your prospect can immediately apply. Use the engagement data as your compass, tracking which topics generate interest and which are falling flat. The type of content they engage with post-download could serve as a robust indicator of their level of interest or their readiness for a more direct sales conversation. So, don't let your follow-ups drift into oblivion; treat them as critical touchpoints for turning interest into intent.
Trust is your most valuable asset in the evolving digital marketing landscape, particularly in B2B, where long-term relationships yield the highest rewards. As we've dissected the seven deadly sins of B2B gated content marketing, one central theme emerged: the erosion of trust happens subtly, yet its effects can be lasting and damaging. Each sin—whether it's delivering generic content, serving outdated data, or failing to follow up—chips away at that invaluable trust your business needs to build with its audience.
The 2023 DemandGen report highlighted that 54% of respondents felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content they encountered. Yet, they're starving for quality. It's a dichotomy that underscores the importance of tailoring content that's relevant, deeply insightful, and actionable. The only way to stand out in a world cluttered with mediocrity is by communicating a clear, differentiated point-of-view through helpful content. It doesn't just capture attention—it is the seed that sprouts into a valuable, long-term conversation that you eventually convert to a new customer.
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