There’s a saying in the self-improvement world that people ultimately fear not failure or rejection, but their own awesome potential. This relates directly to content marketing. You see, brands often have this impulse to hide all their best content. They do it for many reasons: Lead-generation, sales, “competitive secrecy,” fear of giving away the proverbial cow for the milk. Many of these reasons make sense some of the time, but they are largely based on fear and coercive sales tactics. And real content marketers have no fear. Those who fear need to channel their inner Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “give it away now!”
Why? Because when buyers don’t know you, your exceptional content is going to be what wins them over (at least initially). Because you want to sustain their loyalty once you win them over. And because you want to give people the good stuff they can’t get anywhere else.
Especially when people have no reason to trust your business, you need to give them something that leaves a favorable impression and builds the relationship. Putting yet another interesting piece of content behind a long form when somebody is still trying to get a sense of who you are (making the first handshake, in relationship terms) is counterproductive. You might as well slap a big red banner across your website that blares “KEEP OUT!” or “WE DON’T LIKE YOU!” Not very inviting, is it?
To gate or not to gate? And when?
The answer is actually easier than you might think. According to widespread marketing-leader consensus—and Hoa Loranger’s excellent article on gating do’s and don’ts—you want to give early-stage content away. Meaning: When a buyer is in the initial phases of interaction with you, you should nurture the positive impression and give away something of value in order to earn trust. Once trust has been earned and the buyer is closer to actually purchasing, then you can potentially ask (unobtrusively) for some information.
This brings me to a client who protested the other day when I suggested a fantastic piece of existing content could be used as part of the client’s lead-nurturing strategy. The exchange went as follows:
Me: [Excitedly] “That [buyer portfolio] content is an excellent thing to give somebody who is close to making a purchase.”
Client: [Indignant shock] “Oh, no! Paul, we can’t give away proprietary information. That’s strictly an internal document. We could never show that to a client!”
Me: “I see. Maybe I misread it. My intention was not for you to give away trade secrets, but when I saw the part that simplifies a complicated process for the buyer by arranging everything in neatly divided, color-coded sections, a light bulb went off. That chart seems, if adapted properly, like a very helpful resource for somebody who is in the negotiating phase with a salesperson.”
Client: “OK, we can think about that, but we can’t give it away as is.”
Me: “Understood, and I’m glad you see what I’m seeing because your 12-18 month buying cycle for a complex and high-commitment purchase means catering the delivery of content by stage is extremely important. What appeals to prospects at the beginning of their research may not be the same thing they need when they’re ready to buy a year later. We want to be mindful of that.”
Breaking down the walls
The point was this nicely designed chart, if adapted properly, could make a relatively abstract concept more easily understand by the very people who represent this company’s most coveted clients. This content could meet a prime buyer need as a decision-support tool. It would also make the brand indirectly look good by demonstrating their thorough understanding of the buyer’s experience that happens to perfectly complement their services. In short, this was the kind of asset marketers drool over. Why would you not want to be showing that to your ideal prospects appropriate to their stage in the journey?
Upon reflection, the fact the client initially met this idea with skepticism is not too surprising (given the corporate culture she’s surrounded by), but once she understood the rationale for sharing what I’ll call marketing gold, she put her guard down. This client’s defense mechanism is an instinctual nod to the days of yore when brands were the exclusive arbiters of information with salespeople serving as high priests who guided the uninformed gently along the linear path to enlightenment … and an eventual contract.
This seller-centric world is dead. As is the fear-based rationale that governed it. The sooner all marketers begin to overcome misguided fears and walk past—or through—the wall, the better the collective buyer experience will be. I look forward to this day.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. You may also like “Making the Difficult Choice Between Marketing Agencies and Consultants.”
Photo courtesy of public domain via Wikimedia Commons.