Content marketing is on the up and up in the life sciences, but marketers face a deeply existential question with every prized piece of content: Should I gate it?

What does that mean? Content marketing strives to build an audience, not drive direct sales. You need to establish a relationship with readers and work to slowly foster those leads through the buyer’s journey. It’s an extended courtship, not a singular sales push.

One of the best ways to build an audience is by collecting contact details. Gated content trades your most valuable free information for those details. Through this exchange, you can monitor reader behavior and build personalized mailing lists complete with specific buyer’s personas.

Marketing teams can then follow up with phone calls or emails that offer the reader more of what they want in a timely, targeted manner. As rules for engagement keep changing on social media networks, it’s increasingly valuable to have direct access to your audience – not mediated by revenue-driven platforms.

Although gating can be valuable, there are consequences for being too liberal with your download forms. Some of your readers will likely decide that the form is not worth the risk of being spammed or losing five minutes of their day to dead-end content. A contact form can be a barrier to entry, so you need to evaluate whether can you afford to exchange contact information for an uptick in bounce rates and fewer eyeballs on your content. You need to be confident that serious buyers will persevere. On the other hand, you risk losing the trust of those who submit their details if the gated content is weak. Particularly if you compelled them to fill out the form with promises and hype.

Nine questions to navigate gray areas

Gating material will always be a subjective process. To guide you the best we can, we’ve compiled this list of questions that help answer the crucial tenth: Should I gate it?

Is it rare? If the reader can find a version of this information on dozens of other sites in a manner of minutes, there’s no need for them to trade their contact details. Don’t try.
Is it thorough? You need to offer something more than a basic one-pager to justify having the reader jump through your hoops. It should be a definitive guide, an original presentation or a comprehensive review of your topic area.
Is there actual insight? A core foundation of content marketing is determining what you are qualified to talk about. At Chempetitive Group, we love science, but our area of expertise is marketing. Hence, our gated content is about communicating science, not proving hypotheses or weighing-in on the science our clients do.
Is the content for the customer? People don’t go out of their way to see advertisements – we get that enough in our daily lives. To gate content, you need to make it for the reader. It needs to be a genuine resource designed to serve them while establishing you as a trustworthy and knowledgeable source.
Have you invested in the content? It’s expensive creating landing pages, contact forms, tracking systems and attractive downloadable forms. Is it worth it, or could you just write a blog post?
Does other content build to this? You need to chat them up before you can ask for their number. That could mean blog posts, social media, a landing page — anything that hints at the value of the gated content and prepares the reader for what’s inside.
Do you have a plan to drive traffic? Gated material is ideally at the bottom of a wide buyer’s journey, directing traffic from many different content pieces. As a PDF, it won’t be indexed by search engines, which makes it hard for the average person to find the download page. Planning a wide inbound marketing strategy allows you to get solid visit and quality downloads that continually justify high quality content production.
Do you have a purpose for collecting their details? If you’ve gone all out, there needs to be an end-game. If it’s sales, you need to be ready to pounce with a follow up call in a matter of hours. If it’s the long game, put tactics in place to send personalized follow-up emails (by asking for their job title, company etc.)
Are you making the cow obsolete? There’s an old saying: if you give away the milk, they’ll never buy the cow. It sums up the ‘taster’ content approach — offer insider access to your goods while maintaining (and hopefully increasing) demand for your products and services. Show the value of what you do in significant detail, without arming the reader with enough do-it-yourself information to go out on their own.

Conclusion

Gating material means putting your credibility on the line. You’re cashing in audience trust and, they are going to feel ripped off if the content on the other side isn’t valuable. Your audience should want to read it more than you want them to have it. Any direct sales material should be made as accessible as possible, but truly valuable, customer orientated content? Go ahead and gate it.