Why Gating Content May Not Be a Winning Strategy After All
For years, gating content has been a standard marketing strategy used by millions of companies, including the legal industry. For those who are not familiar with the term “gated content,” it’s simply requiring website visitors to fill out a form in order to obtain online material, such as articles, white papers, etc. However, as the digital age marches on, even those who have long championed the virtues of gating content are beginning to rethink this strategy. For example, author and advisor David C. Baker recently wrote, “I’ve been coming around to the opinion that this whole gated content thing (which I’ve been using for decades, frankly) is missing some larger points in the content marketing universe.” And we agree with David.
Does the Gated Content Strategy Work?
Need proof that it’s time to take a second look at your gating practices? Consider your own experience with gated content in this common scenario:
You’re looking for information on a website and you follow the trail to get what you’re looking for…only to find that in order to access the information you want, you’ll need to provide your email address or “sign up” to continue reading. Congratulations, you’ve reached the site’s gated content.
But you don’t want to sign up or be added to another email list, so what do you do? Do you provide your information, while accepting that this is the proverbial cost of doing business? Do you sign up (but vow to immediately unsubscribe once you have the information you were seeking)? Or, do you start your search over, rather than providing the site with your contact information? How you feel about reaching gated content is a good indicator of how at least some of the visitors to your law firm’s website feel when they are asked to provide their email in return for information.
Reasons to Consider Eliminating Gated Content
Even if reaching gated content doesn’t turn you off personally, it’s reasonable to accept that it is a deterrent to others, particularly when speed is the name of the game for many web visitors. The reality is that prospects want to find information as quickly as possible. Any obstacle that slows them down may encourage them to leave your site.
Another reason to consider unlocking your gated content lies in the fact that your competitors have unlocked content. Rest assured, just because you don’t provide specific information on your website without a subscription or an email capture, another firm does provide this information— with no strings attached.
Lastly, although plenty of people still use laptops or desktops (with a full keyboard), mobile devices are taking over, and even the most mobile-savvy users in the world are often averse to having to fill out small online forms from a smartphone keyboard.
Objections to Ungating Your Law Firm’s Website Content
Based on the above, maybe it’s time to unlock your content, but there are reasonable fears that come with this. One of the most common fears is that you’ll be giving away advice for free. However, consider that it’s unlikely the prospect looking for information is going to handle their matter on their own. It’s probable that they want to know more about the issue and will still need to hire you. Moreover, while you can discuss your expertise and successes in your bio, informational content, such as blogs, articles and white papers, provide a greater opportunity to demonstrate you’re the go-to expert in your area. Gating this content may prevent a prospect from choosing you over your competitor that has information readily available. To counteract the fear of giving away information for free, be sure to include well placed and minimally invasive calls to action throughout your site so that visitors can contact you easily when they are ready to talk with you.
A word about the phrase “minimally invasive” as referenced above is warranted here. You don’t want to turn off visitors, so consider reducing the amount of information you’re requesting from a prospect so it’s not time consuming and doesn’t feel invasive. For example, do you request both an email address and a phone number, or do you request one or the other? (Hint: always err on the side of an email request). Another recommendation is to doorway with requesting their physical mailing address or other personal information. In most cases, first and last name and an email address should provide what you need.
When it comes to whether or not to open up your gated contact, consider that operating from a scarcity viewpoint, as Baker calls it, is not a winning strategy. If you’re terrified that you’re going to lose business because you’ve “given away” too much on your website, or because you haven’t captured the contact information for every single visitor to your website, there may be larger business development problems that need to be addressed within the firm.