Yesterday we looked at how ungating content could ruin your company and destroy the internet. Today let’s look at the bright side. (😁 It’s Friday.)
To recap, the premise is that you currently have a nice white paper on your website, and visitors can trade their contact info for the opportunity to read it.
You follow up with these visitors via email and phone. Some become purchasers – call them “white paper purchasers.” Some don’t – I’ve given them the creative name “white paper non-purchasers.”
This is the state of the world when you flip the switch to make your white paper freely available – no email or phone number required.
White paper purchasers
In yesterday’s dystopian nightmare scenario, you lose all of your whitepaper purchasers. They buy someone else’s thing, or they buy nothing at all.
In the best case scenario, they all still buy. Instead of responding to your followup sequence, they read the white paper in peace, are dazzled by your knowledge and charmed by your generosity.
They return to the site of their own volition and fill out a form to contact sales. They’re educated, they trust your company, and they’re ready to buy. Money falls from the sky.
White paper non-purchasers
In the best case scenario, some of these folks magically become purchasers. How?
With gated content they ignore, or are simply not moved by, the followup email sequence and sales outreach. Maybe they resented submitting their contact info in the first place, and so they resent the followup. (Maybe they submitted “firstname.lastname@example.org” as their Business Email, and the followup doesn’t even reach them.)
But with ungated content, they get no friction, and no followup. Just free, valuable content from a not-at-all-annoying company that is clearly an expert in the field.
Can they share this content with their team, consider their options, and eventually find their own way back to the site to reach out? In our ungated utopia, some of them do.
These are the people we never heard from in the gated content scenario. They never filled out the form to get the white paper. That doesn’t mean they weren’t interested in it.
With your content ungated, some of these visitors will access and read the white paper. Maybe a handful, maybe a ton.
We’ve already seen how the magic of your content and expertise can bring people back to the site, eager to fill out a form and talk to sales. It works the same way with this (potentially huge) group.
When you ungated your white paper, you made it way easier to share. And it’s a great white paper, so it does get shared. Then what happens?
You get an influx of curious, qualified traffic from social and dark social channels. They come to download the whitepaper, or they’ve already read it and they come to learn more.
Depending on how compelling your content is, this could be a lot of people. And some of them end up purchasing. Money falls from the sky.
Are you in dystopia or utopia?
Estimating the potential loss associated with ungating content was tricky, but not impossible. (If your product is a nice-to-have, and most of the heavy lifting is done by your sales team, ungating is pretty risky.)
It’s even harder to estimate the potential gains, but let’s give it a shot. Here are a few questions to ponder with your team:
- Would any of our white paper purchasers come back to buy if they got the white paper for free? Would the majority of them?
- Will our audience be moved by the magnanimous gesture of offering free content? Will it win over some of our white paper non-purchasers or anonymous visitors? How many? 1 in 1,000? 1 in 100?
- How shareable is this content? If we put it out there, will it get passed around via social channels, chat, and personal emails? How many more visitors might come in as a result? How many of them can we convert?
Test it! Sort of
If your sales cycle is long and your volume is below, say, 500 sales a month, it’ll be difficult to A/B test gated versus ungated content.
But if you’re interested in trying it – without going fully ungated – you can offer one of your most popular resources for free. Track downloaders, clicks on links in the PDF, and (as best you can) social shares.
If your downloaders never come back, or come back but don’t fill out a form, you were probably better off with gated content.
Once some of these “PDF link clickers” do fill out a form, keep an eye on their quantity and close rate in the sales funnel. Talk to sales! Do these people love your company and already know all about your product? You may be onto something. Welcome to utopia.