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To Gate or Not to Gate, That is the Question...

I used to be a huge proponent of gating. Sure, we could give some previews, or less important content away for free, but if you wanted that snazzy new ebook we just spent weeks writing, adding cool graphics to, and producing, it was going to cost you.

What I've come to realize is that all gates are not created equally, and that in most cases, marketers (like me) were (and are) gating content so that our own metrics actually look great, not because we've created any meaningful engagement with a potential customer. After all, it used to be quite something to report out the number of downloads we'd received on a pillar piece we'd spent a lot of time producing, and we'd point with pride the number of MQL's we'd generated just on the back of that one content piece alone. High intent, people! Get on those phones and call the number on your screen!

But the truth is, when you dig into the *actual* conversion rates of these types of leads (and make no mistake, 99% of them are "leads", not "demand"), they're horrible--like low single digits. And that's because most people who engage with your content on any given day are not actually looking to buy your solution--at least not just then. Most folks just want to get smarter, may be intrigued by the business problem you proport to solve, or maybe they love your format and graphics and want to emulate that in their company as well.

Open or closed?

With the advent of so many different marketing technology tools, from chatbots to retargeting software, the need for the gate--and by extension, the requirement to provide an email and phone number in exchange for the PDF download--has largely disappeared. Today the forward-looking teams are opening up their gates and letting the content flow. Sure they're tracking us as we return to the site to consume more, and if they're smart they may be measuring our intent or serving up ads that relate to how they can help us. But more and more, the pendulum (especially in these COVID times) has swung back to honing your inbound machine and sweeping up demand based on the prospect wanting to engage with you, not your SDR's calling for a demo after one infographic download.

CMO's see through that; CEO's and CRO's are seeing through that; and perhaps most importantly, boards are now seeing through that as well. So instead of feeling great about how many emails and phone numbers you collected and leads you generated, focus instead on true engagement and conversion from your sales teams of demand into opportunity into customers. That's where the battle actually needs to be fought, and where you'll find that your value will ultimately be made or lost--not through a form fill.

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