Agency, Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Sales

Gate the Content! Or: On Tenacious Remnants of Demand Gen 1.0

Full disclosure: I love the words “tenacious” and “remnant”.

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As part of introductions, I sat through a content marketing master class organized by a marketing agency in London some weeks ago.

regpageSide note #1: “Master class” usually means: “We’ll keep it short and therefore we’ll only be able to introduce the topic, without really increasing your understanding of any of it. But we serve great coffee and it will look great on your LinkedIn profile without really pulling you out of your social life, like real education would – so let’s just all sing along and be happy, shall we?”

Side note #2: A marketing agency hosting a content marketing event for prospect marketers is bravely walking the walk, don’t you agree? They deserve credit for that, and the marketers in the room should be whipped for attending.

But I digress.

B2B Demand Generation has changed dramatically – we all know that. But some of the traditional mechanisms are still around – remnants of the days when generating demand was straightforward. You can tell you’ve stumbled upon one when the marketing agency boss presenter starts stuttering and uttering random words without really answering the question. That question, posed by one of the prospect marketers and aspiring content strategists in the room, was:

“What is your opinion on gating premium content?”

In case you’re new to the subject: gating a piece of content means you put a registration page in front of it, asking people to leave their details in order to be able to download the asset. The basic idea used to be that it represents a fair exchange of value: I give you an excellent whitepaper about our solution, you give me your professional details. (So I can call you.)

The question was only answered partially. Something along the lines of: “Why would you offer great content and then require the very-soon-to-be-engaged prospects to leave their details before being able to check it out? It’s really interrupting their engagement with your brand and value proposition, isn’t it? And if you give them free and great content often enough, they understand you know what you’re talking about and they will call to book a meeting with your sales rep.” Hmm.

Up until about 5 years ago, B2B demand generation actually was quite simple. We’d find prospects by throwing money at search marketing, get them to sign up for something (anything) – whitepaper, webinar, event – and use their contact details to get them on the phone and arrange for a sales meeting. They’d wonder how we found out about their latent demand and cheerfully signed up. Better buyer insights translated into higher conversion rates, larger lead pools and a healthier sales pipeline. Heydays. They’re well behind us, indeed.

Buyers go online to research in stealth mode now. Incognito. They listen to users, read about the vendors, products, solutions and services out there and based on what they learn build a short list. Hardly ever they speak up in this part of the process. They continue listening and reading until they have a clear image of what they’d be buying from each of the vendors, how the solutions would be prized, sold, contracted, serviced and integrated into the incumbent solution set or infrastructure. What the update and upgrade paths look like over time and how that would impact the total cost of owning the solution.

They already know all of that just by anonymously browsing (comments to) press articles, social platforms, community forums and blogs. No real reason to engage vendors anywhere in this process and self-identify as a prospect, is there? They know they’ll receive a phone call the minute they raise their hand online.

My dear readers, are you really tracking prospect behavior on third party websites without registrations being involved – synced all the way with your CRM system?

I doubt it.

So yes, most of marketing is certainly and quickly turning inbound. But we still need to know who you are if we are to sell you something at some point, don’t we? In this new and improved world, how does that work?

So one of my new best fellow prospective marketer friends attending the marketing agency’s content marketing master class popped the question: “Should premium content – the great videos, infographics, research reports, guest blog posts, paid LinkedIn updates and tweets we are all investing our good marketing bucks in – be gated or offered for free?”

The question was never really answered. We moved to the agenda of upcoming master classes – and of course all came with big fat shiny registration buttons.

Can you share a short description of a demand generation tactic you have tested that didn’t come with some sort of online registration?

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