Often when we discuss ungating content, it’s the sales team that is portrayed as the sticking point – they don’t want to give up the leads collected on e-book downloads.
But from my experience, it’s usually the marketing team that offers the strongest pushback. While they often agree that it would be great to give people whatever content they want, no questions asked, they typically come around to the same pointed question: If we don’t collect emails, how will we nurture prospects who download the content?
It’s a fair question. Nurture workflows allow companies to deliver prospects a stream of content that’s designed to guide them through the buyer journey. If done right, those nurture campaigns provide value to both the prospects (by answering key questions) and the organization (by keeping them engaged with prospects until they’re ready to buy).
It’s also a fairly pointed question aimed directly at me. Since I’m responsible for content strategy, they want to know how I plan on putting all that content I recommended in front of prospects. It’s like asking the chef how he expects people to taste his food when he insists on doing away with any type of menu.
But just because email campaigns are how we’ve typically nurtured prospects doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Here are five ways to nurture your prospects without collecting email addresses via gated content.
This one seems obvious, and yet I’m always amazed at how few businesses promote content through their social media channels. No, social media doesn’t have the same organic reach that it did in the past, but it’s still an effective way to get content in front of prospects to nurture them through the buyer journey.
While reduced reach prevents your posts from being seen by every follower, social media platforms do still serve up your posts to those who regularly engage with your content. That means that prospects who are showing the highest intent, and who you really want to be engaging with, are also the social followers most likely to see your content in their feed.
If content is king, binge-able content is emperor. When people encounter quality content, they want more of it, right then and there. For proof, look no further than Netflix. But also look at your own habits. When researching a product or service, I tend to read multiple articles in one sitting. If I’m on a good site, all of that content is easy to find and access, providing all of the answers without me having to navigate elsewhere. In consuming that content, I’m passing through multiple stages of the buyer journey.
When promoting an asset, consider using the confirmation or landing page to promote other related assets that might interest prospects. In essence, you’re turning a landing page into a hyper-focused resource page. There are two strategic plays to leverage here:
Whenever we create content for clients, we always include a call-to-action (CTA) for another piece of content at the end, usually for an asset that represents the next natural step in the buyer journey. Maybe an infographic goes to a guide. Or perhaps a one-pager promotes a demo. This allows you to nurture prospects within the asset they’re consuming.
But you can take this a step further. For longer content, consider placing multiple CTAs throughout the asset. An e-book could also promote a related tip sheet and blog posts or link out to a video or calculator.
Think about the experience a pillar page provides visitors. It’s a long-form page with lots of opportunities to learn more about the topic via multiple types of content. While improved SEO is often cited as the benefit of pillar pages, I’d argue that the greater advantage is the ability to guide prospects through the buyer journey on a single page. Mirror that all-in-one experience with your content – either on a web page or within a PDF.
One of the benefits of email nurturing is timing. Nurture emails are typically sent several days after an asset is downloaded. While it’s true that people love to binge content, it’s also true that even if they consume all of that content in one sitting, they’re still unlikely to be ready to buy. Purchase decisions take time, and an email sequence allows you to stay top of mind with prospects after they’ve digested your content.
Remarketing provides that same benefit without the need for an email address, allowing you to show paid ads to people who have visited your website. While many businesses use remarketing to show branded awareness ads, you can also use it to then deliver ads for more content. If someone downloads an e-book, you can use remarketing to deliver an ad that promotes a case study or a demo. In effect, the ad plays the same role as a nurture email.
In many ways, technology has blinded marketers. We’re so enamored with channels where performance can be measured that we completely ignore those where it can’t. However, there are many public channels where content is being shared, recommendations are being sought and buying decisions are being made, but which don’t allow for measurable insights.
Where? Social media, professional organizations, user groups and message boards, to name a few.
Think about the number of professional groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. These are channels where professionals freely discuss their challenges and ask for recommendations or solutions. They may even be having conversations about your business, product or service. They’re referred to as dark channels because marketers really can’t objectively see how their efforts are performing here.
Here’s the thing – you can often join these groups. Typically, a single person must create the account (that is, I’d create an account for Bob, not Square 2) and there are explicit rules about soliciting (which could get you banned). If you can get into one of these groups, your role is to be a good citizen, a helpful source of knowledge and advice. Nobody should ever think that you are selling anything.
For instance, I previously worked at a BBQ company that sold pellet grills. Our lead salesperson was a member of multiple groups and message boards for pellet grill owners. He’d routinely offer tips to people having problems with their grill, provide recommendations to those looking to buy a grill and share relevant industry news that we had access to. When we launched our own pellet grill, he didn’t promote it in the general forum where it would be seen as self-serving; instead, he created a new forum where anyone interested in the grill could learn more, and those who bought it could ask questions.
While it’s not easy to navigate these dark channels, becoming a trusted member of a group can provide a ton of credibility within conversations that lead directly to sales opportunities. In the event you’re not able to share content or nurture prospects in these channels, you can still get invaluable insight into what prospects are talking about and what’s important to them, which can inform future marketing decisions.
I freely admit to wanting to ungate every asset possible. I want as many people as possible to have the content we create for clients. That being said, some content needs an email address. For example, webinars typically require an email address so that you can provide the link to the live event and the post-webinar recording.
While they may seem like a relic of the past, great newsletters can be incredibly valuable to readers, providing them with a lot of great content at once. They also require an email address, as do blog subscriptions.
These types of offers allow prospects to voluntarily opt into emails and give you the ability to deliver more content to them going forward. It’s imperative, however, that you not destroy the trust you’ve built that led them to opt-in. Here are a few simple but key guidelines:
When doing something new, it’s important to ask critical questions and to think through every step. In the case of ungating content, it’s important to consider how you will continue to deliver content to and nurture prospects without capturing email addresses.
But it’s equally important to not let those questions, or the lack of easy answers, prevent you from implementing changes that will provide a better experience for your prospects and a more streamlined path to purchase. Even without capturing emails, it’s possible to effectively nurture your prospects.
The above examples, which can be mixed and matched to fill a variety of channels with content, are just a few of the possible ways. Get creative and think outside the box for novel solutions. And perhaps most importantly, think like a buyer. Where would you like to see that content? How would you like to receive it? If you can begin to answer those questions and execute on the solutions, you’ll be well on your way to filling the nurture gap created by ungating content.