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With New Tools Come New Options For Giving Visitors Content And Getting Their Contact Info
Gates are typically designed to keep people out. As marketers, sales leaders and CEOs, we want to let people in, but we need the gate to know who we’re letting in. Now we can do both — let them in and find out who we let in.
I wrote an article in May, Gated Or Ungated Educational Content? That Is The Question. I also wrote about this same topic in April 2017 when we published Gated Content Vs. Ungated Content Inside An Inbound Marketing Program.
The gated vs. ungated argument has been picking up steam. Many marketers are pro-ungated, but I’m wondering why and thinking it might have more to do with accountability than an understanding of how to generate real leads.
Let’s take a quick historical detour. Marketers have never wanted to be accountable for metrics. Advertising has always been this black hole that is rarely directly connected to revenue. Marketers have always wanted to do more creative ad programs than metrics-driven lead gen programs.
The idea of brand awareness is so core to supporting this argument. Brand awareness is this vague and difficult to measure number that is always up for discussion.
Over the past 10 years, marketers have been called to the carpet. The influx of marketing technology and inbound marketing methodology has forced many marketers to be accountable for the number of leads they generate, the quality of leads they generate, the revenue attributed to those leads and the generation of revenue for their companies.
CEOs and sales executives are wanting marketing leaders to be accountable for metrics, just like sales and just like company execs.
But over the past few years, it looks like marketers are trying to go back in time. Demand generation and brand awareness are back with ungated content, leaving leads generated as the lost metric again.
I can’t help but wonder if this is about not wanting to be accountable for the performance of their programs.
If all of your content is ungated, and if there are no conversion points on your website and within your digital marketing, then you can only be measured on sales-qualified leads. While that is a legitimate measure of marketing performance, and some could argue (me included) that this is the most important metric, I’m still not sure it’s the only metric.
That got me thinking: Why do we have to pick one or the other? Why is it always ungated or gated? Now I know you can gate some content and ungate others. I’m not oblivious to the obvious idea of a mix of ungated and gated content.
But isn’t there an option that might be in between these two extremes? Is there a way to generate marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) while still providing access to all of the content we have to offer?
The answer appears to be yes! Let me show you what we call casual gating, or as Drift might prefer, conversational content.
By the way, I haven’t found any references to conversational gating; I just married their conversational content with our new casual gating approach.
You’ve heard of conversational marketing. It’s Drift’s methodology designed to eliminate the form in the conversion process associated with most gated content deployments.
Instead of putting a form between you and your prospect, Drift puts up a conversational chat that allows prospects to get answers and sales reps to convert prospects into sales leads. Drift has been extremely successful selling software and promoting its book, “Conversational Marketing.”
Conversational gating uses some of the same philosophy. In fact, to be fair, we got the idea from Drift.
This is what we call casual gating. What we do is publish content, like an e-book, on your website without a gate. Everyone gets access to the educational content.
Along with the educational content, like an e-book, is a chat feature and a set of chats that follow the flow of the e-book (see example).
As the reader consumes the content, the chat supports the content. Some of the chat conversation is an attempt to get to know them, their priorities and their challenges. Other questions are an attempt to qualify them for our sales team.
The goal is to drive a conversion — a new contact, a marketing-qualified lead, a sales-qualified lead or even a legit sales opportunity.
By creating a compelling conversation to go along with our compelling content, we create what we call a casual gate. When and if the visitor is ready to connect with us, that opportunity is right there.
There is less friction than a form. It’s much more natural. Sales or marketing can participate in the chat. The experience is interactive, and you can use the chat to future qualify beyond any form. You can also get immediate subjective feedback on your content, something most forms or ungated approaches fail to deliver.
It’s the new way to drive conversions at scale while attempting to drive sales-qualified leads at the same time.
There are a couple of different ways to go about doing this. One way is with existing content and another way is with new content. Existing content is going to be easier but runs the risk of having your visitors feel like they’ve seen that material before.
New content is going to be harder because you have to create the new content and you’ll never be sure of its ability to drive leads until you publish it.
Our first experiment included using existing content so we could get a benchmark performance metric from the content in its gated format vs. its new casual gated format.
We transformed our e-book “The Mega Guide To Revenue Growth In 2020” into an on-site asset and coupled it with Drift code to run the chat parallel to the e-book.
We then created the series of chats, chat bots, chat bot answers, chat questions and pathing for the chat bot to provide an interactive experience that marries what the content of the e-book is passing along.
As the visitor reads the e-book, the chat experience is related to the content in the e-book. We scripted out the chat flows and copy in advance and then built out the chat experience to match our scripts and flows.
After a bit of testing, trial and error, experiments and feedback from our team, we had our conversational gated e-book and chat tool set up.
We included three attempts at conversion during the chat, each with a bit more company information. For those who did share, we went deeper on qualification, attempting to move as many people deeper into their buyer journey and closer to a sales-qualified lead or sales opportunity as we could with chat.
One reason we picked an educational asset we had already was to get the benchmark data on the performance of that asset. We needed that to compare its gated performance with its performance in the casual gating environment.
Metrics you want to look at include:
Now to be fair, we’re going to compare all of the same data points with people who open the ungated PDF and convert via the conversation attached to the PDF. We’ll lose some of the click data around the CTA and the landing page, but if this works, that data should be irrelevant as we see how this does in terms of creating new MQLs, SQLs, sales opportunities and new clients.
To normalize our experiment, we’ll do a monthly average for the old-style gated data. That asset has been a high-performing asset for a long time, so taking an average over the past 12 months will give us a solid representation of what numbers the new casual gated approach has to beat in our experiment.
We’ll run this experiment for at least 30 days. It’s very possible we’ll make some adjustments based on feedback and data during the experiment, and it’s also likely that we might extend the time frame once we feel like the execution is dialed in. Then we’ll have 30 days of data to compare with the previous gated data that averages 30 days of performance.
We can also look at the data daily and weekly. This allows us to do some projections, forecast 30-day performance and make good decisions around what adjustments to make and when.
Leads are great, but sales will quickly suck the wind out of your sails if your leads are poor quality.
The casual gating approach needs to include questions that further qualify the lead. That information needs to be passed on and shared with the sales team.
Not only does this give better content to the sales team, but it should shorten the sales cycle as your sales team starts their conversations with prospects from a more educated perspective. This helps prospects feel safer, helps them feel like you know them, eliminates the need to go over information twice and allows reps to quickly get to the big issues facing prospects.
Now that quality is out of the way, let’s get back to numbers.
If you notice in our example, there is an option to set up a meeting with our sales team. This is, of course, the ultimate goal of any marketing campaign. This aligns with what I said earlier, which is that marketers should be singularly focused on generating SQLs for the sales team.
However, this doesn’t diminish the power of MQLs and the programmatic way these can be nurtured to turn them into SQLs down the road. You want all of your engines firing on all cylinders. You want SQLs coming directly from website visitors and you want SQLs coming from nurture campaigns to MQLs, too.
It’s the combination that produces the best results. Gating or ungating limits at least one half of the formula, in our eyes.
Now with your educational content, you can ungate it while generating MQLs and SQLs in a very conversational way.