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Defending gated content from damnation 🔥 Content Hell

Alan Wanders
Alan Wanders
Hi everyone,
When this email hits your inbox I’ll have just landed in Singapore on a connecting flight to Sydney. With my 5-month old daughter. Wish me luck 🤞
But right now (48 hours ago) I’m writing a defence of gated content from a cafe in Bath.

Lots of marketers are making crosses with their fingers and hissing at every example of gated content. And most of the time fair enough. I still see a lot of gated content out there that assumes an acquisition funnel that’s way too simplistic to actually work.
The Venn diagram of people downloading your ‘tips to being a better marketer’ and people ready to buy your marketing SaaS looks less partial eclipse and more pair of bollocks.
People (including me) are learning how to do demand gen from Chris Walker, who ungates all his content. These are his reasons. The gist is that more people consume the content if it’s ungated and that content helps people buy.
It’s great that people are on board with this. The focus on delivering useful info rather than jamming folk into a funnel means that marketing is getting less rubbish.
But the growing assumption that gated content = bad content means that we could miss out on a few really great campaigns…
Here’s when gated content works.
1. Your content is *very* bottom-of-funnel
… so bottom of funnel that it would be unlikely that - as a next step - they wouldn’t want to learn more about your product.
Here’s an example Microacquire advertised on Product Hunt: “Free valuations and analytics for your SaaS startup”. You have to sign up to Microacquire to connect your payment systems and get a valuation.
What’s the first thing you do when you want to sell your SaaS? You get it valued. Now you can do both in the same place.
When the value of your content is very strong (ie. people will struggle to find it elsewhere) and leads naturally to your product, you can afford to gate.
With all those payment insights flowing into their platform, Microacquire is probably in a good place to release benchmarking and analysis content too.
2. You’re releasing content bit by bit
This next example of gated content works, because there’s no obvious gate.
Fashion content platform Creative Force offers an ungated report on how to introduce reporting for your creative studio. Fab - except it’s not complete. Only 3 of the 15 chapters have been written…
At the end of each chapter, it says…
I like this approach a lot. If you’re putting together a big ol’ bit of content, then it makes sense to release chapters as soon as they’re done.
We work for SaaS companies, not Penguin Random House. Let’s ship quickly and often so we can course correct or scrap work early that our audience isn’t loving.
The CTA has a really clear, non-intrusive value exchange too: You enjoyed the first chapters, now you want the next ones direct to your inbox. It’s a bleeding win-win.
3. You’re an early-stage founder / marketer
The gated content ‘rules’ don’t apply in the same way when you’re an early stage marketer.
Of course you want a full pipeline of leads, but if you’ve never marketed your SaaS before, you’d be better off focusing on building relationships with your target audience. Find out what they’re challenged with, what they’d be prepared to pay to resolve that challenge, and what messages you need to put in front of them.
Content is a good way to start those conversations
I used to work for an employee engagement tool, as the only marketer, and later - the only employee. It was exciting to be running a business - without the risk of owning it - and I gave it everything I had.
Lots of what I did was hacky and untargeted, but some campaigns were really effective in their own way.
e.g. I posted this to a Facebook group of internal HR tech people and connected with almost 100 people who wanted the engagement calculator.
If I had gated this content I would have missed out on the conversations that came from it. No one would have bothered to speak to me.
(Although I basically missed out on that opportunity anyway because I tried to sell to these HR people immediately. So don’t do that.)
So there you go, hopefully I’ve convinced you that not all gated content is a dead end. Some of it’s a… gate. 
👉 Over to you
Thanks for reading! Now you’re done there are two ways you can help. Either would be amazing.
  1. Forward it on to someone who you think would like it
  2. Reply and let me know what you thought of it
Thanks, and see you in two weeks!
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Alan Wanders
Alan Wanders

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