Want more leads? Stop gating your content behind opt-in forms.

Posted by Lilach Bullock on 12 Dec, 2017
View comments Marketing
Are opt-in forms putting off your potential sales? Lilach Bullock asks if it's time to stop gating behind forms and looks at the non-invasive alternatives offered by new tech.

gating with forms

Yes, we all want eyes on our content, but even better than clickthroughs are opt-ins, right?

You aren’t alone if you find yourself contending with low conversion rates on your site’s landing pages or abysmally poor performance when it comes to newsletter signups on your blog.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it might be time to rethink the way you handle forms and popups.

Digital marketing trends come and go so quickly, it can be hard to keep up. In the process, you may even forget to make sure your sales prospects are at the center of every decision you make. With all of the focus on KPIs in today’s funnel-oriented marketing, you can be forgiven for overlooking the basics of building relationships with strangers.

When a site visitor shows up for the first time, you need to make them feel welcome and safe before hitting them up with any sort of pitch.

Let prospects work their way around the site without interruption. When a new audience member hits your resources, you want them to feel comfortable – not hounded. Conversation is what prospects are after – on their terms. That’s why the data shows you’re likely to see a 31% increase in sign-up form fills when a “chat now” button is included on a site. What’s more, using friendly, “natural language” on those forms can boost conversions by up to 40%.

On-demand human interaction

Go to the nearest shopping center and watch the interactions in any given store. Successful retail stores follow a model that’s worked consistently for years. They say hello to the shoppers who enter, and then they watch for when someone looks like he or she want to be approached. Only then does a team member engage – but always without pushing for a sale or prying for information.

You won’t find sales reps chasing customers around showroom floors or aisles of merchandise displays. And when they do, it shows, because the customers flee. Most are there to browse, a few might buy, and when they are ready for a more personal interaction, they’ll tell the salesperson.

Online leads are people too. Ruined by the amount of data we can track on site - visitor clickthrough rates, engagement indicators and micro conversions - too many digital marketers have become content-pushing monsters with one goal on their mind: turn prospects into leads through opt-ins. The value of a warm and inviting interaction has largely been forgotten.

It’s a flawed approach.

As of two years ago, some 211 million pieces of content were produced or shared every minute, according to ACI. Content shock is a real phenomenon. The idea of getting a leg up on the competition by posting one more great blog post, tweaking SEO to max and offering the best opt-in freebies around is outdated. Site visitors aren’t looking for more junk to clutter their hard drive. They’re looking for info they can use and a conversation worth having.

In a 2013 survey by The Relevancy Group, 74% of online buyers agreed that “the ability to connect with the seller would encourage [them] to spend more online.” The personal touch is something people are sorely missing.

Gated content chases away shares and customers

Most of the content produced today doesn’t get shared. By some estimates, as much as 50% won’t even gather eight shares. Contemporary marketing works best when you emphasize content that can be accessed, shared and promoted with minimum friction.

When email marketing platform VerticalResponse stopped gating their premium content assets in 2013, they saw download rates increase by about 7% within the first month alone.

No matter how great the material you produce might be, chances are, something comparable already exists on a different brand’s platform for free. Today’s internet users are used to a fast-paced environment, and they’re resourceful. If they can’t get what they want from you, they’ll look elsewhere.

Gated content is a dying model. When you’re trying to sell a product or promote a brand don’t close the door in your prospect’s face. People want to get to know your company before opting in to anything.

Imagine walking into your local hardware store to browse for gardening supplies. You head over to the section you want to see and a salesperson shows up out of the blue.

“Hey! How’s it going? What’s your name? Would you like some free charcoal briquettes?” they may ask.

You didn’t really need charcoal briquettes, but it never hurts to get a discount, and you do have a grill, so you tell them, albeit hesitantly. The salesperson replies:

“Great! Nice to meet you. Now can you tell me your birthday? Where do you live? What’s your email address?”

Are those charcoal briquettes worth it? Feels more than a little intrusive, doesn’t it? That’s the problem with the modern opt-in ask. You’re talking with people, not just prospects. Sharing personal info isn’t something most people do easily, and begging for it at the start of an interaction is forced and uncomfortable for everyone involved.  

New technology offers noninvasive lead-gathering solutions

Today’s marketing technology makes it easy to retarget prospects and use IP intelligence tools to nurture your leads in non-invasive ways, even when they haven’t downloaded your opt-ins. New software is emerging that can make lead gathering and nurturing a natural and friendly process.

Many swear by the power of retargeting site visitors with ads on third-party sites. It’s even possible to integrate these types of media placements with your paid content distribution campaigns, so you can serve up targeted messaging to the people who click on your native ads when they’re on Facebook or looking at Google search results.

There are other solutions out there for next-generation B2B marketers who want to engage with audience members without roadblocking them on their journeys of content discovery, allowing marketers to break free of ineffective gated content without compromising on the effectiveness of their lead generation tactics. There are even sales-oriented content analytics tools that help you to identify anonymous site visitors, so you can reach out to them and offer helpful advice via social media or email.

It’s up to you

As content marketing thought leader Joe Pulizzi once asked, “What’s more important to you?…lead information on the few, or the opportunity to spread your brand to decision-makers who you are not talking with right now?”

It might just be time to let go of those ineffective gated content funnels and embrace a more natural form of lead nurturing. The choice is yours.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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