Tuesday 2c: Gates and Thieves

A Tweet by Dennis Shiao inspires this week’s thought, Dennis seemingly wanted to download something, and he ran into a content gate that refused a Gmail address. In his Tweet, he asked – “Disallowing Gmail addresses for a white paper download. Your thoughts?” Why yes…

Dennis asks, and I have thoughts.

Gated content is a perennial topic for B2B marketers. Generally, I am not a “gate everything” kind of marketer, I would err on the side of “un-gate” in the belief that if someone digs what you do, they will come back.

Content thieves?

A few years ago, when I shared these views on LinkedIn, I ran into trouble with someone accusing people who download content without sharing their details (or leaving a Gmail address) as thieves. (A post I wish I could find, but LinkedIn search ain’t great).

While I may have “un-gate” principles, I’ve run content campaigns that have put an expensive analyst report behind a paywall, it was too expensive for the organization to consider giving it away for free.

And I have discovered that the return from such an investment was some good contacts, but finding them needed sifting through a ton of pay dirt of random contacts (and, of course, many Gmail), people not engaged enough to tell us their real name, who were clearly more interested in the content than in the product or service I was marketing at the time.

After all, if they were interested in us, they would have given the real email address that they checked occasionally, not a Gmail burner.

But we should expect that, I was not disappointed; let’s be realistic, sometimes our content is more engaging than our products and services at that moment for this visitor. So, no, they were not sales opportunities or buyers, and, for damn sure, not MQLs, but also not thieves.

Someone sharing a Gmail address is a signal, but it’s not necessarily negative; it could mean, “I am interested in this topic, but I am not prepared to engage any more deeply than being anonymous at the moment”.

We need to consider:

  • Where they are in their education journey of the category or topic
  • How valuable the content is to them at that moment
  • What they are prepared to share with you in exchange for that value
  • What would they like to happen next
  • Do they trust you

Give to get

It is not content theft, it’s just the value exchange wasn’t as high as the marketer was hoping.

What has happened is that someone has engaged with our brand, and they now know who we are as a purveyor of good content, and we may have helped them understand their problem a little better. But that awareness is not a valued metric – we typically ask, are they an MQL?


Thieving bastards.

Yes, and then there are those damn students you keep hearing about, hmmmm… are they not the future buyers we’d love to seed? Or the talent we are hoping to attract to work with us? Or….ooooh… they might be competitors? Is your secret sauce really in this whitepaper?

In my own experience, in the early days, as I transitioned from technologist to marketer, one great source of B2B marketing educational content for me was Hubspot, or specifically their blog and newsletter.

15 years ago, these guys were forging a company, defining the “inbound” category with an advanced content marketing strategy based on sharing great, useful, educational content. In my mind, their brand represented great content, but it was literally years later that I was in a position to work with their software or be in a position to buy, recommend or be an influencer.

There is also something here about reciprocity in the psychology of successful marketing, in that, as human beings, we are hard-wired to respond in kind when someone gives us something. This is why free samples and coffee work in retail. I suspect that somewhere deep in my mind, there is affection for Hubspot because they gave me something.

The tension is the timing

B2B CMO, author and previous guest on my Rockstar CMO podcast, Christine Bailey, shared a very fine statistic on LinkedIn:

Last year, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute found that 95% of target B2B buyers are not even in the market for products or services in any particular quarter.  

In many professions, marketing included, we are encouraged to be constant learners. We should spend some of our time noodling around and looking at new research, products, techniques, agencies and service providers that might or might not be useful right now. So, a lot of attention and interest is swirling around, but a low proportion of those are buyers today.

The question is, do you want to invest in educating these folks, maybe in exchange for a burner Gmail address?

However good Hubspot’s technology might be, I’d be willing to bet they couldn’t attribute a conversation I might have had with a peer asking about a recommendation for marketing automation two years ago to a blog post I read or a whitepaper I downloaded over a decade ago (yeah, that was me trussy@gmail.com).

Our panic about Gmail addresses, or gating at all, is all about timing.

And attribution. Or what to attribute as valuable.

So, yes, Dennis – I have thoughts….

BTW – I mentioned Hubspot; there are other marketing technologies available, have you looked at Spotler Group – new website coming ;-)?

The featured image was created with the help of Artificial Intelligence using NightCafe Creator.

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