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How to Use Gated Content In Email Marketing

Gated Content In Email Marketing

Gated content is a part of all best performing inbound marketing strategies, and it is equally useful for email marketing. Marketers use gated content to reward engagement and lead generation with insightful, genuinely valuable content pieces in exchange for submitting user information.

For email marketing, this boils down to submitting an email address and consent to joining the email list for getting access to the promised resource. 

With this being said, using gated content requires proper strategy, and I am going to share a few insights into how you can use this content in email marketing. Dive in deeper to understand the nitty-gritty of the topic:

How Does Gated Content Work In Email Marketing 

On interacting with your brand or your website’s blog, you can offer the user a comprehensive piece of information on the respective subject. This comprehensive content can be in various forms, such as:

  • E-book
  • Whitepaper
  • Report
  • Technical resource
  • Webinar pass
  • Online tool
  • Templates
  • Freebies
  • Any other form of thought leadership and utilizable resource
ebook download lead magent example

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When the user finds that the provided comprehensive content will be useful to them, it is offered to them for free by submitting their email address and consent to join the email list. This is known as gating/locking the content, and the submission of lead data unlocks the access to it. The process requires the user to opt-in, and in return, they are promised the respective content. This ‘promised’ resource is usually sent in an email which may also include a second opt-in form. 

How To Collect Email Addresses Using Gated Content

In this section, we will see the different methods of collecting email addresses using gated content. You can include the opt-in form at various locations but make sure to deliver enough value to your users before you ask them to submit their ids. Many online newspapers like Washington Post and Harvard Business Review, allow readers to consume some articles before asking you to opt-in while others blur out the lower portion of the article.

Statista also follows this model where you can see their basic charts for free, but the more extensive ones require you to opt-in. I assume that by now, you have understood the significance of providing good value to spark curiosity/create demand, let us delve deeper into different email address collection strategies:

Here’s one of the classic examples: Put up the promised resource (lead magnet), leave a blank field to enter the email address, and a CTA button. Pop-ups are extremely popular for pitching gated content. You can strategically add it at the bottom or right corner of your web page but just make sure that it is aligned to the topic discussed on the particular page:

PDF lead magnet example

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If you are willing to gather more than just an email id, it’s a good idea to reveal more information regarding the gated resource. You don’t need to overdo but try to include the highlights, statistics, and deliverables to convince your readers that the labor of filling all the information is valid. Also, the information required shouldn’t be too personal, or else it will demotivate them instantly. For example, you can ask them to fill their city, but by no means should you demand their full postal address. This might sound quirky, but so many businesses do it wrong, so keep this aspect in mind. 

Here’s an example:

webinar lead magnet form

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Here’s another example of doing so while using headshots. You can use this format if the speakers at the webinar are well recognized and to add value to it:

webinar lead manget example with headshots

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Exit-intent pop-ups are also a popular avenue for placing gated content and collecting email addresses. Double Your Freelancing used Upland Software, and they were able to increase 25,000 subscribers shortly after implementation. Glance it down here:

Double Your Freelancing homepage

When you try to leave the site, they show this pop-up and offer their ongoing action plans and webinars:

Double Your Freelancing exit intent poup

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However, I recommend readers build dedicated landing pages for their list building initiatives. This helps in improving the conversion rates, goes well with paid marketing, and gives you the freedom to enhance UX. It will also help improve user trackability. Look at this beautiful landing page:

cardinalpath Gated Content landing page

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A lot of marketers advise building a gated resource page that you can link with different content distribution channels. This is extremely beneficial for growing your mailing list as you can target people with various preferences.

When Should I Gate My Content

The short answer is seldom. Unless you are a highly recognized name in the industry and your brand value is strong enough for people to agree instantly, don’t use it across your website. Also, you can display the forms on the pages relevant to your lead magnet. This helps make opt-ins more natural.

I recommend using gated content for list building only when you are offering exclusive and highly valuable resources. Often people unsubscribe if they receive inferior quality lead magnets. Here’s an infographic from Uberflip that might help you make a choice:

graph when should your content be gated

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You might also wonder that at what stage of your marketing funnel you should place the gate. The answer is the consideration stage. The awareness stage would be too early to launch such efforts. So utilizing these resources at the consideration stage of your marketing funnel to push for decision-making is the best way to move ahead. If you put it around the content developed for the awareness stage, you will definitely reduce your potential reach as people generally avoid investing their time and effort in things that they don’t think will provide returns.

Pros Of Using Gated Content For List Building And Lead Generation

As discussed above, gated content is valuable enough to convince people to join your mailing list, and it’s highly effective for building organic email lists. On the other hand, these subscribers also qualify as ‘leads’ as they are willing to share their email addresses which are considered as personal information for accessing the gated resource. To better understand its use for these purposes, let us understand its pros in brief:

  • Gated content goes beyond list building as it helps generate qualified leads who are more likely to make a purchase. Sharing the email address shows the willingness to learn about the topic and filters out the people who are only interested and aren’t planning to pay. 
  • Gated content generates important data regarding your prospects which you can directly feed to your automation workflows for creating personalized campaigns in future. 
  • It also generates inbound traffic on your website while strengthening your brand image. 

Things To Keep In Mind While Gating Content

When using this tactic, try to refine the user intent as much as possible. This includes your lead magnet, what people want from it, and everything in between. It plays an important role in your list building efforts’ overall success and finding meaningful subscribers who are keener to purchase from you instead of connecting just for the freebie.

Make sure to segment new users from the concerned campaign and personalize their emails based on the source of contact. This enhances their trust in your brand. Dynamic blocks in HTML email templates are extremely useful for carrying these personalization efforts. Maintaining consistency in the initial phases is a must, and it will also add value to the customer experience. 

There are a lot of benefits of gating content like getting refined leads, SEO advantages like traffic generation, understanding your ideal customer persona, and profiling various businesses. On the flip side, you will have to ensure the content is really worth it, or else it may permanently damage your brand reputation.

Email marketing is about grabbing one’s attention for continued periods, unlike social media, where you need to gain it for a few seconds during the chaotic sprint of distractions. Keep this in mind, and you will automatically understand what value you need to build for your audience. Combining gated content with email marketing should have one goal: Getting more high quality leads from people familiar to your company.

Best Practices Of Using Gated Content In Email Marketing

Now, we will have a look at some best practices for using gated content in email marketing:

  • Approach the process in a step-by-step manner. Develop your gated content in single/multiple formats as suitable and develop a landing page that helps your readers to fill the details. 
  • I recommend maintaining consistency between the source (social media post/blog) and your landing page to win the trust of your readers. 
  • Keep the opt-in forms short and simple. I suggest using double opt-in forms as they give you certain legal immunity and discard any casual enquiry. 
  • Make use of social proof and other persuasive information on the landing page to maximize conversion. 
  • Send the gated content in the first 1 hour or instantly to make the entire engagement fruitful. 
gated content newsletter

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  • Use analytics to implement personalization and segmentation, the top two tactics right from the beginning. 
  • Don’t promise any resource that isn’t readily available to you. It is the prime motivation behind joining your email list and hence, failing to deliver it on time is likely to invite trouble in the form of unsubscription and spamming. 

One of the major best practices is to send email series after sending the gated content, and we will learn more about it in a separate section:

Leverage Email Series To Warm Leads 

Once your readers fill the opt-in form, send them the resource preferably in the welcome email. When sending a welcome email, you should keep the design simple. Also, include the highlights in the email copy that you displayed on the opt-in form. This is essential to remind them about why they joined your mailing list in the first place and set their expectations towards your’ freebie.’ Of course, this email needs to be sent within 24 hours of opt-in, or else they might forget you but putting down the details is a must. Have a look at these examples of sending the gated content in-mail:

In this emailer from Avocode, they have  beautifully described the main highlights and statistics, and the CTA fits exceptionally well with the overall theme:

Email newsletter Series

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In this example from BlueWolf, they have included the take-aways for the readers, which makes complete sense as it takes the guesswork out of the equation:

BlueWolf email newsletter example

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First impressions in welcome emails have a lasting impression, and make sure to project yourself as a thought leader. This is a must, especially when sending access to gated content- that’s how these subscribers look forward to seeing you.

Next, you may start an automated email series (drip campaign) based on the length of your sales cycle. It is recommended to keep analytics in the loop as low engagement rates ultimately dent your deliverability. Reactivation email series comes into play at this stage, and you can send an email to help them unsubscribe if they don’t engage after three to four consecutive messages. 

This will help save you from getting marked as spam in case they have already made the purchase decision or changed their mind. Remember, building an email list is only the beginning as email marketing is about fostering long-term relationships and gated content helps kick start this engagement on a commanding note. 

Summing Up 

In this article, we have enlightened you about the diverse aspects of using gated content for email marketing, and you should also use it for existing subscribers. Gated content helps you get that additional information about your existing subscribers and in lead qualification. This being an inbound marketing strategy, ensures that your gated content is valuable enough for the user and it automatically converts prospects into warm leads.

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