To Gate, or Not to Gate, That is the Question in Manufacturing Content Marketing

Gated content is the most common way for manufacturers to generate leads from industrial websites. If you are not familiar with the term gated content, it refers to content that needs the reader to fill out a form and submit it before either downloading or reading the full version.

Obviously, you can’t gate all your content without seriously pi***ng off your readers. So, the question is, what content should you gate?

There isn’t a simple answer because what you may consider valuable, your readers may not perceive it the same way. So, they may not see it as a worthwhile value exchange.

What gated content do engineers and industrial buyers consider valuable?

If you use gated content such as white papers, e-books, etc., you know they usually work well at the top of the funnel for Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). However, instead of guessing, let’s look at the findings from an independent research study—2022 State of Marketing to Engineers.

gated content for engineers

Don’t miss the last item on the chart, some industrial professionals just won’t fill out a form, period.

Avoid increasing resistance in your sign-up forms

There is always the temptation to ask for all information you can get from a gated content. Don’t! The more fields you have on your sign-up forms, the greater is the resistance of your readers to complete them. Or they may just fill out garbage information just to gain access to the content. For example, don’t ask for a phone number for someone to download a PDF. Using progressive fields in your forms is a better solution.

Going back to an older research report from 2020, the increasing resistance of engineers to the number of fields in a sign-up form is very clear. (Source: 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers).

“Engineers are most likely to complete the following form fields on a company’s website: work email address (84 percent); first name (82 percent); company name (70 percent); and last name (69 percent). Conversely, engineers are least likely to provide mobile phone number (20 percent) and purchase timeframe (17 percent).”

fields most likely to be filled by engineers

Challenges of creating valuable content in manufacturing marketing

In my previous post, Marketing to Engineers—Why Digital is the Dominant Strategy, I wrote about the value of product datasheets. In fact, engineers consider them the most useful when researching work-related purchases. However, your readers expect these to be freely available and not gated.

Most manufacturing companies I’ve worked with have a sales-oriented mindset. It is difficult for key decision-makers in these organizations to think about content marketing as setting the table for Sales.

That’s not just my experience with manufacturing content marketing for industrial lead generation. According to the 2022 Manufacturing Content Report published by the Content Marketing Institute, the top three challenges are:

  1. Creating valuable content instead of sales-oriented content (51%)
  2. Overcoming the traditional marketing and sales mindset (51%)
  3. Accessing subject matter experts to create content (50%)

Using gated content as sales enablers

Refer to the first chart in this post—CAD Drawings are the second most valuable gated content for engineers. There are very good reasons for that. These are critically important to manufacturers of industrial components and parts. I’ll cite three of them from the report, 6 Digital Essentials for Selling & Marketing to Engineers & Architects published by CADENAS PARTsolutions.

  1. 65% of engineers & architects see native CAD/BIM models as the #1 criteria for part selection
  2. 80% of designers bounce before contacting a supplier with limited CAD or BIM data
  3. 82% of CAD/BIM downloads convert into physical product sales

A robust online e-Catalog solution is a huge timesaver for engineers who are already time challenged. For more on this, read my earlier post, Using CAD and BIM Files in Manufacturing Content Marketing.

I have also seen other content assets that are used effectively as sales enablers. Not all of them are gated either.

  • Online configurators
  • Valve and pump sizing programs
  • Part number guides for cross referencing
  • …and many more

Another trend that I have seen is for some manufacturers and industrial distributors using e-commerce to sell directly. This works great for standard products. A combination of e-commerce solution with a configurator works well for custom engineered systems where you build a detailed RFQ instead of adding it to a cart and checking out.

Making sales teams more productive with the right content

This is more of an internal issue between marketing and sales teams. I’m sure you’ve heard and read a lot about how the two need to play together nicely. The reality is that it takes a lot of hard work and willingness for both parties to make that happen.

I recently downloaded an excellent guide called, The Complete Guide to Sales Content Management, published by Allego. Here’s a direct quote from their guide: “Your first priority is to deliver the best content that will move deals through the pipeline. But, too often, this content never sees the light of day. Research shows that reps spend 10+ hours a week searching for customer-ready material when content is scattered or lost in silos.”

The main reasons they provide for this underutilization are:

  • Sellers don’t really like the content and think it’s not relevant, too long, too short, etc.
  • Sellers don’t know there is new content and keep using old, familiar pieces
  • Sellers can’t find new content when they need it
  • Sellers don’t know how to use the content or understand its value in the sales process

The key takeaway is—Manufacturing marketers can’t focus only on lead generation; they also need to help their sales team use the content they create effectively to become more productive.

You should have a good overview of gated vs. ungated content in manufacturing marketing now that you have read this post to the end; I thank you for it.  


Business Asia
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