Eric Peters from Hubspot, (the company that invented inbound marketing) talks about the different strategies for gating and ungating content.
Questions addressed in this podcast.
- Which types of content to gate and which to ungate? (04:30)
- What do they do to evaluate and optimize the effectiveness of the content. (09:32)
- What to do to minimize getting bogus information on lead forms? (10:56)
- What tool will change content gating strategies? (12:23)
- How to use educational content to attract prospects, create loyalty with customers, expand customer relationships and create a barrier to competition
- How to organize content teams around the stages of the buyer’s journey
- Why ungating great content builds trust and value so that people want to talk to you
- Why PDF are going to be replaced by content on web pages
- Why chatbots will replace lead forms in the future
Here’s the complete transcription:
Dave (00:17): For anybody who is new to marketing, I’m really honored because HubSpot where, my guest, Eric Peters works, invented the whole category of inbound marketing. You guys have probably generated a billion leads from content marketing. So, your thinking on content gating will be great to hear. Tell me what kind of problems your company solves and the specific role that you play there at HubSpot.
Eric (00:46): HubSpot provides marketing, sales, and soon service software for small to mid-market businesses. We help companies do tasks involved in marketing, sales and customer service more efficiently. I work in the HubSpot Academy team which is the training division of HubSpot. HubSpot Academy actually started out very focused on teaching customers to use our software. When we created an inbound certification course, a lot of people snuck into that course even though they weren’t customers so we said, “You know what? We will open this up for free to everybody.” Now we are up about 137,000 people who have an active certification which means they have gotten that certification in the last two years. And we keep that course updated and we’ve added new courses to keep up with industry trends. Now Hubspot Academy, like I said, is a whole big community.
Dave (01:57): If I understood you correctly a big part of the academy is really kind of a content marketing play for HubSpot, just giving back to the marketing community and growing inbound marketers, is that correct?
Eric (02:09): Yeah, it’s like inbound marketing taken to the 10th degree. There are free online courses,the academy has videos and quizzes that are very interactive compared for example to an ebook or a webinar, which are more one directional content. The online course world is sort of blossoming right now with tuition being so expensive. So it’s a pretty interesting space.
Dave (02:33): Let me ask you about HubSpot and the coursework that you guys share with the marketing community. What’s the primary objective from a content marketing perspective?
Eric (02:45): We have different objectives for different pieces of content. We have thought leadership blogs like “Think Growth” where we have HubSpot participate in this ongoing conversation. Then we have our primary blog publications, the marketing blog, the Hubspot sales blog; those are real big traffic drivers and tend to convert into leads depending on their quality and how qualified they are and how good they are. Hubspot Academy is more of a ‘moat play,’ and moat play is like a defensive maneuver, like a moat around your castle to keep disruptive innovation from occurring. We’d rather disrupt ourselves first than have another company come in and disrupt us so, that’s the primary objective of Hubspot Academy.The Hubspot Academy is always evolving, I will say there are parts of the Academy that seem a whole lot like an acquisition channel. You’d be amazed. A VP of Marketing will sign up for a Hubspot Academy account. They will then add their whole team. They will assign different courses to different people on their team and our sales reps are just sitting there looking at these users sort of and what they’re learning and saying to themselves- ‘this is going to be good.’ So, there are some acquisition benefits to Hubspot Academy. There’s also retention benefits, the teaching people had to do great inbound marketing and just be really thoughtful about the marketing approach prior to them even signing up and becoming customers. Those customers tend to retain quite a bit more. I think about 20 percent longer on average because they understand the full philosophy of inbound marketing and that is the philosophy of the Hubspot platform.
Dave(04:30): So, let me move to the core thing that we wanted to talk about today which is the strategy for registering or gating content when you have a lead form, whether it’s an e-book, a whitepaper, pricing, a demo or a podcast like this, pricing or whatever it is. What is the overarching approach that HubSpot has and you have in this area?
Eric(04:53): We will write up blog posts that will attract organic traffic.There will be some kind of call to action that says, “Hey to learn more about this topic, download this ebook,” and that ebook which is a really in-depth training resource will be gated with several fields in that form and so, that helps us identify the intent of the person and what they are interested in and learn about them through the data that they fill out all of which helps us nurture them down the funnel should they be a good fit for the company. So, for instance if someone says they are a CEO, they are going to get a slightly different nurturing path than if they say they are a marketing manager. So, that is the historic way we use forms and that’s how we teach our customers to use forms. We are recently ungating more and more content. So, there’s this pillar cluster — SEO strategy — that’s been around for a while but I think HubSpot is really leaning into it now. The idea is to create a really in-depth, open, non-gated content set to get a really long-form piece of content and then link a whole bunch of cluster content around that. It’s really more dependent on topics than keywords which is sort of the old way of search engine optimization. And so, what we have seen when that happens- we basically take that entire ebook (which used to be a pdf), we just put it out there on the website. In most cases what we tend to do is drive people into our premium funnel and so, we say here’s everything you need to know about this topic. If the topic is Facebook for business, then the next step might be to sign up for the free tool for planning a display ad campaign for Facebook and apply what you learned.
Dave(06:54): Do you see that as a future trend where you are going to ungate more and more content?
Eric(07:00): Yeah, I think so, I think it really builds a lot more trust and they sign up to the portal or for a HubSpot account, they can access all these different things from inside there, and they never really have to fill out a form again. So, I think a little bit more modern experience for the audience.
Dave(07:23): If you think about the buyer’s journey in this context, how does content gating play into that? Do you have a specific strategy relative to that journey when you might want to gate content?
Eric(07:35): We know we need to create awareness stage content that leads to consideration stage content. The awareness content is purely there to educate and build trust. The consideration stage content is there to help the audience identify a problem that we might be able to solve. Then there is decision stage content, which is a third step in the journey, they identified the problem and now we are helping them decide between options. So, the awareness stage content is freely open to everyone. The consideration that stage content, where we capture their permission to do a little bit more nurturing and build trust. The decision stage content is both gated and ungated. Our case studies, which are decision stage content, are available to everybody. There are also free tools that enable someone to make a final decision or develop a business case. Those kinds of assets are gated because you want to make sure you capture people who want such assets because their conversion-to-opportunities can be pretty high.
Dave (08:43): There’s been a big movement over the last few years with more and more marketers doing account-based marketing. Are you seeing ABM having any kind of an impact on gating strategies?
Eric (08:56): Yeah, a bit, at least for us at HubSpot. We actually structure a marketing team based on the funnel so that the top of the funnel has the bloggers and video producers ,in the middle of the funnel is the nurturing team and the bottom of funnel is like a sales organization. So, that sales enablement and sales productivity team- they focus on ‘how do you support a sales rep in targeting an entire crowd and marketing to a group of people who all sort of have a vested interest in whether they want to invest in HubSpot’.
Dave (09:32): So, in the case where you do have gated content and it’s a pdf or an e-book, what do you do to evaluate and optimize the effectiveness of that content? Since, they downloaded it but you don’t know really what degree they engaged with it?
Eric (09:51): Yeah that’s a big sort of blind spot, that’s something we have been sort of trying to tackle at HubSpot Academy. But rather than using a PDF, just embed the HTML text within their portal so, that we can see how far down the page they get. A pdf is 30-40 year old technology, it’s not really there to help marketers to identify what the person is learning, it’s really best for signatures. So, what we can do though is link from the PDF and use tracking to see what they click from the PDF which is one way we sort of go about it. Another way is just asking for feedback in the follow up email that they get when they download something, just saying, “So what did you think of this content? Would you like to speak to an expert about the thing you just downloaded.” That is not going to get you thousands of data points the way tracking someone through the data portal will, but it’ll tell the sales rep a whole lot about what they are thinking and how they are learning and what is wrong.
Dave (10:56): When somebody’s details are to be captured as a lead, what do you try to minimize the bad information and bogus information that you get in a lead form that you know doesn’t really always have value?
Eric (11:07): We know that you’re always going to get some bad data. I think that’s a symptom of there not being enough trust, there are sort of two things that someone needs to convert, friction is the opposing force here but trust in value, they need to see that there is something of value, they need to trust you to deliver on that value. What we have found though is that if you can provide a reason to give accurate data, for instance, if you only send them that ebook if they give you their email address just because you are going to only send them the ebook via email- that’s one way that makes you get their email address; you know what you want to say to deliver this via text message or via phone number. That’s going to increase your chances of getting that phone number. But we really do want to just be altruistic about it. I would say the more you can deliver value upfront, the more likely they are to give you the real information and anything you can do to sort of keep them from thinking you are going to just constantly hound them or this is immediately going to get more to the actual salesperson that will call them 20 minutes from now. Not every first conversion is ready to talk to sell.In fact, 85 percent of the month. So, having them sort of smoothly go through the funnel I think is one.
Dave (12:27): What do you see as the future of gating strategies kind of moving forward?
Eric (12:33): I think bots,chat and one to one message are really going to give lead forms a run for their money. Basically, if you think of that pillar page that’s getting a ton of organic traffic giving away all this great information, and you have a little chat icon that says you know “hey let’s say you are interested in this topic if you’d like to speak to an expert or if you’d like to talk to somebody about that just let us know.” Super passive just give them the opportunity to reach out to you,don’t actively push them. You don’t want pop-ups and things to get in the way and create annoyance. Instead, I want to use the information to build trust so that when they are ready to buy it, when they’re ready to talk to somebody, they have a way to do it, however, they want to do it.
Dave (13:23): Have you seen any technologies or services that really help with this sort of content engaging strategy or new ways of gating content or as you said giving lead forms a run for their money?
Eric (13:34): Yeah, there’s a ton of bot technologies out there, HubSpot has acquired a motion AI bot company about a year ago and we’re building them into our messages tool that should be sometime in Spring. And what it does is really cool. So I have been testing this on a couple of bio planning pages rather than the user filling out a form and going to some sort of a thank you page, what we did was replace all those things with a bot. So the bot would sort of start the conversation. “How would you like to download this offer? Give us x y and z piece of information.” It’s capturing that information one piece at a time and then depending on what they gave us, we will reply back “hey who are downloading this offer typically, want to talk to an expert that might be working on the website, would you like to speak to somebody?” And within that same chat window you can rotate them to a live person. You can then sort of tell them about that offer and walk them through how HubSpot may be able to help them.That is a really clean just super simple way to have a visitor start an active conversation with a rep using a bot and letting that bot develop some really interesting conversations for sales reps.
Eric Peters is a Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Hubspot where he drives acquisition growth for HubSpot Academy, a free online learning product for marketing and sales professionals. He is also a member of the Marketing Industry Advisory Board for Udacity’s digital marketing curriculum.
About the podcast
Sunny Side Up is a series of 15-minute podcasts. Leaders and innovators share what they’ve learned in the B2B tech sector on topics related to marketing, product management, sales, and leadership.