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In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss the fine balancing act of when to gate content, when not to gate it, and even when to charge for it. What constitutes content good enough to put behind a wall? What constitutes content good enough to ask someone for money? Listen in as they debate the creation of new software tools, the internal process for making decisions about gating content at Trust Insights, and much more.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in your insights to give or to gate, that is the question, a bit of terrible Shakespeare paraphrasing there. But one of the problems that almost every b2b marketing company and do some b2c marketing companies as well run into is how much content Do you give away for free? What ideas do you give away for free? And what do you gain? Some folks, some marketers like David meermann, Scott and Gary van der Chuck are staunch advocates give all the best stuff away. Because you know that 99% of people will never implement it anyway. And it makes you look smart and generous. Other folks, on the more traditional sales side, the Dan Kennedy’s of the world, like, you know, give, give minimum value to prove competence, and then lock everything else away so that you grow your database, your list because you’ll live or die on your database. So Katie, as the person who’s in charge of deciding how much value we create for the world, what’s your take on on give versus gate?

Katie Robbert
Well, first of all, I think you just escalated my responsibilities to something that’s incredibly heavy. But we’ll put that aside for now, you know, it’s interesting, because there’s a couple of different things. I remember back when I was a product manager at Health IT company, we struggled with how to price the product itself. And there was a small group of us, myself included, who really felt like, we should be giving the product away for free, because the product itself, while valuable wasn’t where the company was going to make its revenue, our company was going to make revenue from the data that we collected from the product. So really, helping people get their hands on the product, so that we could collect more data was in our best interest. And the pricing model for the product sort of got a bit FUBAR over the years, and it just it created this barrier. And so I bring that up, because I think when we’re deciding what to give away, and what to gate, you know, it really does come down to not just what what’s the value to the audience, but what’s the value to us to collect information by gaining it. And so, you know, you can start to categorize your content by exclusive or thought leadership or, you know, proprietary or helpful, whatever the thing is, but really, it comes down to what do you need to get out of putting the content out there for free or gated. And I think that that’s something that people don’t tend to think about. They’re, you know, they’re very focused on their customer, their audience, you know, what they need, which is important. But in order to properly make that decision, you need to figure you’re out what you need as a company from that content.

Christopher Penn
Okay, I’ll give you an example of something that I was doing my my usual weekly video this weekend. And I felt like what I was giving away in that video was too good to give away. So it was mentally like, I can actually sell this like it was actually be a useful thing. So what was was, I looked back at my blog, and I found a video, like when’s the best time to post on LinkedIn and use Google Analytics day to do that, I’m like, well, that that post needs to be refreshed, because it’s five years old at this point. Like all you can do that in Data Studio. So when a Data Studio, I set up a new dashboard, and I built this thing that allows you to choose any source or medium, and shows a nice heat map grid of day of day of week and time of day. And she has got all little widgets and stuff like that. And to the end, you can see this, these are the times that you receive either traffic or conversions from those channels. And I’m like, I don’t know if I want to give this way. I mean, this is literally something I wouldn’t sell for much. But I could sell this for like nine bucks to somebody. And I like that seems like something I wouldn’t want to give away. And I guess my internal benchmark there was this could be a product, rather than just something you fling out into the world. So in terms of not just the artist, but do you think the economic value itself weighs into that equation of gift versus gate?

Katie Robbert
I do. And I think, you know, when, you know, your gut instinct was, you know, this is something that’s really good, I could sell it. And so if you start to unpack that, you know, the questions First, well, does this exist anywhere else? Is this something that people have to come to me to get? versus, I’m going to write a blog post about, you know, the five ways to use Google Data Studio or, you know, to post on LinkedIn. So I think that there’s two different things. If you’re posting if you’re writing helpful content that really just explains to someone how to use a publicly available tool, then yeah, absolutely give that away for free, because there’s nothing exclusive about that there’s nothing while the ideas are yours, and that’s what’s exclusive, they can get that information just about anywhere. So it’s going to be really tough to get it and create something that people see more value in. Now, what you’re describing is that you’ve created a piece of proprietary code that does something that is exclusive and valuable that people cannot get everywhere. And I think that’s where we as a company start to make the decision around free versus gated.

Christopher Penn
And above gated, is there a point where you say Actually, let’s not even let’s not even get that? Let’s just sell that? How do you? Is it just me market awareness? Because we know obviously, from previous episodes of this podcast, that you know, when is the best time to x is a perennial, perpetual top question, to be able to give somebody a piece of software like Yep, here you go. This runs, we know, it works. We know, it’s built on a very solid foundation of Google Analytics and Google Data Studio. So it’s not like, you know, something that I hacked together at the last minute. How do we make you make that determination, there’s give gate and then there’s just outright Bye bye, thing?

Katie Robbert
Well, so it’s interesting, we’re talking about two different things we’re taught. One is we’re talking about content. The other is we’re talking about content that’s describing a product that we have. And so when you start to talk about a product, then yes, you can make the decision to either give it away, if you’re getting some value back, because you’re collecting data on the back end, that will help you do more scale, whatever the thing is, that said, if it’s more of just a product that provides a service and you don’t care what the data is, then I would say you just flat out sell it as a subscription as a one time use, whatever you know, the product entails. So in that instance, you know, you could use the content that you’re creating around this exclusive product that you’ve created. And give that away for free, knowing that they can’t get this thing unless they raise their hand and buy it or set up, you know, a demo or whatever the thing is. So it really depends ultimately, as a marketer, and as company, what your end goal is, so Chris, what you’re describing is a product that ideally you would like to sell. So in that instance, there’s no, there’s no reason that you would need to gate the content around the product. Because you’re not giving away how you built the product. You’re showing people how the product is useful and valuable, and why they need to this thing, and how it’s going to solve all of your pain points. God now if you didn’t, go ahead,

Christopher Penn
oh, the original video was, here’s how to do this yourself how to build this yourself? Because it took like 20 steps?

Katie Robbert
Well, 20 steps is a lot for some people. And you know, being completely honest. And so that’s something I think you’re right, where take a step back, you know, is it worth people trying to build this thing? Perhaps not knowing every single little piece of information that you know about the code and the API’s? And, you know, all the analytics? And does it make it easier for them to just buy something from you than it is for them to try to figure out how to build it themselves? And I think, you know, it sounds like you’ve already come to the decision that why should you teach them how to build the thing themselves, when they can just buy it from you. And that’s going to really scale much easier. Because what ends up happening is if they if you send out the instructions, you might start getting a lot of questions about well, this didn’t work, and this didn’t, and then it sort of it’s not really valuable and helpful to them at all. Gotcha. Okay.

Christopher Penn
When you’re, when you’re planning your content and things like that, at what point does the gift or gate occur in the planning process? Is that something that is intentional? And how early on do you make that decision?

Katie Robbert
Ideally, you’re planning your content out, you know, sooner than the day before it’s due to go live. And so if you’re planning it, you know, once a quarter like you should be using the hero hub, help content model where you have your helpful content that you publish, you know, very frequently, at least once a day, you have your hub content, which is sort of like the once a month, sort of the, you know, here’s a bit more of that, like thousand foot view, and then you have your hero content with your thought leadership, you can start to make decisions, okay, the thought leadership content that’s really, you know, the big brains putting together, you know, the forward thinking ideas, that’s the kind of content people should have to sign up to get, because there’s a lot more time and effort and value that goes into that content. So that’s, so you would plan to using that model gate at least once a quarter. Because if you’re always getting your content, then people are just going to give up and move on and try to find content somewhere else where it’s not gated, where they don’t have to pay for it. So that would be my general guideline, you know, plan ahead, if you can only plan ahead a week, then that’s fine. But you need to figure out is this content people can get anywhere? Because it’s just explaining like, you know, here’s the five new things with Google Analytics, or have you done a deeper dive? And you’re actually doing some analysis and some original thinking, and it’s, it’s a very value to them, because they can’t get that information anywhere else. That’s the kind of content that I would like to see, gated.

Christopher Penn
Gotcha. It’s interesting, too, that when you go back to the healthcare example, you’re talking about, you’re giving in that case, because the the audience is actually the product. And then you reselling that product to the Data Broker, the data provider and things like that. So should should marketers be thinking along those lines? Like is, is the audience the product? In some ways? Of course, that’s always going to be the case, because marketing has to feed leads to sales. But right. Is there an opportunity for monetization above and beyond that?

Katie Robbert
I think they should be thinking about that. And I would venture a guess to say that they’re not, not because they’re not capable. But just because that’s not typically how marketing as to your point, is constructed. So I do think that marketers should be thinking a little bit differently about, you know, what am I trying to accomplish with this particular piece of content? You know, is it is there something that I’m going to get back that’s more valuable than people reading the content, you know, for free, or by gating it? And so, you know, we are talking about sort of two different things, the content and then an actual product, but for some people content is their product. And so that’s, it’s definitely something to consider of, you know, by giving the content away for free. Are you getting more value back by continually bringing people to your website, bringing them to your blog? Is that the value to you? And then they become sort of the loyalists?

Christopher Penn
Yeah. Our friend and colleague Jay Baer said, Gosh, when was it? When did you write youtility? list of 2016, I guess. But he said that the only content you should be creating and marketing should be content that’s so good, you could charge money for it. That was sort of his benchmark of what constitutes good content, if your content isn’t good enough that you would pay for it, then it’s probably not something that that anyone else would ever want. Does given that general framework is that a, a, a good way of deciding, like, Yeah, what I pay for this white paper on how 15 ways a CDP saves you money? Or is that something that when you look at it requires a certain, certainly a fair amount of self awareness to go? I wouldn’t even pay for this since my product, which case you give it away is do you feel like that’s a good rule of thumb benchmark for people to keep in their heads?

Katie Robbert
I do I do. Because if I, you know, if you don’t believe in it, how can other people believe in it? You know, and so I think that is a really good benchmark. And I think, you know, Jay is absolutely right. You know, and so as you’re creating your content, what you know, so if you take the example that you just described, you know, 15 ways that CDP can save you time, money, whatever, you know, again, you need to think through and do your own research, as you’re writing that content. Is this something that’s already been created? Can people get this, you know, six ways to Sunday for free, and it’s being emailed to them every other day by 20. Other marketers? Or is this truly some original thinking and exclusive information that people can’t get anywhere else, because you’ve done your homework, you’ve done your research, you’ve done the analysis. And it’s truly this, you know, brand new, fresh idea. That’s the type of thing that should absolutely be gated.

Christopher Penn
I was just going to ask you for the, the average marketer who feels like their content isn’t worth paying for, how do they get there? But it sounds like it’s a fair amount of making stuff that is, has it not been been seen and is theoretically valuable, any other ways someone could take their content and level it up?

Katie Robbert
Add some data to it. I think that that’s the, you know, that’s one of the things that, you know, when we were managing a larger team, we were always encouraging the bloggers and the people who are submitting content, you know, so what, what’s the data point in here that you can reference and even just sort of doing that little bit of research, or having an opinion on a data point that’s come out. So let’s say for example, you know, housing prices have shot up 50% in the past two weeks, that’s an interesting data point. You don’t need to do a lot of analysis around it, but use that as your starting point, to have an opinion. And so that way, there’s a reference as to why you’re writing the content, that small thing levels up your content already, because you’re educating people about what’s going on.

Christopher Penn
Yeah, Alex synthesis two, is where you take different sets of data, and you bring them together, so housing prices, but then you have job search data. And if you can start to find relationships among your different data points. One of the things I see a lot of marketers do very poorly is they don’t ever think what else could I bring in what other data is available to me what trusted third parties, Bureau of Labor Statistics data.gov casual data sets? Can I use to augment what we’ve got here and turn it into something that really is unique? Because there’s so many data sets out there that it is likely, I won’t say impossible, it’s improbable that someone will take the four or five that you’ve selected, and mix and match them together to find out like is there there there. There was some discussion recently in the analytics for marketers slack. We’re talking about economic indicators. And one of the resources, somebody here was focused on the price of copper, because copper is a commodity metal, is something that you don’t buy and stockpile unless you actually need it. And it is a good indicator of broad economic demand, because it is something that is used in everything from wiring and people’s houses to cooking appliances. And again, that’s not something that I would have known to go and hunt down. But now if I bring copper prices into a data set with job search, with housing prices, suddenly I’ve got something really different and unique there. And so if you’re looking to level up your content, think non traditionally, but thinking that chain of evidence, like what is connected to my data, in some ways, like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, only six degrees of your data.

Katie Robbert
No, and I think that that’s a really interesting point. And so as you’re describing using three, four or five different data sets, that to me instantly is well, if you’re putting that much time and effort, and doing that deep of analysis, and something that’s totally unique, then I think that that content is fair game for being gated, because to your point, it’s not something you’re going to be able to get everywhere. Now again, it’s not as it’s not that simple of like, Okay, well, I did some research, I’m going to get it, you really need to think about what the goal is for your company, for your team for your client, by gating or not getting the content. And that’s something that really only, you know,

Christopher Penn
yeah. But again, that rule of thumb of, would you buy this? Good, you buy this? I think,

Unknown Speaker
by this?

Christopher Penn
Yeah, it because you suddenly go on to all these different websites that have, you know, white papers for sale from anywhere from 295 to like, $5,000 for a paper because it contains data you can’t get anywhere else. Right? I remember Gosh, in the old days, there was some pharma databases and pharma papers, we did some work for a couple of farmers, the price tag on those was astonishing.

Katie Robbert
And people pay them because there’s, well, there’s two mindsets, one, there’s, my boss will think that I’m foolish if I don’t buy this thing, even if I’m never going to read it, but at least I look like I know, you know what important information is. But then there are the people who truly value that information and use that as the guiding light for their strategy. To go back to your question of how can marketers level up their content in in simple, small ways. I always think back to what one of our former team members would say which was so what? And so it’s really that, what is the point of the content that you’re writing? What do you teach? And what are you sharing? It doesn’t have to be a heavy duty piece of content, even a 300 word blog posts can be really spectacular. But so what? And just make sure you’re asking those questions like, okay, I just read this thing. So what did I learn anything? Was I entertained? I know there’s a framework for that question. And the ease

Christopher Penn
Yes, entertain, educate or engage.

Katie Robbert
Right? So get your content to one of those three things.

Christopher Penn
Exactly. Alright. So to wrap up today, to give or to gate is dependent on the value of the content whether you think it would be worth paying for and what how it aligns to your goals, and your business. As always, if you’re not subscribed to the show, please subscribe. We are in Google podcasts, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, you name it. It’s it’s out there, of course and subscribe to the fresh insights newsletter and join our free community over at trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers will talk to you soon. Take care


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