Why gated B2B white papers can lead to fewer sales, not more

Why gated B2B white papers can lead to fewer sales, not more

Imagine you need to buy some double glazing.


Apologies if the thought brings you out in hives, but I’m guessing that the anxiety you’re feeling right now has far less to do with cost, and far more to do with fending off endless calls from pushy reps keen to sell to you their wares in the comfort of your own front room.


Double glazing isn’t cheap, and the salespeople are a hassle. So before letting any sales bod anywhere near your parlour I don’t doubt you’d do quite a bit of background research. Talk to the neighbours. Look on Trustpilot. Ask your Facebook friends. Look at a few websites.


You’d draw up a long list of potential providers, and I’m guessing that only when you’re fairly certain who you’d like to use do you actually let any of them know that you’d actually be interested in a quote.


Your logic is simple: it’s a significant purchase and you want to make the right decision – which for you means that you don’t want to be blindsided by a salesman’s fancy spiel until you’ve fully researched the market.


I was reminded of this scenario when I recently read research from the LinkedIn B2B Institute with regards to how B2B marketers often use “gated” reports. (1)


A gated report is one whether the potential reader can’t access it without first giving up their contact details to the company that’s published it.


This seems a fair exchange at first glance: the sponsoring company has developed the content because they want to generate sales leads from interested prospects. Capturing contact details from prospects makes enormous sense in that regard.


If someone is interested in your product, then offering a gated report is a great way to get them to identify themselves, yes?


However, the B2B Institute’s paper suggests that something different may be happening – and that by gating reports, businesses are LESS likely to make sales.


In LinkedIn’s research, only 25% of B2B buyers say that they’re willing to share contact details to access interesting content.


Potential buyers are all too aware that the moment they identify themselves as having an interest in a solution, they go onto the CRM prospect list, and – like many a double-glazing salesman’s prospect – can never get themselves off it.


So rather than be forced to raise their hand before they’re ready to engage, a significant number of B2B enquirers would rather not raise their hand at all.


And if that means they pass on the opportunity to read your paper, so be it. Other papers are available.


B2B marketers that make their white papers freely available are therefore far more likely to achieve broad market reach with their comms than those that limit who can see their thinking.


This ties in with some of the theory in Les Binet & Peter Field’s “The B2B Marketing Growth Formula” (2) – because gating white papers actually puts a major constraint on reach.


And in B2B marketing, reach is important – as Ngaire Moyes, Senior Director, Brand Marketing and Corporate Communications, at LinkedIn, explains:


“As a marketer, you…need the ability to reach all of the people who could be involved in buying decisions over the longer term. Because branding is a long game, it can’t be hyper targeted. It has to take the most inclusive possible view of your relevant audience. It may be years before they are considering your business for a purchase – but that’s how long it takes to build a compelling brand to influence that decision. Waiting until they are ready to be tightly targeted at the bottom of the funnel is waiting too long.” (2)


David van Schaick of The Marketing Practice has a further perspective:


“The longer sales cycles in B2B mean that long-term thinking isn’t just brand building – sales and demand generation also require long-term mindsets.” (3)


In other words, the greater the reach of your B2B marcoms, the more likely it is that you’ll attract potential buyers to the top of your funnel.


By limiting access to your sales messages to those who are closest to a buying decision, you’re going to miss out on a large proportion of genuine prospects – LinkedIn’s research suggests 75% of potential prospects – who never entered your funnel in the first place.


Simon Hayhurst

June 2021


  1. The B2B Tech Buying Revolution will be Anonymous | LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
  2. The B2B marketing growth formula – from Mark Ritson, Les Binet and Peter Field | LinkedIn Marketing Blog
  3. An exclusive look at Binet and Field’s new B2B marketing research | The Drum



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