Content Marketing

Free vs. Paid Content Marketing – How to Choose?

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To give away or not to give away?

For many B2B marketers, that is the question.

Content marketing has become a driving force in lead generation. But the question remains: What is the best practice for granting access to that content?

For most, the obvious answer is “paid.” Rather than give away valuable information or content for which time and resources were spent, most companies ask for “payment” when offering certain content on their websites, usually via a form requiring an email address and/or other personal information. This is a great way to push leads into your sales funnel. However, creating a barrier for visitors to cross before they can access your content and get to know your brand carries obvious disadvantages too.

The other option is to give content away for free. Many established thought leaders have found this a valuable technique for driving attention to their content and developing a magnet strategy for their lead generation efforts. The problem is, how can you develop lead data if you’re not collecting personal information? Can great content, in and of itself, drive users to submit their information to your organization on their own?

Below are points to consider about each approach, so you can decide which content marketing strategy best suits your needs.

“Paid” Content: A Value Proposition
A well crafted piece of content can create some of the most qualified leads for your sales force. To get to that content, though, users often have to “pay” a premium by providing their email address and contact information, a barrier that ultimately leads many users to pass over content they would otherwise find quite valuable.

Marketing guru David Meerman Scott says that bloggers tend to avoid sending their readers to content that requires registration. This, he points out, “greatly reduces the number of people who download something.”

Free Content: More Traffic = More Leads?
Creating content that has no barriers to use or distribution can seem almost antithetical to our business. But for marketers who are willing to take the risk, the dividends for content that doesn’t require registration or membership can be huge.

The mantra of many content marketers today, “free content” has advocates in marketers like John Jantsch, who says, “One of my ebooks has been downloaded close to one million times. With a registration requirement, I’m convinced it would have been only a few thousand.” Of course, the challenge that comes with providing free access to your content is developing strategies to gather, gate and funnel leads through your sales process.

Share Your Content – Wisely
For many, a hybrid strategy that combines both free content and content behind a “pay wall” makes the most sense and drives the most success. But ultimately, there is no “right” way to provide content to generate leads. Each content marketing scenario will require marketers to consider their objectives anew, establish a gating theory, and test, test, test.

To learn more about content marketing, a great place to start is the 6 Rules of Content Marketing on Marketo’s Content Marketing Cheat Sheet.