Long-time readers will know that I’ve banged on for years about not ‘gating’ content, although plenty of people who I respect still maintain that receiving name-and-contact-details from even a single website visitor is better than having dozens of anonymous people read something and leave. I think more experts than not are on my side nowadays, but we should continue to investigate the happy medium.
The first question to ask yourself before demanding visitor details is: “have I earned it?” So many sites just say: “Give us your email address and we’ll send something” without making any decent effort to sell that something. Your website visitors came along hoping to get a question answered, not to get on your database.
This doesn’t just apply to distributing great works of content. I visit far too many sites that say: “We sell widgets. They’re great. Give us your details and our sales team will call.” Indeed, but maybe they’ll waste my time (and theirs) because their widgets aren’t the right type. Couldn’t they at least let me have some information? I think I’ll go back to Google and find someone who demands less of a commitment.
People accept that there’s a quid-pro-quo. If you are distributing that great new white paper or valuable technical guide, asking for contact details isn’t unreasonable. But do make some effort to sell it. Is there at least an executive summary or a conclusion you can give the visitor first? If you make a claim which is interesting enough, they’ll want to see you’re working.