As an enrollment marketer, you’ve probably been faced with the question: “to gate or not to gate?” I’m talking about the decision of whether or not to place marketing content like eBooks, guides, or white papers behind a form (gate), which requires users to submit personal information prior to accessing your content. You want as many people as possible to read your content, but you also want to know who is reading it. At the end of the day, lead and inquiry generation remain crucial to higher education recruitment and marketing.
For this reason, content gating strategies have never been black and white; oftentimes marketing teams opt for a little bit of both in their content strategy. Yet as enrollment marketers’ success becomes more heavily tied to lead generation and content that can directly be associated with an increase in enrollment numbers, so comes with it the need for a new type of lead collection strategy.
Enter conversational gating — a new, organic way to provide prospective students with your marketing content while also collecting valuable prospective student information, all without using a traditional digital form.
To gate or not to gate is no longer the question
You might’ve heard of conversational marketing already, or the use of real-time conversations, targeted messaging, and chatbots to accelerate potential prospective students through the applicant journey. Conversational gating takes a page out of the conversational marketing playbook.
A new content gating strategy
Instead of gating your content with a form that digitally separates potential students from your content, a “conversational gate” sits alongside a prospective student as he or she consumes your content. This typically looks like an intelligent chat feature that supports your content by asking timely, relevant questions based on the content the user is reading. Along the way, your CRM is collecting valuable information about the prospective student. In short, conversational gating takes your static marketing content and turns it into dynamic, lead-generating conversations.
Now, why is this better than gated (or ungated) content? For starters, marketing technology has rapidly advanced and so has the spread of the inbound marketing methodology. Prospective students are accustomed to technology that makes their lives easier. They want to access critical information to inform their college decision quickly. Conversational gating offers a friction-free option with a low barrier to entry.
An example of conversational gating
Conversational marketing and conversationally-gated content allows prospective students to access content instantly while also providing an option to interact with a chatbot that can answer questions 24/7. No more digging through your school’s database of programs to find out if the GRE is required. Instead, as a prospective student reads your guide to preparing for the GRE, allow a chatbot to ask a relevant question, like, “Curious if your program of interest requires the GRE?” An answer of “Yes” would likely prompt another question by the chatbot of, “Great! What is your program of interest?” Boom, you just collected information on a prospective student’s program of interest without using a traditional form!
There’s also an argument to be made about society’s growing reluctance to give away personal information online. If you’re like me, there’s very little content out there these days that I would be willing to give up my information for in exchange to access it. Chances are, prospective students feel this way too. Conversational gating allows prospective students to read your content and get their questions answered by a chatbot. In turn, you have the opportunity to collect information in a natural, conversational manner. In short, it removes the abrasiveness of a traditional form.
How to implement conversationally gated content
Marketing technology is rapidly growing and improving — in HubSpot, you have the chance to create several different types of chatbots. The best part about them is that information collected by the chatbot naturally flows into other HubSpot tools like lists, workflows and contact records. All you need to do is come up with the questions a conversational chatbot will ask as it supports your prospective student while he or she reads your content (check out my post about best practices for building a chatbot!).
Pro tip: Watch my DD Academy video to learn tips and tricks for creating your own chatbot in HubSpot.
If your school or program lacks quality, lead-converting content, you might not want to start with conversational marketing. Instead, focus first on creating a library of high-quality marketing content in the form of eBooks, guides, podcasts, blogs, or video that can be used to attract and convert prospective students. Conversational marketing can then be used to enhance these pieces of marketing content by increasing lead generation and information collection.