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How to use gated content to acquire new members

gated content

When it comes to acquiring new members and customers, fitness businesses tend to utilize a combination of effective lead generation strategies. From social media marketing to SEO, there are several methods out there that gyms leverage to generate high-quality leads, and ultimately, acquire new members. 

In this article, we are going to talk about one specific form of lead generation: gated content. The gated vs ungated content debate is one that has troubled marketers for a long time. But it’s not an either/or situation. Gated content can have a place in your lead generation strategy alongside the other tactics you implement. Let’s try to understand exactly what gated content is and how you can use it to acquire new members. 

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What is gated content? 

Gated content is content that viewers can only access after completing a form. It’s not paid content; it’s still free. Typically, users give their email, phone number, or contact information and then viewers can access the content and opt-in to communication. Essentially, your free content is behind a form. Businesses use gated content to gain access to contact information, generate leads, and get more sales.  

The standard process for gated content is to show users an offer either on social media or your website. The offer should be tailored to your target audience. Then, users click the CTA to go to the landing page where you explain the offer in more detail, show the form the user needs to complete, and a clear CTA showing that the user receives the offer once they click the button. Of course, the landing page, CTA, and type of content can all change depending on your target audience. But this is the general process of how gated content works. 

The primary goal of gated content is to general leads. Other benefits of gated content include: 

  • Increase website traffic 
  • Attract high-quality leads
  • Drive perceived value to content 
  • Help with audience segmentation 
  • Incentivize the lead generation process 

It’s important to know that there are certain situations where gated content isn’t relevant. If you’re trying to raise brand awareness or increase marketing campaign visibility, you don’t want to hide your content. As gated content hides your content, it’s counterintuitive to use it for raising brand awareness. 

Every day it feels like you’re competing with even more online content. The need to stay competitive and entirely relevant is strong. For expert insight, listen to Jack Cardy, Managing Director of Live Fit Gym and the Co-founder of Media Bros, on The Fitness Founders Podcast. He talks about the secrets of a great content strategy and how to cut through the noise on social media. 

What are different types of gated content?

There are several types of gated content, including:

  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Webinars
  • Templates 
  • Premium content upgrades
  • Email marketing series 
  • Courses
  • Case studies

While all these types of content are different, they do have something in common. Gated content is high-quality content that often takes longer to produce. For a fitness business, examples of gated content could be:

  • Healthy mindset email series 
  • Content upgrade to access a one-month workout program 
  • Webinar for new moms looking to get back into fitness after having a baby 

Gated content can be practically anything. Usually, gated content isn’t the only form of content you use, it’s part of your overall content marketing and inbound marketing strategy. You’re trading high-quality content3 for information that could generate a lead. In general, potential customers who are willing to give you their contact information are more likely to be engaged leads. When you can start to target more engaged visitors, you can create a smarter fitness marketing strategy that creates high-quality leads. 

Gated vs ungated content 

So, should you use ungated or gated content? Ungated content is exactly what it sounds like, it’s content that readers can access without providing any information or filling out a form. Examples of ungated content include:

  • Blog posts 
  • Podcast 
  • YouTube videos 
  • Infographics 

Gated and ungated content both have a role to play in your overall fitness content marketing strategy. There are benefits to using both types. With ungated content, you increase search capabilities and shareability of your content and it removes any barrier between your content and the reader. 

So, when should you use gated content?

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To understand when to use gated content, let’s explore the buyer’s journey. There are three primary stages of the buyer’s journey:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration 
  3. Decision 

These are the stages your new member has to go through to transition from a complete stranger to a paying member. Depending on your target audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey and sales funnel, you can create the most relevant type of gated content to support your objectives. 

Often, when deciding if content should be gated or ungated, it comes down to the value and quality of the content. When you put a lot of time and effort into creating something of value that potential members want to get their hands on, gating the content could be great leverage to generate quality leads. Think about the quality of the content, format, and how valuable it is to your intended audience. In comparison, if you want to raise brand awareness, your gated content isn’t performing well, or you don’t have a lot of ungated content currently, choosing ungated content may be a more suitable option. 

9 tips for using gated content to acquire new members 

If you’re creating new gated content to generate qualified leads and acquire members, it’s a good idea to stick to a few best practices. While the content topic and type can differ, depending on your understanding of your target audience, you can use the following tips across your gated content strategy to support your goals and objectives. 

1. Align gated content to the buyer’s journey 

We previously touched on the main stages of the buyer’s journey. With gated content, it’s useful to align your content to your buyer’s journey. Think about what is valuable to someone who doesn’t know about your brand in comparison to a potential lead who is close to signing up for a gym membership. At the awareness stage, a potential customer is often seeking a solution to a problem. Think about a nutrition guide to lose weight sustainability or a workout program to increase strength in 8-weeks. From here, you can then create content that’s aimed at the consideration and decision stage of the buyer’s journey. 

2. Optimize your landing page 

Whether you are targeting an engaged lead with a free trial or offering your latest eBook to generate fresh leads, think about optimizing your landing page for your gated content. Interestingly, 55% of landing page submissions on Hubspot came from eBooks. Only half of landing pages are optimized for mobile. Think about your CTA, copy, form fields, imagery, design, keywords, and loading time. Each of these elements can impact how well your landing page performs. At the beginning of the customer relationship, keep the form fields low as you don’t want to create any obstacles that stop users from filling out a form. Your landing page should make it clear what content users are receiving, drive value, and show them how to access the content. 

3. Create an incredible offer 

As you create gated content, think about the offer you’re looking to promote and how it aligns with your target audience. Promote your piece of content on social media, your site, blog posts, use paid ads or even Instagram influencer marketing. When you offer gated content, you’re looking to solve a problem and increase perceived value. Crafting an incredible offer and great content starts by having a complete understanding of your target customer. 

4. Keep your forms short 

Research suggests that three fields are the optimal number of fields for a landing page form. The most popular combination of fields to ask for is name and email address. The key takeaway is that you don’t want to bombard your leads with too much. Keep your forms short, simple, and clear. It’s important that you’re transparent with how you intend to use customer data. Consumers are increasingly aware of data privacy, so transparency is essential for building trust. Only ask for the information you absolutely need. Every barrier is a chance for a lead to drop out of the process. 

5. Make your CTAs stand out 

A strong CTA is a key factor in optimizing any landing page. A compelling call-to-action is concise and attracts users with clear action-driven copy. A lead generation form button appeals to your target audience and encourages anticipation. Here are some content examples of lead generation CTAs you could use on your landing page: 

  • Get Access Instantly 
  • Continue to Download eBook
  • Send Lesson One 
  • I’d Love to Have a Copy of [Guide Name]

6. Segment your offers 

When creating gated content, you have an offer in mind that targets a certain customer. To be relevant to a potential customer, you need different content offers and content to support them. This section really only applies when promoting your gated content through paid ads. Through audience segmentation, you can target different offers at the right user to increase the chances of generating a lead. Think about how you can segment your offers, so they target different parts of the customer journey and your member personas. Through Facebook ads or other paid advertising, you can look to get your offer in front of the right person. 

7. Produce truly relevant content 

Following on from the previous point, it’s important that you create truly relevant content. As you craft new gated content, the first step should be thinking about content that is relevant to your target audience. Without relevancy, your content will likely fall short and not deliver the conversions you’re after. We live in a time where there is so much content online for users to sift through. To create relevant content, you need a thorough understanding of your audience. Tap into your market research and member personas to determine the most relevant content for your customers. 

8. Don’t forget about your ungated content 

If you have a library of ungated content and have a piece that is performing particularly well, it’s a great opportunity to repurpose that content. You can turn successful blogs, infographics, and videos into gated content. Continue to track how your ungated content performs so you can spot an opportunity to create gated content. The benefit of this is that the content is already there, and you know that it’s popular with your target audience. 

9. Consider different types of gated content 

Your digital marketing strategy combines different types of content to support your overall objectives. Think about creating different types of gated content suitable for your business. While a white paper may not be ideal for a gym, a workout template, nutrition guide, or healthy eating eBook could be perfect. Determine your goals and who you want to target. From here, you can choose the best type of gated content to drive value and generate engaged leads. You also have the option to test your gated content and to evaluate your landing page, type of content, and success. 

In summary 

Gated content is a useful lead generation tool that your fitness business can utilize to gather engaged leads, and ultimately, acquire new members. By creating gated content based on a deep understanding of your target audience, you can craft valuable content that users would love to have. Exchange high-value content for contact information as you continue to raise your perceived value, grow your email list, and take a complete stranger to a paying member.  

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