Should You “Gate” Your Case Studies?

BY Joel Klettke
April 3, 2016

Marketers have a tendency to get a little… overambitious.

These days, you have to look hard to find a website that doesn’t have some sort of pop-up or downloadable resource begging you to surrender your email.

For this post, we’re going to call that “Gating” – putting a gate in front of your content that someone has to deliberately go through.

Annoying as that might be, there’s a good reason marketers do that: it works.

Well, sometimes.

If the information on the other end is enticing and relevant enough and the source is trustworthy enough, then giving up your email might be a small enough price to pay.

It works best when the gated helps the lead do something they already want to do – whether that’s learning how to interview a customer or teaching them how to match their slacks with their socks.

With all the gating going on, a weird trend is starting to emerge: Gating case studies.

I’m seeing more and more marketers trying to use case studies as lead magnets to capture email.

Sometimes, case studies come with a teaser headline, like: “How We Grew Sales 200% for X Company”, with no further information unless a lead provides their email to download the study.

Other times, there’s a simple but complete one-pager case study that lays out the bare bones a lead might want to know (the problem, solution and results) but leaves the meaty details about the process behind a gate.

In either case, a lead needs to pony up their email if they want the whole story.

But is this a smart practice?

I’ll admit that this is something Case Study Buddy is eager to test with clients to see real-world results. I am very open to being wrong on this one.

But right now, I really don’t recommend it, and here’s why:

Consider the stage of the funnel a lead is likely to be at when they go out looking for case studies. Most likely, they’re in the awareness or evaluation stages.

  • In the “Awareness” stage, a lead has recognized they have a problem and is actively looking for a solution.
    They want to evaluate the efficacy of different approaches and companies, and read stories about people who have the same problems and found a solution.
  • In the “Evaluation” stage, a lead is establishing their preferences.
    They’re looking at both you AND your competitors. deciding on their priorities and seeing who’s the better fit.

In both of these stages, building credibility is crucial.

Case studies are HUGE credibility builders. When done right, they prove you can get results for people just like your leads. Not only that, but they reveal by way of example what a lead should expect when working with you.

I can think of no better asset to show a lead in the awareness and evaluation stages than a well-written, beautifully designed customer success story.

So why on earth would you hide all of that credibility-building power behind a gate that a lead will need to trust you to open?

Why make it harder for leads to see the incredible work you can do or hear from people like them why you’re the best company for the job?

If your competitor isn’t gating their case studies, I’d imagine they’re going to win that battle 9 times out of 10.

Instead, use your case studies to establish the trust that will make leads comfortable surrendering their email.

If someone reads  through a case study from start to finish, it’s a safe bet that they’re highly motivated to hear more from you at that point.

This is the perfect time to pitch other assets (gated or not) that add value or expand on the work you did for the client: Checklists for navigating their problem, comparison sheets, guides to convincing their stakeholders, ROI calculators and so on.

But if you ARE going to try gating your case studies, here’s what I recommend:

  • At very least, provide that quick one-pager so that a lead can get the gist of it.
  • Consider having at least a few completely accessible case studies that are gateways to your private ones.
  • Test it.

Have you succeeded with gated case studies? Am I full of bologna?

Drop me a line and tell me the story. Like I said, this one’s up for debate!

Ya, you like that? Well, there’s more where that came from!

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