How Intercom used gated content to generate 100,000+ leads
Thinking of using gated content in your marketing? Before you do, check out this breakdown of Intercom’s strategy for creating and gating content that generated 5X growth in traffic and 100,000+ leads.
Want to see how to create gated content for your business? Click here to skip to the bottom and we’ll show you how.
Are you using Intercom? If not, chances are you’ve visited a site in the last week that uses Intercom to chat with their customers.
Intercom, one of the most popular customer communication tools for SaaS and online businesses, has experienced insane growth in what is considered to be a competitive space.
How fast is insane growth? $1 million to $50 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) in 3 years.
Intercom has grown to $50 milion in annual recurring revenue (ARR) faster than lots of other top SaaS companies – including Shopify, New Relic, HubSpot, Zendesk, RingCentral and Atlassian.
The only SaaS company to grow faster is Slack.
If you follow Intercom, then you might know of their great blog – Inside Intercom. It’s packed full of top-notch content, strategies and insights from industry leaders on product, support, sales and marketing.
Over the years, they’ve grown it from a place where the founders blogged online to an industry-leading publication with over 2.6 million monthly visitors, led by an amazing content team.
Not only is Intercom’s blog followed by thousands of product teams, it also helped generate over 30,000 customers for their product and 100,000+ leads.
While most companies fail to see ROI from their blogs and content marketing efforts, how does Intercom make sure their blog drives readers to take action and become leads and customers for their product?
The answer: Gated content and targeted CTAs.
Today, I’m going to show you a breakdown of how Intercom used gated content to generate over 100,000+ leads and became one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies to date.
Whether you’re aiming to be the fastest-growing company in your industry or not, these strategies could make a huge difference in the ROI you see from your content marketing efforts.
Let’s dive in…
Table of contents:
- What is gated content?
- The #1 type of gated content Intercom used to generate 100,000+ leads
- The JTBD methodology Intercom used to drive their lead generation and content strategy
- How Intercom creates gated content for different customer segments
- How Intercom uses targeted CTAs to promote the right gated content to the right visitors
- One sales hack that instantly qualifies leads for Intercom’s sales team
- 3 ways Intercom could improve their blog’s conversion strategy
- How to gate content and generate more leads for your business
What is gated content?
Seth Godin once said, “Content Marketing is the Only Marketing Left”. Nowadays, for marketers to generate ROI from their marketing, they can’t just rely on interruption marketing that is designed to get the sale on the first visit. Marketers know they need to continue to engage visitors and build trust throughout the customer journey to win customers over.
That’s why every marketer and their mother is investing in content marketing. Not only does it allow them to engage their audience throughout the customer journey, it also allows them to attract potential customers looking to solve a problem their product helps with, at a relatively low cost.
When marketers finish producing a piece of content, they often ask themselves “Do we just give it all away or should we request the reader’s information in exchange for the content?”
Requiring that your visitors first submit their contact information in a form in order to gain access to content is what’s commonly known as gating content.
Here’s an example of gated content:
Gating content can be one of the most effective ways to generate leads for your product or service, as well as to build a loyal audience for your brand.
So effective, that gating content generated over 100,000 leads for Intercom.
The #1 type of gated content Intercom used to generate 100,000+ leads
When you visit Intercom’s blog, you’ll notice that they run their blog like a publication.
Almost, if not all, articles are authored by someone on Intercom’s team. Leaders on their product team, sales team, marketing team, etc. all contribute.
It’s clear their company fully believes in the importance of everyone across the organization sharing what they learn and involving subject matter experts to create content, instead of leaving it up to just the content team.
As you continue scrolling, you’ll notice a well-designed CTA promoting one of their books.
This brings us to the first type of gated content Intercom’s team creates; books.
Intercom has created books on all kinds of topics that help their customers. They have books on onboarding, product management, customer support, customer engagement, and marketing, just to name a few.
According to Intercom, their books have been read by over 100,000 people.
And in true Intercom fashion, their books are co-authored by subject matter experts who are leading teams that are in the trenches every day and can write from a place of experience.
So, you might be wondering, why does Intercom write so many books? Isn’t one book enough?
Many companies would be happy having written just one book. However, because multiple teams in a company use Intercom’s product, their team couldn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to their marketing. What this means for them is that to drive adoption they need to focus on marketing the job-to-be-done.
The JTBD methodology Intercom used to drive their lead generation and content strategy
“What job are customers hiring your product for?”
As Matt Hodges, VP of Commercial Product Strategy at Intercom says “At Intercom the answer to this question informs our entire go-to-market strategy, from the way we position our products, to the audiences we target and the content we produce.”
Intercom has used a methodology called Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) to drive their go-to-market strategy and to 5X their traffic from 35,000 visitors to 220,000 visitors in a little over 1 year.
Jobs-to-be-Done, in short, is a methodology for identifying what an individual really seeks to accomplish in a given circumstance. This is known as the “job.”
In Matt’s talk on “How To Market The Job-to-be-Done” he explains how this applies to marketing…
“Conventional marketing techniques teach you to group customers by attributes and focus on personas. The problem with that approach is your product tends to be too focused on what you want to sell and not enough on what your customers actually need. That “need” is the job they need to get done.
While your customers do come in all shapes and sizes and across all different verticals and all types of industries, the one thing they do have in common is the job they need to get done.
So, how do you actually go about understanding what those jobs are?
You need to talk to lots of different people. You need to talk to a broad spectrum of your customers – brand-new customers, people who just signed up, people that canceled last week, people that have been users for a long time, etc.”
To do this, Intercom worked with a consultancy out of Detroit called The Rewired Group. They helped Intercom conduct 45 phone interviews with customers and then study those conversations to define the “jobs” Intercom’s customers hired their product to do, and to rethink their go-to-market strategy.
This led their company to transition away from selling Intercom as a single product and marketing it’s four primary use cases to 4 different personas.
They then began selling Intercom as 4 different products, with each product designed to do one of the jobs their customers hired Intercom to do.
Today, that’s evolved into 3 products for product teams; one for acquiring customers, one for engaging customers, and one for supporting customers.
Each product is hired to do a specific job:
- Acquire customers (sales)
- Engage customers (marketing)
- Support customers (support)
With those jobs defined, as Matt says “In marketing, it was our job to then take those jobs and clearly articulate the problems they solved.”
He continues “You can be so much more strategic about identifying the different channels, mediums, and tactics you want to use to reach your audience. For us, that starts with reaching those people.”
Knowing the job-to-be-done has driven Intercom’s content and lead generation strategy. By thinking about who the people are that would hire Intercom for one of these jobs, they’ve focused the content they create to attract customers into 3 primary categories; sales, marketing, and support.
This is how they mapped to the market.
How Intercom creates gated content for different customer segments
Intercom creates gated content for core topics that relate to the jobs customers “hire” or purchase their product to do for them. The end goal of their gated content is to convert their ideal customers from readers of their blog into leads or users of their product.
If you explore Intercom’s website, you’ll see gated content in the form of:
- Starter Kits
Gating content with books
Books have become a cornerstone to Intercom’s lead generation strategy.
On Intercom’s website, you’ll see they’ve created books on all of the following topics: customer support, sales, marketing, product management, customer engagement, user onboarding, growth, and more.
Each book is promoted on a beautifully-designed landing page.
We’ve actually studied all of Intercom’s landing pages for their books and designed a book landing page template modeled after them, that you can use to promote your next ebook, guide or lead magnet.
Gating content with guides and starter-kits
For content that’s actionable and that is designed to help a visitor implement a solution, guides and starter-kits can serve as really effective ways to gate premium content and generate leads.
Nowadays, many people online are selective and sometimes averse to giving away their email in exchange for access to downloadable ebooks, PDFs and white papers – a lead generation tactic that’s been used for 15+ years and might be less effective now than in previous years.
That’s why, if you want to collect contact information from leads, you have to create something valuable enough that prospects won’t just roll their eyes and close out of your page as soon as they see an email form.
Intercom uses guides and starter-kits to create really compelling content that they can gate and offer in exchange for their leads’ contact information and to grow their email list.
These starter-kits consolidate actionable content that helps potential customers go from the idea of improving their sales, support or marketing to actually being able to implement steps that improve these functions of their business.
What’s even more special about Intercom’s starter-kits is that all the content is delivered on pages hosted online, instead of in downloadable PDFs. This allows their team to track engagement and consumption of their content, as well as conversion rates from CTAs embedded in the content of their starter-kits.
Downloadable files like PDFs don’t give you a way to track engagement metrics and optimize conversion rates to the next step in your funnel.
If you want to launch your own starter-kit or gated content that delivers all the content online, so you can track and optimize your conversion rates, here’s a template we created that includes:
- A landing page (made in our landing page creator)
- An about page
- A table of contents page
- A title page
- 3 content page templates (which you can duplicate to format and deliver your content)
- A quote page
- A CTA page
Click “See template” to see the fully interactive version of the template.
Gating content with webinars
The same way Intercom creates books, guides and starter-kits that help their customers with customer support, sales and marketing, Intercom also creates webinars for people who want to dive deeper or who prefer consuming content in a video format vs written format.
When looking at the Intercom webinars page, you’ll see they have multiple webinars for each core topic that’s related to their product.
Here are some of their webinars on support.
Here are some of their webinars on sales.
Here are some of their webinars on marketing.
Each webinar uses the same templatized landing page to collect registrants. This allows their marketing team to execute the promotion of webinars quickly and make sure that all of their marketing stays on brand.
Here’s the landing page for prerecorded webinars:
If you want to gate video content of your webinars, events or workshops, then get your gated video content campaigns launched with this webinar landing page template:
How Intercom uses targeted CTAs to promote the right gated content to the right visitors
Gating content through landing pages, forms or popups to collect leads is only half of the equation.
The next step is to promote your gated content to the right visitors as they browse your site.
Intercom does this by creating embedded CTAs and forms that are targeted to display on specific blog posts across their site that are relevant to the gated content they’ve created.
For example, when reading blog posts that belong to their blog’s category on “customer support”, you’ll see embedded CTAs that promote their starter-kit on creating a help center to better support customers.
When reading blog posts that are on the topic of sales, you’ll see targeted CTAs that promote their book on sales.
Same goes for blog posts on marketing. You’ll find CTAs promoting their book on marketing.
On specific posts, you’ll also see how they promoted their gated webinars through targeted CTAs.
Using targeted calls to action on your website to drive the right visitors, based on the content their reading, to the right gated content, is one of the best ways to give your gated content perpetual promotion.
As visitors browse your blog or discover your content through Google or through social media, they’ll be much more compelled to take the next step in your funnel if you’re gated content is relevant and seems like a natural way to progress from the content they’re reading.
Showing the right gated content to the right visitors based on the content they’re reading is one of the best ways to increase your conversion rate of turning new visitors into leads.
If you want to quickly start promoting your gated content in blog posts across your site, use this embedded CTA template to start getting your gated content in front of the right visitors.
One sales hack that instantly qualifies leads for Intercom’s sales team
As you start generating lots of leads from your website’s gated content, your sales team might begin complaining that they’re not able to reach their sales quotas because the leads they’ve been given are not qualified or ready to purchase yet.
To provide their sales team with more qualified sales leads, Intercom uses a nice sales hack to instantly research the leads they’re generating through their gated content and then use the data found on leads to route the most qualified leads to their sales reps.
Here’s how they do it:
On every landing page that promotes their gated content, their forms not only collect first name, last name, and email, they also collect company name.
This is pretty standard data that might allow a sales rep who’s qualifying leads to spot people that work at recognizable companies.
However, this information doesn’t tell you much about the lead and the company they work with.
That’s why Intercom uses this one line of code provided by Clearbit, to instantly research the company the lead works for.
Clearbit, a marketing data company, provides data on professionals and companies that gives teams the information they need to qualify leads and personalize their marketing.
One of Clearbit’s products called Reveal, provides company data based on the IP address a visitor’s device is using when they visit a website. You’ll see in the image above that Intercom is using Clearbit’s code snippet for Reveal on all of their gated content landing pages.
This provides data on many of the companies that visit their landing pages for their books, webinars, guides and starter-kits, and gives them the ability to notify their sales team and personalize their marketing for each lead.
Clearbit provides another product called Enrichment, which gives companies the ability to research the person behind an email address.
While, there isn’t any indication that Intercom is using this to research every email address that is submitted in their gated content’s forms, chances are they use this as well to get a full view of who their leads are.
Clearbit can provide over 85 unique data points on professionals and companies. For companies looking to improve conversions by personalizing their marketing and improve the efficiency of their sales team, this can be a great tool to add to their marketing stack.
If you’re interested in further exploring how to use Clearbit for personalization, here’s a talk on “Hyper Personalization for Hyper Growth” by Guillaume Cabane, the VP of Growth at Drift.
3 ways Intercom could improve their blog’s conversion strategy
As you can see, Intercom is definitely doing a lot right when it comes to using gated content for lead generation.
And being that their gated content has generated over 100,000 leads for their team, it’s safe to say it’s getting them great results.
However, there are a few big conversion opportunities Intercom is missing out on, that when fixed could improve almost every metric across their conversion funnel.
1. Segmenting new website visitors to promote the right gated content
Metric to improve:
Website’s visitor-to-lead conversion rate
On Intercom’s marketing site, they use a chat bot to ask visitors a series of questions that lead to one of two outcomes; starting a conversation with a sales rep or for the visitor to keep browsing the site.
While, this isn’t bad and it may be possible that Intercom simply prefers to use their marketing site to generate sales qualified leads vs marketing leads, I can imagine there are a lot of potential customers that are being lost.
Why? Well, according to a study by KISSmetrics, on average, 96% of visitors leave a website without taking the next step.
This means the 4% that do take action are the ones considering making a purchase now.
While Intercom’s chat bot is engaging, it only really helps the small percentage of visitors who are considering to buy now.
But, what about the other 96% of visitors who are interested, but are not ready to buy yet?
If Intercom segmented the website visitors that visit their product pages and gave people who aren’t ready to start a trial or talk to a sales rep, the ability to get access to gated content on the topic of the product page, they would probably see a sizable increase in conversions from visitors to user signups or sales qualified leads.
Especially, when you consider the remarketing and personalized email follow up they can do post email capture.
2. Personalizing website CTAs for returning contacts
Metrics to improve:
Lead-to-user signup conversion rate
Lead-to-SQL conversion rate
One of the biggest conversion opportunities most companies miss when they have sites that get a lot of repeat visitors, is that they don’t re-engage these repeat visitors or contacts on their site with personalized messages.
For SaaS websites like Intercom’s, usually, a decent amount of their traffic is made up of repeat visitors who are visiting the site to log back into the product or contacts being driven to their site from their marketing emails.
This is a perfect opportunity to personalize the site to guide these visitors to take the next step in the funnel.
For example, when returning contacts visit Intercom’s blog and are reading a blog post about sales, if the person has already gained access to the gated content on the topic of the post, then Intercom could show targeted CTAs in their content to promote signing up for their sales product.
Or if customers of their support product read a blog post on support, Intercom could drive expansion revenue by using targeted CTAs that promote a premium feature like their Answer Bot add-on and driving these existing customers to try out this add-on for their Intercom account.
3. Drive users who gain access to their gated content to take the next step
Metrics to improve:
Lead to signup conversion rate
Free user to trial conversion rate
Paid user to add-on trial conversion rate
In Intercom’s gated content like their starter-kits, Intercom delivers some really good tips that help their users and potential customers come up with ideas on what to do to acquire customers with live chat, engage their users and support their customers.
And their product is a great solution for implementing what their content teaches.
However, once people finish reading the content in their starter-kits, they’re left hanging without a clear action step to take next.
Engaging people that gained access to their gated content with a strong CTA that drives them to take the next step, would allow Intercom to better track the marketing and revenue impact each of their gated content pieces has on their business.
Intercom could easily show targeted CTAs in this content that…
- Drive leads to sign up for their product
- Drive free users to start a trial of their paid plans
- Drives paid customers to start a trial of their premium feature add-ons
How to gate content and generate more leads for your business
Now that you’ve seen how Intercom used gated content to generate 100,000+ leads and to help them become of the fastest-growing SaaS companies, hopefully, you’ve been inspired with lots of ideas on how you can start using gated content to capture more leads and grow your business.
To get you started, here a few ways of how you can start gating content on your site:
CTA to embedded form
You could use multi-step forms to show a targeted CTA on your website that when clicked, displays a form that gives visitors access to your gated content.
Click here to see form templates.
CTA to popup
You could use targeted CTAs in your blog content that when clicked, trigger a popup that promotes your gated content.
Click here to see popup templates.
CTA to landing page
You could use targeted CTAs that when clicked, drive visitors to beautiful landing pages that promote your gated content.
Click here to see landing page templates.
Survey to popup or landing page
You could use surveys that drive visitors to different popups or landings pages that promote the right gated content based on the survey option your visitors choose.
Click here to see a survey template.
Quiz to popup, form or landing page
You could use quizzes that drive visitors to different popups or landing pages that promote the right gated content based on the quiz response your visitors selected.
Ready to start generating more leads with gated content? You can either create these different types of calls to action by coding them yourself or you can create all of these CTA combinations and more with ConvertFlow, the all-in-one platform for converting your website visitors.