From downloadable whitepapers to video demos, content is one of the most popular ways B2B companies seek to generate leads online.

In many if not most cases, that content comes with a price: to access it, the interested party must fill out a registration form.

For obvious reasons, a registration form reduces the distribution content will see as not every person desiring access to the content will be willing to provide the information required by the form. In theory, that’s okay: the registration form is a filter that helps weed out tire-kickers.

Practically-speaking, however, placing a registration form in front of every piece of content, be it a whitepaper, case study, brochure or video, however, is an imperfect lead generation strategy that ignores a simple fact: it’s often likely that multiple interactions will be required before an interested party is willing to complete a registration form. So the less you’re willing to provide without registration, the less likely it may be that you generate an actionable lead.

What then is the right approach? Here are five questions worth asking when considering whether a piece of content should be placed behind a registration form.

1. Is the content likely to be distributed far and wide?

If your company just completed a study, for instance, and you plan to publicize the results through press releases, blogger outreach, etc., placing the full study behind a registration form may not be all that productive. After all, if your PR campaign is successful, the details of the study will likely be covered widely and copies of it are probably going to be shared anyway — something you want as it will help build your credibility and brand.

On the other hand, for information that isn’t as likely to be shared outside of the recipient organization, a registration form may be more appropriate.

2. Where in the sales cycle is the recipient most likely to be?

The utility and relevance of content can vary significantly based on where in the sales cycle the recipient is. A high-level brochure or fact sheet, for instance, is likely to be of interest to an individual early in the sales cycle, but probably won’t be of much value later in the sales cycle.

The person who is likely further along in the sales cycle is arguably the one you want to speak with the most, so freely distributing the early sales cycle content and placing the more detailed content that would appeal to a prospect further along in the sales cycle behind a registration form can be a sensible approach.

3. How detailed and technical is the information?

Content is a valuable sales tool for B2B companies, but content that is more detailed and technical is a double-edged sword: if it isn’t understood by the recipient, it can lead to misunderstandings that can be fatal to a sale. As such, ensuring that you can follow up with a recipient of this kind of content may not just be desirable, it may be crucial.

4. Can the content serve as a filter?

Prolificacy doesn’t always correlate with profitability. Ask an experienced B2B salesperson and chances are she’ll tell you: less is often more when it comes to leads.

Registration forms have an obvious role to play in maximizing quality leads. Place a registration form before every piece of PDF you offer on your website and there’s a decent chance you’ll generate a greater number of low-quality leads. Evaluate your content in terms of its ability to serve as a filter, however, and your content ca easily become a tool for separating the wheat from the chaff.

5. How new is the content?

New content isn’t always more useful or relevant, particularly in B2B organizations, but it’s worth reevaluating your content from time-to-time. As content ages, it may make sense to free it from the registration wall so that the value of more recent content can be more effectively highlighted.