If you are a B2B company and you don’t use whitepapers in your marketing mix you will get your clock cleaned by the competition.
Study after study over the years has consistently shown that whitepapers are one of the most influential marketing collaterals ever.
In fact, the only thing that can beat them in influence is positive word of mouth or personal recommendations.
According to the Eccolo Media 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report
- 62% of the respondents read whitepapers, second only from product brochures and beating other collateral like case studies.
- 65% considered whitepapers to be very or extremely influential in purchase decisions, the highest for any content collateral.
This quote from the survey captures, in a nutshell, what exactly is it about whitepapers and B2B technology marketing
…white papers … continue to be the “must-have” asset in the technology marketer’s toolkit. This year’s respondents still consider white papers to be the most influential technology collateral type, historically they are the most frequently shared type of content, and they can be easily leveraged to create other, smaller collateral pieces, such as trends guides or blog posts.
Read the report. It’s free and it will help you in finding out the kind of marketing content that can give the highest ROI, the biggest bang for your buck.
What ails whitepapers?
It’s not that B2B tech marketers have not got the memo about whitepapers. A simple Google search will turn up hundreds of thousands of whitepapers. But there are a host of problems with whitepapers that leave a bitter taste in the mouths of both marketers and readers.
You may be a marketing neophyte about to dip your toe into the water. You could be a veteran marketer swimming against frigid currents. But if you want to start and sustain a successful whitepaper campaign…
…study some of the characteristics of whitepapers that proved to be duds, and avoid them.
1. No clarity about the message
Get your story straight- is your white paper aiming to establish yourself as a thought leader, or is it talking about a specific technical problem?
2. Zero idea about the value of the whitepaper
Is the whitepaper needed? What will happen if the whitepaper gets written? What metrics will determine the success or failure of the whitepaper? Answer these questions before starting.
3. No clue about the ideal reader
A good whitepaper is like a sharp harpoon, written for only one type of reader. Bad ones are like blunt multi pronged grappling hooks, trying to attract too many people at the same time and ending up getting stuck to floating garbage.
4. Absence of focus on solutions
The worst whitepapers are focused on the vendor and the features and bells and whistles. The best keep the vendor in the background and talk about user problems and how to solve them. Which one do you want yours to be?
5. No difference from a sales pitch
A whitepaper is not the same as a brochure or a blatant sales pitch. Best whitepapers seek to establish trust and authority on the topic. The vendor gets a paragraph or two at the end.
6. A broken or non existent content strategy
Whitepapers can’t stand on their own- they need content leading up to them, and they work best when they can direct the reader to another piece of collateral. A well written whitepaper is no replacement for a content funnel.
7. No clear call to action
All successful whitepapers have a call to action. Download this ROI calculator, visit our website, call us on this number- you get the idea. You have wooed the reader, don’t leave them hanging.
8. No emotional connection with readers
No one will read your marketing whitepaper if it reads like a court filing. Use casual language, tell a story and discuss the pain points of your ideal reader to build a rapport with them.
9. Poor formatting and layout
A whitepaper should not look like an unabridged edition of War and Peace. Instead, borrow the style of popular magazines to include visual breaks like graphs, charts, photos. Use lots of whitespace.
10. No social sharing buttons
A good whitepaper, like any other piece of content, needs to be shareable. If you want your whitepaper to be read by as many people as possible, add social sharing buttons.
11.Restrictive gating behind long forms
Except for a few whitepapers that map at the end of the buyer journey most whitepapers should not be gated. Tear down walls, keep forms limited to two fields and see readership jump 10x, 20x, 50x.
A whitepaper is a costly and a powerful piece of content. Done properly you can reap tremendous benefits. Done badly, it will lie there in a forgotten corner of your website collecting digital dust.
What are your tips for a good whitepaper?