Why do White Papers Fail?
Reason #3 – Sitting Idle
If you hire an engineer, you pay that person to do a job. Whether it’s designing something new, solving a crisis, or simply keeping production running smoothly, the engineer has to be on the job to get things done.
What if you pay an engineer to be on vacation all the time? That’s a great deal for the engineer, but while the engineer is on the beach, the products aren’t being designed, the yield might crash, or production could grind to a halt.
In much the same way, white papers must be in the hands of potential customers to do their job. Creating a good white paper takes resources. It takes time, effort, and yes, money. Why, then, do so many white papers sit idle after they are finished?
Before beginning a white paper, there must be a goal in mind. Why are we writing this white paper, and what are we going to do with it?
I’ve visited a number of company websites with a section devoted to a white paper library, and that’s great. It gives anyone the ability to grab your document and read it at their leisure. Do you know who downloaded it? How can you follow up if you don’t? Do you know why it was downloaded? Can you track the ROI for freely accessible white papers?
A commonly used technique is to use the white paper as bait for acquiring a name and email address. That’s called gating. Simply urge the user to sign up for your company newsletter, and reward them with access to the white paper. But, that’s only one way to use these documents.
The sales team should be taking a stack of white papers to every trade show, and copies to every customer visit. Send an electronic copy to everyone on that company newsletter list, or at least advertise the white paper in that newsletter with a link that allows subscribers to grab a copy without going through the gate again.
Talk about the newsletter on social media when it’s released, and drive traffic to a landing page talking up the white paper and encouraging users to register for the newsletter to get a copy of it.
White papers aren’t brochures. The target audience is intentionally narrow in scope. You don’t care if a casual reader gets bored and stops reading because the casual reader isn’t going to buy your product anyway. You want to reach the person who in interested in solving a problem your product handles. To do that, you must get the white paper into that person’s hands.
Thus, white papers must be marketed, just like any other product. But it goes beyond that. You can use excerpts as blog posts and for short articles on social media sites. Better still, recycle the research to create new content and post in the same places. At the end of those articles, you can have a link users can follow if they want more information, and that link once again leads them to the landing page.
Be creative. A white paper is an investment, so make good use of it once it’s done to ensure you capture that ROI.
This post originally appeared in my LinkedIn profile.