Marketing a White Paper for Better ROI
Once it’s written, the most critical phase is marketing a white paper. After all, if nobody reads it, why was it created?
When the writer is finished, the project is turned over to the marketing group. With some forethought, work should already be done by marketing to get ready for this phase. A white paper launch should be treated as a mini-product launch.
It should be obvious, but the white paper should be on the company website. The document isn’t a secret, it’s a marketing tool. If somebody stumbles across your website and wants detailed information about one of your products, the last thing you want to do is make finding it difficult. The appropriate white papers should be just a click away using a link from the product page.
To Gate or Not to Gate?
There are two philosophies on posting white papers on the company website. Both camps have valid points, and each has disadvantages.
The first camp prefers to have them all freely available. The justification here is casting the widest net. The more widespread the distribution of the white paper, the more likely it falls into the intended hands. While you can count the number of downloads, there’s no way to know the quality of the downloads.
The second camp prefers to gate some or all of their white papers. These white papers are freely available, but the user must trade contact information or subscribe to a newsletter to gain access. The theory here is white papers have inherent value, so gating filters out the users who aren’t all that interested. Interested users are willing to be contacted to gain access to the report. Unless they aren’t.
Which philosophy is the right one for your company is a decision that can only be made internally.
Another aspect of hosting the white paper on the website is how to display it. Of course, there should be a link from the relevant product page. After users clicks on that link, where do they end up? Ideally, that should be a custom landing page where the white paper can be accessed, or the actual gate for access is located. (See above section on gating.) The landing page is where carefully-worded marketing copy is placed. The job of the landing page is to close the sale (of the white paper, which is the “product” of interest here).
All links related to the marketing a white paper should lead to this landing page. that’s true whether those links are internal to the website, or if they come from external sources like social media or a press release.
Some companies feature their newest white paper on the company website’s home page. Sometimes that’s done in a prominent location, often in a sidebar, and occasionally even as an in-your-face popup ad. Which style you choose to employ will depend upon the company’s culture and philosophy.
Just posting the white paper on the company website is rarely enough marketing effort for most companies. While the cost for posting on the website is negligible, the Field of Dreams philosophy, “if we build it, they will come,” simply isn’t the case for all but a few very large and entrenched businesses.
White Paper Sites
Posting your white paper to the several available white paper repositories allows a larger segment of the population to discover your material. While most have a paid tier with additional options, at the very least open a free account and post the white paper. It’s a cheap method for marketing a white paper. After all, when there is a needle in a haystack and a lot of people walk through that haystack, somebody will step on the needle and find it. Check out the following sites where you can post a white paper:
If you keep an internal newsletter list, you can include an article about the white paper in your next newsletter. Distribute it to the entire newsletter list, and include a link to the landing page. These are prospects who opted into receiving information from you, so take advantage of it. If you gate the white paper download, newsletter subscribers should get a bypass around the gate. After all, they already subscribe to the newsletter, so you already have their information.
Leverage Business Partners
Sometimes, a close business partner will allow an article in the newsletter they send to their own distribution list. The partner might even be willing to host the white paper on their website. Expect the partner to insist upon their own landing page. After all, if they are promoting your white paper, they should get the prospect’s data.
Distribute to Media
When marketing a white paper, one difficult but effective way to gain a lot of attention is to have it picked up by mainstream media. While most white papers won’t get mentioned in the New York Times, there is a good possibility of coverage in a trade magazine or a niche popular publication. While a little bit of due diligence is called for in this instance, if your white paper fits the publication’s tone, mission, and works within the writers’ guidelines, then send a copy over.
Online industry discussion groups might also be interested in seeing a copy of the white paper. Repurpose the content to get a discussion going. Once somebody asks for a copy of the document, you can safely upload it for anyone to grab their own copy.
For a more thorough discussion on marketing white papers, see White Papers for Dummies by Gordon Graham. You can find Rick’s review of the book here.