Your Guide to Writing, Promoting and Using White Papers for Business
Whitepapers are one of the most effective lead generation tools available in B2B Marketing (Marketers named it #2 in the recent B2B Barometer Report). But even the most well-crafted whitepaper will fail to meet your expectations if your distribution strategy is putting the content on your website, waiting and hoping for the best.
To make the time you have invested into creating a compelling whitepaper pay off, you’ll need to get the word out.
Listening to the buzz you might think social media is your best bet, but from my own experience traditional, boring email will outperform social media in most cases.
The only downside: while social promotion is predominantly a time investment, successful email campaigns will require a sizeable budget.
The reason you’ll need that budget is your target email list. Unless you own a large subscriber base you will have to rent contacts. The options available are:
1. Newsletter ads – a banner or text ad in a third-party newsletter
2. List rental – a partner sends your creative to their own subscriber base for a CPM
(Stay away from purchasing lists unless you want to end up on a blacklist)
3. Cost-per-lead partnerships – a partner sends your copy in their design for a cost-per-lead
No matter what option you chose to go with, the deciding factor is always list quality. Make sure you know who your target audience is, then identify a matching list. A very good source for researching lists is edithroman.com. I’d recommend department, industry and job title as the primary criteria to use to find a match.
Make sure you rent a true subscriber list, where the opt-ins are from a single source. Stay away from compiled lists, where the names have been collected from directories.
Instead of buying one larger list, try to hedge your bets by going with three different lists at smaller recipient numbers. Instead of renting one list with 30,000 subscribers, go with three lists of 10,000 recipients each. That way it’ll be more likely that you find a list that works well for you.
The Email List Price Index will give you a good idea of the budget involved to get your email campaign off the ground.
If you want to learn more, check out the various ClickZ articles by Jeanne Jennings. Jeanne is a great resource on all things email marketing and I wholeheartedly recommend her. She’s also a speaker, so if you get the chance it’ll be well worth your time.
With choosing your list(s) you have already made the critical decision and laid the foundation for your success. The next important factors are your offer, your subject line and the email itself. I assume you’ll be marketing a whitepaper, so let’s go straight to the subject line.
Anatomy of a killer email subject line
• Use lower-case letters as that feels less like blatant advertising
• Avoid spam words like Free, cheap, $$$, etc.
• Use active, actionable language (i.e. verbs)
• State clearly what is in it for them
• Get to the point quickly
• Test, test, test
Create Emails that sell
Now that you have the attention of the reader you need to create an email that sells the whitepaper. Here are the tips to apply:
• Keep it short
Avoid paragraphs longer than three lines. Promotional emails are scanned, not read.
• Get to the point
Make sure your intro paragraph gets to the point immediately. Tell the readers what’s in it for them.
• Use bullet lists
The eye loves bullets. They get read. Put juicy benefits in the bullets. Bullet 1 should be the juiciest, bullet 5 the second most juiciest
• Include a hero image
An appealing hero image of the whitepaper will get more clicks. Read this post on ‘How to create stunning whitepaper hero images.’
• Use image captions
Image captions are one of the most-read parts of emails & websites. Make use of them
• Make everything clickable
Readers click on a whim. Make sure there’s a link behind where they click
• Focus on one call-to-action
“Download now” or “Download the Whitepaper” should do nicely
• Make the call-to-action a button
There should be no doubt that this is where the reader is supposed to click
• Use a PS line
Everyone reads the PS. Use it wisely
Now that your email marketing prowess has driven boatloads of potential customers to your website you are now faced with converting them. Here’s how:
• Have a dedicated landingpage
Your landingpage should be clutter-free and promote only the whitepaper
• Reduce navigation
Avoid users getting distracted by reducing the navigation elements to just a logo taking them back to your main site
• Have a prominent headline
A bold headline that reiterates parts of the subject line tells users they’ve come to the right place and reduces bounce rates
• Repeat the hero image
Serves the same purpose: A visual clue that this is what they came for
• Restate the benefits
Use the copy and another bullet lists to restate the benefits in slightly different terms
• Offer a preview
Allowing users to preview a shortened version of your whitepaper helps get them sold. Think Amazon’s ‘Look inside’
• Have a big call-to-action
Another ‘Download now’ on a big button
• Keep the form short
You will likely want to collect lead information. Make sure you only ask for data you absolutely can’t do without!
• Give the form some love
The form is the critical piece of the landingpage. Make sure form field validation rules are reasonable, error messages are easy to understand and that the overall form looks nice.
Alright, you’ve done your bit. Provided your whitepaper is any good you will now see the leads roll in. See the table to the right for a (conservative) calculation of likely outcomes of a $4,000 investment.
1. Rent the right list
2. Create a killer subject line and matching creative
3. Build a high-converting landingpage
What is you experience with promoting whitepapers? Is email the most effective channel for you as well? How is lead generation through social channels working for you?
I’d love to discuss in the comments below. Feel invited
About the Author
Daniel Waas is a B2B marketer with a passion for online marketing and a special interest in content strategy and creation. He heads up the Demand Generation team of Citrix’ Online Services Division in Europe, but this blog post is based on his personal experience and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the company. Daniel also owns and runs WhitepaperDepot.com, a brand new download portal for whitepapers, eBooks and PDF guides. Currently he spends a lot of time watching the Google Analytics flatline that is his website visitor graph. Consequently if you like this post he’d be super-excited if you would share it, follow him on Twitter (@WhitepaperDepot), check out the Whitepaper Depot Website or post a comment below.