Sunday, March 24, 2013

Are White Papers Dead?

Traditional white papers are likely the staple of your content marketing portfolio, and for good reason.  According to a recent IDG survey, 84% of buyers leveraged white papers as a key resource to help them make a purchase decision.

Across the buyer’s decision-making journey, white papers are leveraged:

  • 35% during the early Discovery phase, for finding new ideas and potential solutions – helping answer “Why Change?”
  • 23% during the middle Consideration phase, assessing the priority of the issue and creating a short list of vendors, helping answer “Why Now?”
  • 10% in the final Decision phase – determining which solution can best deliver the lowest cost, least risk, and best value solution, helping answer “Why Your Solution?”
Although white papers are still a workhorse, there is a troubling fact that deserves your immediate attention. For traditional white paper campaigns, it now takes significantly more reach to generate the same amount of lead responses. And the largest media sites report that the access frequency and utilization rates of traditional white paper are precipitously DOWN year over year.

Your current white papers just don’t have the same impact they once had … but why?

Here’s a couple of reasons we may be seeing the change:

  • Marketing overload – Buyers now receive 32% more marketing campaigns than they did just five years ago (SiriusDecisions).  Likely your traditional white paper fueled marketing campaigns are getting lost in a sea of look-alikes, with little to differentiate your white papers from the hundreds of others.
  • Short attention span theater – The typical white paper is just too long. The typical white paper is now more than 10 pages according to IDG, lengthened to address more complex challenges and solutions, and the need for different stakeholder and vertical focused messaging.  And the content, its just too text heavy for today’s more visually stimulated audience.
  • More frugal – Buyers today are inflicted with Frugalnomics, and respond more favorably to business / bottom-line oriented content. Yet most white papers remain too technical and don’t have the value messaging and quantification that today’s buyer demands.
  • Make it personal – The Internet and other consumer technologies have spoiled B2B Prospects with the expectation that they can get any content they want fully customized and tailored to their personal preferences.  However, traditional whitepapers are one-size-fits-all with little personalization and lagging relevance.

Evolving to Interactive White Papers
The good news is that a solution is available to make white papers the king of content once again, by evolving them to be interactive.

An Interactive White Paper (powered by Alinean) is a web application that uses a Prospect’s own profile to intelligently filter, create, assemble and deliver a fully personalized, more concise white paper

The Prospect is profiled from your marketing database information, or by prompting your Prospect with a few simple questions. The profiling typically collects a few key data points, which allows the Interactive White Paper tool to personalize the content, and might include:

  1. Company Name
  2. Industry
  3. Location
  4. Size (number of employees or revenue)
  5. Role of the buyer in the decision making process
  6. Assets and spending
  7. Challenges
Leveraging the profile information, the Interactive White Paper intelligently creates, assembles and customizes just the right white paper content from an integrated library of content –objects, creating a download that is more:

  1. Personalized – to include just the the right challenges, opportunities, solution recommendations and case studies
  2. Concise – because content is filtered to only include that which is deemed most relevant to the buyer’s role and needs
  3. Rational – including content which typically quantifies the “cost of doing nothing” and value of proposed solutions
  4. Emotional – to include more customized visuals and video to stimulate buyer interest and provide emotional buying triggers matched to the buyer’s role in the decision making process and challenges.
With the extra profile information, Alinean Interactive White Papers are able to capture a significant amount of customer intelligence, passing the additional profiling to marketing automation solutions such as Eloqua or Marketo to provide for better qualification and nurturing.
We all hate that follow-up call as a result of responding to a white paper campaign, “We noticed you downloaded a white paper.”  You can’t get any more vague than that for a follow-up.

With Alinean Interactive White Papers, a link to the customized report is also delivered to the MAP system, allowing sales professionals to intelligently follow-up with Prospects, creating a much more engaging dialogue: “ I noticed during a recent analysis you conducted with us that you were challenged with X,Y, and Z, and more importantly, you have $2M in costs which could be addressed with our ABCD solution, which we estimate could save 30% of your costs .”. Now that is a way to follow-up and get a response.

The Bottom-Line

Alinean Interactive White Papers are able to help you overcome the challenges plaguing traditional white papers, as they are more differentiated, value-focused, visual, personalized, relevant and concise. As a result, IDC reports that Interactive White Papers generate 3x more leads than traditional white paper fueled campaigns, and result in 150% more qualified leads per campaign.

The time is now for you to leverage Alinean to convert your traditional white papers into more effective Interactive White Papers.

Your next step is to invite Alinean to conduct a quick and easy White Paper Assessment, providing us with existing white papers you would like to convert, in order to determine the right profiling questions, customized content, pricing and schedule. As well, we can discuss any new white paper campaigns you may have in mind.

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