Are White Papers Dead?

Traditional white papers are likely the staple of your content marketing portfolio, and for good reason.

According to several recent studies from IDG and DemandGen Report, buyers still leverage white papers to help make B2B purchase decisions.

Across the buyer’s decision-making journey, white papers are leveraged during the:
  • Early Discovery phase, for finding new ideas and potential solutions – helping answer “Why Change?”
  • Middle Consideration phase, assessing the priority of the issue and creating a short list of vendors, helping answer “Why Now?”
  • 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 dirty little secret you may not know - The effectiveness of white paper fueled campaigns has been on the decline for the past six years – with the number of responses / downloads declining 5% each year.

It now takes significantly more reach to generate the same amount of lead responses from white paper fueled campaigns. This at a time when IDC reports that it takes 50% more leads to generate the same amount of revenue as just two years ago!

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

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

1)  Marketing overload – Buyers now receive 32% more marketing campaigns than they just a few years ago (SiriusDecisions).  How many white paper campaigns were in your inbox today alone? Likely your white paper fueled campaigns are getting lost in a sea of look-alikes, with little to differentiate your white paper from the hundreds of others.

2)  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 a wider range of buyer roles and industries, more buyer challenges and more complex solutions.  Studies indicate even 5 pages might be too long today. And the content, its just too text heavy for today’s more visually stimulated audience.

3)  More empowered – The Internet and other consumer technologies have spoiled B2B Prospects with the expectation of customization - 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.

4)  More skeptical – Today’s buyer has heard it all before, and they are wary. They most trust content recommended by peers, and authored by a third party. Only 13% said they view content that is created directly by a vendor as credible.

5)  More frugal – Buyers today are inflicted with Frugalnomics, a “do more with less” focus on the bottom-line like never before.  Buyers don’t want another product pitch. They want to know the positive business outcomes you can deliver, unfortunately most white papers remain product focused versus value centric.

So how do you overcome these issues with traditional white papers? Are there perhaps other more modern / effective ways to generate more, higher quality leads? 

What if …
  • You could dynamically personalize the right content - to connect with each prospect on their particular challenges, and communicate your value aligned with their unique perspective on what's valuable to them?
  • You could communicate your value message using visuals versus words - leveraging dynamic visual storytelling, whiteboard animations, embedded video and interactive infographics?
  • You could collect and leverage benchmarks and discoveries from prior prospect engagements to dynamically deliver unique insights to each prospect
  • You could quantify the cost-of-do-nothing and value-of-change to each buyer, interactively  based on hie or her unique opportunity?
Technology has come a long way and can definitely be leveraged to deliver a more compelling and effective connection with your prospects. The white paper may not be dead yet, but it is certainly time to deliver marketing content more effectively and evolve white papers for the 21st century.

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