Do You Really Need Another Whitepaper?

July 3, 2019


Photo credit: Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Tried and true, whitepapers have been integral to marketing and communications for decades. They educate, influence and offer the promise of lead generation. But with the proliferation of other forms of content, and the noise of hundreds of media platforms, does anyone still read whitepapers? Will another whitepaper really generate results or extend the reach of your message? Is the heavy lift required to create a new whitepaper worth the return? The answer is yes…and no.

It’s true that whitepapers are still alive and well, and will long remain one important tool in a content marketer’s toolbox. In a DemandGen Content Preferences survey, B2B buyers confirmed the importance long form content plays in their decisions. In the survey, nearly half said they viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep and 51 percent said they rely more on content now than ever before. Whitepapers ranked the highest (82 percent) on the type of content most B2B buyers rely on, followed by webinars (78 percent) case studies (73 percent), e-books (67 percent), infographics (66 percent) and blog posts (66 percent). Another study reinforced the importance of quality content. It  reported that approximately 60 percent of business decision makers say thought leadership has directly led to awarding business to the organization that created the content.

Yes, whitepapers add value. They are worth the investment.

But, there’s more to the story. When a whitepaper isn’t done well, the time, money and energy put into creating it will all go to waste. Our team has worked with subject matter experts and leading edge companies around the world. In my work as a writer—collaborating with White House cybersecurity experts, passionate lawyers fighting for important change, people on the front lines of investigations that make national headlines, entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of science and brilliant startups—there has always been a common thread: difficulty creating content and leveraging it in a way that moves the needle. No matter the type of content—bylined article, blog post, podcast, video script, whitepaper—the challenges are the same.

So, how can you overcome these challenges, and truly tap into the value whitepapers and other longform content offer? Consider our best practices so your whitepapers aren’t doomed before they launch:

  • Add value. Self-promotion is a death sentence to content value. Whitepapers should not be trying to sell anything other than knowledge. Write with the sole aim of adding value to the reader, educating them and influencing them to share in your view of the topic. If the content is crisp and useful, new connections, partners, customers and sales will naturally follow.
  • Say something new. Surprisingly, many companies forget the importance of a fresh perspective. If your work doesn’t bring something original to the table, you will be hard-pressed to keep a reader longer than 30 seconds. Lean on validated and unbiased data and check your facts to ensure you are saying something new and
  • Consider a professional writer. Quality writing takes time, practice and an investment in reading the work of others. Chances are, your internal team is hard pressed to keep up with their routine responsibilities, let alone write an in-depth piece of content. Find a professional writer that understands your space and can speak in your company voice to do the heavy lifting.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of design. An attractive, professional layout is equally or possibly more important than the copy itself. Most of the information our brains process is visual, so make sure your message is conveyed using compelling imagery and quality design that is consistent with the overall look and feel of your brand.
  • Remember to gate it. It’s important to gate high quality content behind a registration form to capture reader information for sales to follow-up and nurture leads. Gating also makes it easier to track usage and traction, insights that can inform strategy and direction for future papers.

– Ashley, Director of Content

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