Long before we called content marketing “content marketing,” marketers were leveraging white papers to generate and nurture leads.
While many new types of content offers have emerged over the past few years, white papers have lost none of their value. Audiences want access to expert advice, and they’re often willing to hand over contact information to get it.
Today, your ability to reap value from white paper-driven leads is greater than ever — especially if you view these publications as starting points in your relationships with new prospects and customers.
Is your white paper strategy on track to deliver these quality relationships and the higher ROI that comes with them?
Ask yourself these 3 questions to find out:
1. Are you welcoming readers or putting barriers in their way?
The most popular way to capture leads with your white papers is by gating them behind forms. But there are some things you need to watch out for.
A form, especially one that is unnecessarily long, can deter potential leads from engaging with your content. It’s important to gauge your audience’s appetite for forms through testing and, if it proves necessary, provide alternatives.
For example, you can use a form to gate your content, but include a “skip it” option. You will still collect details from visitors with a high degree of interest, but you’ll avoid turning away those unwilling to part with their information — the best of both worlds!
With digital white papers, it’s also possible to give visitors the option to access gated content through a social integration like LinkedIn. It’s easier for your users, and it allows you to gain valuable information to use in following up with leads.
And if you choose not to gate your content, or if they simply skip the form, you can still embed a retargeting pixel in your publication to engage with them later with relevant offers on other channels.
The bottom line is that you should test prospects’ willingness to share their contact information and change your tactics accordingly. You want to gather data but still make it easy for them to engage with you through your white paper.
2. Have you personalized your white paper for your reader?
You’ll find that when you personalize white papers, your leads will spend more time engaging with your content (22%, on average), and will be more likely to share it on social media with their networks.
When prospects fill out a form, or log in with their LinkedIn profiles to unlock gated white papers, they provide you with all the details you need to personalize their reading experience. Don’t pass up that opportunity.
Not only can you strategically place your reader’s name in the copy, you can even do things like including their profile photo on your cover page! You can also filter which pages of your publication they see according to the industry in which they work.
One of our clients recently did this with their 40-page white paper. Any given reader would see approximately 25 of those pages depending on their industry as listed on LinkedIn. The pages served would be those most relevant to that specific person.
The result of this personalization experiment was a 71 percent increase in overall reading time and an increase in social shares of 75 percent!
3. What are you doing after prospects read your white paper?
From the moment a prospect requests your white paper, they begin a relationship with your brand — or at least that’s how it should work. Too many companies treat a white paper download as an end, not a beginning.
How you follow up with a lead will determine whether or not a relationship develops. If you do it right, you’ll guide them further into the funnel and, eventually, get them to take some profitable action.
With traditional PDF white papers, the most you could do was move them onto a drip campaign. But with digital white papers, you can decide how to follow up based on how they’ve interacted with your content.
You might use a pixel, for example, to retarget certain readers that spent time on a particular page with a relevant offer on Facebook. If they used their LinkedIn account to access your white paper, you might choose to connect with them there.
By analyzing your white paper’s data, you’ll get an idea of how your readers interacted with your content and, therefore, how aggressively you should follow up. You can see which users were highly engaged and might warrant immediate direct contact from your sales team.
Look at which pages users spent the most time on and which specific links they clicked on. Did a user watch an embedded video all the way to the end? All of this information can inform your nurture strategy.
White papers hold more potential value for marketers than ever. They can literally introduce you to the prospects you most want to meet. And if you deliver an experience that is both useful and memorable, those introductions will lead to quality customer relationships.