White Papers and Websites are Highly Influential to Buyers


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I've just finished reading Eccolo Media's 2010 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report. Although it covers a variety of impressions from both decision makers and influencers involved in the technology purchasing process, today's post is focused on their findings about white papers and websites.

Although marketers have put a lot of emphasis on white papers in the past, they continue to carry the torch as a collateral favorite among B2B buyers and influencers. A majority of buyers are first exposed to white papers during the early stages of their buying process. White papers also have pass-along value with 33% saying they shared them with at least 2 others. In fact, only 17% of respondents said that white papers had little influence during the buying process.

You should note that influencers are often exposed to your white papers first with decision makers reading them later into the buying process. This may be indicative of the need for influencers to build the business case to get decision makers to take next steps. Are you developing white papers that serve the needs of influencers as well as those that serve decision makers? (See #2 below)

What's interesting to note is what technology buyers say they find most disappointing about white papers. A couple of them may surprise you.

Here are the top 5 disappointments:

  1. Poorly Written – there's just no excuse for this one.
  2. Not Technical Enough – 42% of respondents were influencers who approach purchase decisions from a technology perspective. 58% were decision makers who consider both technology and business perspectives. Hence the need to develop white papers for specifically to address both audience's needs.
  3. No Real-Life Cases – Incorporating examples of your work with customers in relation to the topic of your white paper can help it do double duty by both educating your buyers and showcasing evidence that builds trust that you deliver what you promise.
  4. Too Much Product/Vendor Info – Companies must remember that it's not all about them. Considering that the majority of white papers are downloaded from vendor websites, more information about you and your products is only a click away.
  5. Poorly Designed – in addition to graphic design, consider that the preferred mode of consumption and sharing of white papers is done online. Using columns that require the buyer to scroll up and down each page several times to read the content is not the best choice.

Interestingly, the desired length of white papers is growing with 61% saying that between 6 and 8 pages is optimal. This may be due to the increased complexity in solving technology issues which requires more in-depth information to provide clarity.

One new trend that appears to have a bold level of influence is embedding video and audio into white papers. 80% said they found this interactive media positively influenced their buying process when embedded in written collateral. Even more telling is that 93% of them responded to that embedded media.

Now a few words about websites. Vendor websites rank 2nd in influence as a collateral channel behind the forwarding of collateral from a personal contact. This is not news. The fact that B2B websites remain ineffective needs to be addressed. In fact, I'd wager that those 5 disappointments in white papers are evidenced on many current business websites. 

Go take a look at yours. How many of those 5 disappointments can you identify on your company's website?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


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