Whitepaper Marketing

What is Whitepaper Marketing? Definition, Channels, Examples and Best Practices

What is Whitepaper Marketing?

White Paper Marketing is defined as the process of promoting a branded white paper research report using inbound and outbound marketing methods. The goal may be to sell the report itself or giving it away for free to generate leads for related products or services.

White paper marketing uses paid and unpaid activities to attract audiences, which may include both inbound and outbound methods- such as driving organic (search) traffic through articles, social media marketing, email campaigns, video marketing, paid online advertising, etc. We will be discussing all the marketing channels for white papers in the next section.

White paper marketing is typically aimed at B2B audiences, since typically it is businesses who have an interest in market research reports, which is the defining characteristic of a white paper. Any report to be called a white paper requires the claims to be backed by primary and/ or secondary, with relevant citations as proof.

Why should you market your white papers?

Whether you are using white papers as a lead generation source or aiming to sell your research paper reports to companies, you will need an effective marketing strategy. But why even use marketing to promote white papers? 

  • - Because it establishes you as a thought leader

Invariant of the final goal of white paper marketing, any proprietary white paper where a company puts in the effort to research the market and publish their findings - is an effective way to demonstrate your company as a thought leader in the respective industry space. Most companies buy reports, few companies can create them.

  • - Because it is an effective exchange for high quality lead generation

White paper research reports are the best exchange for contact information, it is far more worth it for a user than, say, a generic ebook or opinionated article. A good white paper is fact based and typically very detailed, which makes them very attractive to company leaders who make strategic decisions. Such contacts are gold mines for any sales team, especially when they have already shown interest in the subject by downloading the asset. This is a strong induction of intent.

  • - Because it demonstrates a clearer sales-readiness state of user

Depending on the white paper, such as a ‘buyers guide’ for products in a specific industry, they can become excellent intent-signals for purchase intent. 

For example, if a user downloads a white paper on ‘state of email marketing software in 2020’, then it shows, say level ⅗ interest level, where as if the same person goes on to download ‘best email marketing software in 2020’, then it shows a much clearer purchase intent for ‘email marketing software’. 

9 Key Digital Channels for Whitepaper Marketing

White paper marketing can be done using both inbound and outbound methods. The typical channels under inbound work to ‘draw in’ traffic from unpaid sources. Whereas in outbound marketing, a marketer ‘reaches out’ to potential audience, which includes paid advertising.

Whitepaper landing page (Note): Before you market your white paper, first you will need a white paper landing page. Ultimately, it is this page that you will be promoting. This page will typically include a form to capture name, email and other required fields, followed up by a final button. If you are selling the paper, your form-fill will lead to a payment gateway. Whereas if it is only for lead generation, then it can simply end with a ‘thank you’ page (which may or may not carry further links). 

Here are the various channels using inbound marketing methods to promote your white paper:

  • 1. Organic search-driven traffic (native promotion)

Organic traffic is a free and predictable source of intent-driven users, based on search keywords. Whenever you need to market any asset, in this case white papers, you must first leverage the articles/ pages that are ranking for keywords and generating organic traffic consistently. 

By identifying the pages that are relevant to your white paper’s topic, you now have a list of existing pages that can be used to promote the asset. The best way to do so, is by adding native links on these pages that are prominent and noticeable by readers, without disrupting the experience. If the item being promoted is actually contextual and relevant to the reader, the chances of clicking and consuming the white paper is much higher than any other marketing channel. The promotion should seem like it is part of the informative content itself.

As an alternative to native (in-content) placement, you can also test banner promotion on your own pages. They may look like ads but it's your own page so you are not paying anyone. This is also a point of distinction however with native promotion, where the goal is just the opposite - they should not look like ads, rather should fit into the content’s flow. 

  • 2. Social media - groups, pages and native influencers

Social media as a marketing channel is no longer new, although the methods are always evolving. Until a few years, page posts, ads and buying influencer content slots were the only ways to market on social media. That is now changing.

Contextless content, whether it is on a group page or by an industry influencer, does not have the desired impact on audiences. The key is to make your promotional content and partners of distribution, to be as authentic and native as possible. Which means, relevant groups where the audience cares about your white paper’s information, your own brand page needs to furnish value-added content to promote the paper (like snippets of research data), and finally, your influencers need to be highly relevant to the industry researched in the white paper and must have following in the same domain.

  • 3. Webinars and online events

Online webinars may not carry the same volume of audience as your website or social channels, but they offer better quality - which means, better conversion ratio  for your white paper downloads. 

Webinars take time to put together and market but the result, especially for B2B companies, is often a rich source of quality leads. Often companies might use the webinar as one level of interest signal, the white paper as the last level, after which sales teams are ready to pursue these users.

Apart from webinars, online workshops that are detailed demonstrations of a certain methodology or product, may also be a great source of leads for your white paper. 

One aspect to keep in mind before investing in webinar marketing for white papers - is that the webinar itself will be required to be promoted to get registrations. Investing in webinars if the event can be put together will take less effort, which is typically possible when you already have a large social media following and/ or email subscribers.

Generally, webinars are used as informative events to pitch assets (like white papers) or products and then converting/ converging their interest to a purchase or download of the asset.

  • 4. Organic video and podcast marketing

Organic video and podcast marketing is similar to text - you rank articles to score organic traffic in Google search, here you will be ranking them in respective platforms. For instance, Youtube ranking for keywords for videos, Google Podcast ranking for podcast keyword searches within their platforms.

One challenge will be identifying volume of searches for each keyword, which is readily available for text searches on Google Search, but is not available for specific platform sites. An alternative to compensate (to an extent) for this lack of visibility may be to see the video views of competitors that already rank for videos relevant to your white paper. 

For videos that are already ranking, you can simply add a link to your white paper in your description section and add a promo for the asset in the beginning of the video, and/or key sections in the video. The goal must always be to make the white paper pitch as natural and contextual to the content as possible - whether audio, video or test content.

  • 5. Earned media 

If you already have earned (unpaid) digital media articles on your brand, you can request the writer/ publishers to add a link to your white paper landing page or a related article/ page that carries a promo for your white paper.

You can also leverage your earned media as testimonials on your white paper landing page to increase your conversion rate. Earned media is a free, yet often unleveraged source of quality traffic.

Now, let us look at the various outbound methods.

Here are the channels you can leverage using outbound marketing methods to promote your white paper:

  • 6. Digital ads- Search, display and social media

If you have a tight paid campaign budget, it is advisable to first test out social, then search and at the end, display. The reason being that both social and search ads use native-type ad placements, meaning, they appear as part of the normal content scroll and consumption experience on pages. 

  • 7. Email marketing

Email marketing is old, yet cheap and still effective when you have the relevant list of target email contacts. Email marketing usually delivers unwanted results when the list itself is unverified and contains a majority of unqualified leads.

Effectiveness of your email marketing strategies depends on your audience segmentation capabilities of an organization. For example, you can segment your audience into hot, warm and cold, based on the level of expected readiness to download/ purchase the white paper

  • 8. Direct social media marketing

One of the popular B2B methods of marketing whitepaper on social media, is connecting with prospects directly and pitching the whitepaper. This is typically done on sites like LinkedIn which have detailed work profiles of users and often tend to be up-to-date given the level of employment and networking opportunities they get on these sites. 

Direct social media marketing differs from traditional strategies on these platforms by connecting one-on-one with each prospect, rather than targeting them in mass through by posting on pages and groups. This direct method of marketing can only be worth it when you have: 1. B2B whitepaper to market 2. Searchers are capable of using advanced search features to target highly relevant users.

  • 9. Press releases (paid media)

Paid press releases are often used by market research companies who typically sell their reports or as part of the marketing budget of an enterprise pre-allocated to paid media campaigns.

Press releases can be expensive, however, when done through a reputed publisher whose content tends to get picked up by organic publishers, it can be worth the investment. Since they are paid, you can customize the content to directly link to your white paper landing page. 

Top 5 Best Practices for Whitepaper Marketing in 2020

  • 1. Use data and infographic snippets from whitepaper

The contents of your whitepaper are your biggest marketing assets, after all, there is a reason why movie trailers work. All whitepapers carry data and statistics based on research and this is what B2B readers are eager for - statistics that will help fuel right decision making to formulate their organizational strategies. 

You can use small bits and snippets of the whitepapers and use this content as the central pillar of marketing content distribution. For instance, you can use an iterating statistic cited in your whitepaper as a ‘did you know’, followed by a ‘learn more’ link for your whitepaper landing page. This can be done on social media, email marketing, banner advertisements, as well as a collage of all these stats in your landing page (which will be the final conversion touchpoint).

  • 2. Create a fast loading whitepaper landing page

No matter which digital channel you might be using to market the whitepaper, your landing page will be the final common touchpoint of interaction. As we discussed before, a drop in page speed directly affects user exit, which means the longer your page takes to load, the higher the changes the user will leave your page before it loads. 

Your landing page is also the final step in the journey for all your channels, which means it should be fast to load its contents, else the loss will be of qualified users who were already convinced by your marketing pitch and were interested in the whitepaper. This is particularly the case when you have competitors pitching their research papers as well.

  • 3. Test your landing page for highest conversion

No customer touchpoint affects your final output like landing page conversion. The reason is of course obvious- it is the final leg of the journey. It is therefore important to A/B test your landing page with various options to have the best possible conversion rate. This includes testing CTA colors, titles, form fields, content, design elements, page length, font etc.

  • 4. Identify social groups and ensure entry

As we discussed before, social media can be a good platform to market your whitepaper- as long as you have a process to identify and filter your audience. One such pre-filtered place is a social media group. For instance, if you have a customer experience whitepaper, you will need to ensure that members of your team pre-join the engaged and sizable CX groups, and share the landing page of the whitepaper. 

  • 5. Draw intent-driven traffic from your search ranking pages

Your search ranking pages are ‘intent-verified’, based on the keywords that your pages rank for based on the content of the page. In other words, since your users used a keyword in the search engine to reach your page, you know that they have the right intent. Based on relevancy to the whitepapaer, you can direct traffic through hyperlinks/ display banners on these pages to the intended landing page of the paper.