How to Build Better Customer Relationships with White Paper Marketing
**Updated for 2018
By Daan Reijnders
Long before we called content marketing “content marketing,” companies 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 set up to create and nurture these quality relationships? The following three questions will help you answer that question — and eventually secure a higher, more consistent ROI.
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, asking readers to enter some contact information before they get access. This can be an effective strategy, but there are also pitfalls to watch out for.
A form, especially one that is unnecessarily long, can deter potential leads from engaging with your content. This is what marketers call friction. In a best-case scenario, the sales process slows down. In the worst case, you'll lose potential leads entirely.
Gauging your audience's appetite for forms through testing is essential. If you see lots of traffic on your landing pages but very few conversions, the form could very well be the culprit. In that case, you want to have another option for visitors.
A significant advantage of using interactive white papers (instead of PDFs) is that you can use social integrations with sites like LinkedIn. Visitors can access your white paper with just one click, and you gain you even more information than you would have captured with a form. Another benefit here is that you can be sure the information isn’t fake.
Another option that's increasing in popularity is semi-gating. Make the first few pages of your white paper open access so your readers get a taste of what you're offering, and then gate the rest. This also has the effect of increasing the quality of your leads because readers will only sign up if what they've already read resonates with them.
Skip it option
You can also use a form to gate your white paper but include a “skip it” option. You'll still collect details from visitors with a high degree of interest, but you'll avoid turning away those unwilling to part with their information.
If you choose not to gate your content, interactive white paper still allow you to embed retargeting pixels so you can engage with readers later using 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 readers?
When prospects fill out a form or log in with their LinkedIn profiles, they provide you with all the details you need to personalize their reading experience. Don’t pass up that opportunity.
In addition to addressing visitors by name, you can make strategic editorial choices based on information such as their geographic region or their industry. One way to utilize this information is by filtering your publications so people with a particular profile only see particular pages of your white paper.
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 results of this personalization experiment were a 71 percent increase in overall reading time and an increase in social shares of 75 percent!
Personalization is a powerful way to increase engagement. Many major brands use it to create tailored experiences on their websites — and with interactive white papers, you can use it as well.
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. At least, that's how it should work. Too many companies treat a white paper download as an ending, not a beginning.
How you follow up with a lead determines whether or not a relationship develops. If you do it right, you'll guide him or her further into the funnel and, eventually, to take some profitable action.
With traditional PDF white papers, the most you can do is move them to 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 data from your interactive white paper using our Google Analytics integration, 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 with your sales team.
Look at the pages on which users spent the most time and which specific links they clicked. 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 introduce you to the prospects you’re most interested in meeting. If you deliver an experience that is both useful and memorable, those introductions will lead to quality customer relationships.
Examining your white paper strategy with the questions we introduce here is the first step to boosting ROI, generating more leads, and building better customer relationships.
See some amazing examples of what interactive white papers look like.
Read about 6 Steps for Creating a Stunning White Paper.
Learn how to create stunning, lead-generating white papers yourself with a free Instant Magazine trial.
Daan Reijnders is the Co-founder and CEO of Instant Magazine, a content management platform that amassed 1000+ clients all over the world in under 3 years. He's a digital marketing veteran with years of experience in managing both SaaS companies and creative agencies.