Why Many B2B White Papers Fail to Achieve their Lead-Generation Goals

Updated: April 05, 2011

The simple answer: Poor first impressions.

Most of today's time- and attention-challenged business executives have precious little time to review large amounts of content. To these readers, little things often determine whether they download a white paper, and how they view the vendors behind the white papers they do download.

A time-challenged reader must assess the validity of a white paper based on a short set of visual criteria in order to determine whether the solution presented in a white paper will ultimately solve their existing business problem(s).

Small things hold great weight with these readers, such as the title, front cover, landing page design, abstract summary, content sample, and registration page. Therefore, these components become essential in creating a positive first impression to help compel an executive to register for a white paper and become a full-fledged lead.

Sadly, many white paper marketers fail to make sound first impressions, because of their unfounded assumptions.

Here is my short list of the reasons why many B2B white papers fail to achieve their original lead generation goals:

Mistaken assumption #1: Audience

Many B2B white paper marketers assume to know who will be downloading and reading a white paper and their level of knowledge on the featured topic. Unfortunately, when the white paper title and content do not match the reader's business needs, there is substantial drop-off in leads.

For example, a white paper on enterprise tape backup that touts end user data integrity and reliability would disconnect with a target CIO. These individuals are far more concerned with the issue of backup cost and performance than end user reliability.

Result: a white paper that fails to connect, convince, and influence the intended reader… and also fails to generate a substantial amount of leads..

Mistaken assumption #2: Influence

Many B2B white paper marketers assign great weight to their white papers and assume these can singlehandedly influence legions of potential readers and generate a vast number of leads. They fail to perform the necessary due diligence in other essential marketing areas that would build a stronger path to that white paper and increase the number of potential leads.

For example, many B2B marketers merely post their white paper to their website, do one blog, and then sit back and wait for the leads to roll in.

Result: White papers that fail to make a positive first impression or meet lead generation goals

Mistaken assumption #3: Registration

Many B2B marketers assume they can require visitors to fill in several fields of personal information before they download a white paper.

In reality, asking for unnecessary information such as ‘Number of Employees', ‘Annual Sales', or ‘Project Timeline' will often scare away a legitimate lead faster than asking for a download fee. Many marketers assume that asking for such information isn't a big issue, then wonder why vast numbers of leads aren't filling up their CRM databases.

Result: Many of the leads received are never truly ‘warm', making the time, money, and effort spent to develop a lead-generating white paper, lost!

The bottom line: Beyond the obvious answer of not making broad assumptions of the white paper reader, B2B marketers must leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of their lead-generation goals.

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