B-to-B Insights: Are Whitepapers Dead?
It’s often the case that when a marketing technique is overused, it gradually loses its effectiveness. When that happens, usage drops off, and prospects are no longer bombarded by the technique. Example: the AOL CD mailings.
A year or so later, a marketer remembers the old technique, realizes it hasn’t been used for a while and decides to test it again. Sure enough, it works because the market hasn’t seen it for some time. Other marketers who use it also start getting good results, and the marketing tool becomes popular once more.
Now, in B-to-B, some direct marketers are questioning whether whitepapers are running out of steam. The concern is that there are too many whitepapers—so that the offer of yet another one has lost its appeal. As one whitepaper skeptic told me, “Prospects already have too much to read; why would they ask for more?”
Yet the numbers tell a different story: namely, that whitepaper marketing is alive and well. “The demand for whitepapers has never been higher,” says Michael A. Stelzner, executive editor of WhitePaperSource.com. “During business downturns, corporations rely more on marketing to help them acquire leads and establish thought leadership. Whitepapers are the secret weapon for companies. Our organization has seen a major increase in whitepaper use among businesses of all sizes, but especially those selling costly or complex products.”
Titles: the Root of the Problem
To begin with, I think it’s not whitepapers themselves that are tiring but the name itself. “Whitepaper” signals to some prospects a document that is a selling tool. And with virtually every whitepaper in the world available for free, whitepapers have a low perceived value as a giveaway.
The solution is to keep using whitepapers in your marketing but to call them something else. The mailing list broker Edith Roman Associates used to publish a print catalog of mailing lists, but instead called it the “Direct Mail Encyclopedia.” Offering a free Direct Mail Encyclopedia helped generate more inquiries for its brokerage services.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.