B2B buyers – especially technology buyers – rely on them to make informed purchasing decisions. According to Eccolo Media, white papers are the second most important type of content that buyers of B2B technology use during their buying process. White papers are also used at all stages of the sales cycle – from awareness to decision.
Done right, white papers can provide a compelling argument for your product or service.
However, many white papers fall short and fail to attract quality leads. Here are nine common mistakes that turn customers off and give white papers a bad name:
1. Your marketing objectives aren’t clear
Before developing a white paper, make sure it aligns with your business goals. Think about your marketing and business goals, along with what you hope to achieve with the white paper. For example, will you be using the lead generation whitepaper? Does the white paper close a gap in content? Will the white paper support a new product or service you are launching? Want a white paper that positions you as an expert or thought leader on a specific topic?
2. You don’t align your white paper with your prospect’s buying journey
While it’s important to align your white paper with your business goals, it’s even more important to align your white paper with your audience. Because if your white paper doesn’t meet the needs of your target audience, they won’t read it.
For your white paper to be effective, you need to be clear about your audience’s issues, needs, and goals. You also need to target content to buyers at every stage of your sales cycle. According to Demand Gen Report’s B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, 61% of respondents select vendors that deliver a mix of content appropriate for each stage of their buying journey.
3. You blast your leads with sales messages
IT pros refer to white paper opt-in forms as “downloading a call.” Many of them want the content of a white paper, but they don’t want the sales pitch that comes five minutes after downloading it. Many IT pros avoid answering the phone after committing to a white paper so they don’t have to speak to a sales rep.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, don’t bombard your leads with sales pitches five minutes after they’ve downloaded a white paper. You can even be transparent in your landing page copy and let leads know if you’re going to call them.
4. Your white paper is a 10-page sales pitch
Many white papers appear useful on their landing pages. They have compelling titles and promise to share great tips. But when you read these white papers, you realize that they are just long sales brochures. Some even mention their product in the first sentence!
Make sure your white papers contain 80% educational content. Once you educate customers and gain their trust, you can discuss your product in the remaining 20%.
5. Boring or misleading title
A title should be lively but appropriately reflect the content. A title is a promise of what you will find in a document.
The title “IT Professional’s Guide to Color Imaging and Printing” sparked a discussion about the use of color in business documents.
Or a definitive comparison of laser and inkjet technology. Or a helpful way to understand the color printing market.
Instead, this document is little more than a sales pitch for HP printers disguised in a misleading title.
6. Poor design or typography
Ask yourself: Did I enjoy reading this piece? Did I actually get all the way through it?
Myself, I didn’t enjoy it. And I did get through it, but I had to force myself.
A wall of grey is not good design. A 100-character line is not good typography. (Most typographers recommend 60 characters per line, max.)
This document flunks on both counts: bad page design and poor typography.