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White Paper Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Thought Leadership

Creating a quality B2B white paper is no easy feat, as its demands for research, copywriting, and design are greater than those of a typical blog post. However, all efforts put towards its production are null and void if you don’t put a promotional strategy in place. The following article will help you create a comprehensive marketing plan for drawing target audiences’ attention to your white paper.

How to Strategically Select White Paper Themes of Interest 

This may seem to be an obvious point, but it’s worth underscoring nonetheless: your white paper marketing strategy doesn’t start with promotional tactics, but rather choosing the right hook. You want to write about a topic for which your B2B audience is hungry. Ways you can identify potential themes include:

  • Brainstorm with the help of Direct Sales, Partners, and Customer Success teams. Marketers don’t have the same level of face-to-face interactions as other divisions, so invite sales representatives to put your heads together. Ask what questions they frequently receive, what the industry is buzzing about, and whether there are pain points with which audiences need guidance. Channel partners are extra helpful, as they represent outside eyes and may serve different audiences than Direct Sales
  • Keyword search volume. Think of keyword search volume as a tool for comparing various content topics. If one subject matter receives a higher number of searches than another, it’s safe to assume that the more popular of the two would generate greater reader interest. However, don’t regard keyword search volume as foolproof. Many SEO tools don’t capture present trends (instead, reflecting evergreen data). What’s more, it fails to represent the quality or relevance of those searching for the terms. If one search theme generates 500 monthly searchers, but those individuals don’t align with your target audience, the data is no longer valuable. So, in short, think of keyword research as one of many ways you can narrow your list of strong whitepaper themes rather than the sole strategy you utilize. 
  • Target white papers towards specific sects of potential customers. Let’s say you build software for employee benefits management; the concerns of an HR Director will vary from the Head of Accounting or the COO. Therefore, your writers should ideally have a set audience in mind when crafting the white paper. Similarly, the same target audience should be at the forefront of your mind when shaping your promotional strategy. 
  • Refresh older marketing white papers to reflect today’s best practices. Many of the overarching business needs of past years still hold true today, presenting opportunities to revisit past success stories. If your 2017 white paper Supporting Sustainability Within Supply Chain Operations was a major hit, why not renew it for 2022? Update the copy to reflect the latest state of the world and updated practices while leveraging existing talking points that still apply. 
  • Transform winning blog posts into white papers. Similar to the above, you can use blog posts to gauge users’ response rates to various topics. For instance, if an 800-word article generated above-average interactions amongst social followers and email subscribers, you can transform the content into a 3,000-word white paper. 
Your white paper marketing strategy doesn't start with promotional tactics

What you should not do is write about a topic simply to mimic competitors. We all look over each other’s shoulders to see which competitors’ activities generate success. However, the goal should be to strategically get ahead of like-minded companies rather than following in their footsteps. If multiple competitors write about the same topic, ask yourself the following before making their whitepaper strategy your own: 

  • Can I execute this particular tactic better?
  • Do I have something unique to say about the subject matter? 

If you can’t answer affirmatively to either, focus your whitepaper strategies on fulfilling underserved needs rather than simply hitting the same talking points as everyone else. 

Don’t Undervalue the Design of the Landing Page or White Paper

Remember that the designated landing page and white paper cover page will provide first impressions. Design should be polished, and messaging should immediately clarify the value visitors will receive from downloading the white paper. 

Relatedly, don’t be greedy when designing the download form; too many fields or requests for unnecessary information will turn off page visitors. 

To gate or un-gate white papers

If you partner with an SEO specialist, they may push you to un-gate the materials so Google can crawl all that valuable content. Yet, logically, un-gating would provide individuals with less incentive to provide their contact information. Your underlying goals should heavily influence this decision, as touched upon later in the article. If you want to generate traffic and brand awareness, it’s wise to un-gate the materials. However, if collecting new contacts is the primary marketing goal, gating the white paper may be the best strategy. If you’re still on the fence: 

  • Test un-gating a select few whitepapers. You may be surprised by the number of downloads you receive from un-gated materials. Many people prefer print-friendly PDFs and will gladly share their information, even if the entire piece is visible on the page. 
  • Un-gate part of the whitepaper to appease search engines. By un-gating the first 500 words of a 3,000-word white paper, you may give Google the context it needs to rank the landing page for search results without giving away the whole piece. Win-win! 
  • Un-gate materials after the initial promotional buzz dies down. While some white papers will continue to generate interest for years to come, others’ interactions will drop off quickly. If you no longer leverage a white paper in your offsite marketing or link to it from the homepage, expect a sharp decline in readership. Soon after this happens, consider un-gating the white paper to grant it a second life as an SEO asset. 
White paper marketing strategy doesn't start with promotional tactics

Ideas for White Paper Marketing Campaigns & Promotional Strategies

There’s no shortage of opportunities to promote your white paper. The real question is how to make the most of your marketing budget and bait quality audiences into reading your materials. 

Ideas for free promotion of your white paper:

  • Supporting blog posts
  • Highlights in your newsletter
  • Webinars that promote the findings 
  • Inclusion in email signatures
  • Homepage banner pointing to the white paper
  • Create a press release you send out to news wires and industry publications
  • Social media promotion by both your brand profiles and leadership
  • Feature quotes from thought leaders who share it with their followers
  • Distribution amongst partners using your partner portal

Ideas for paid promotion of your white paper:

  • PPC or banner marketing campaigns 
  • Boosted social media posts
  • Sponsored posts on third-party sites
  • White paper syndication services

Tips for crafting promotional messaging for your white paper:

  • In your drip marketing campaigns, tease the whitepaper with individual statistics that may surprise (or elicit emotion) from audiences
  • Socially share visual graphics that provide value (statistics, quotes, etc.) rather than vague stock images
  • When spotlighting individual quotes, include a headshot and tag the expert to increase the likelihood at they, too, promote the whitepaper
  • Accompany social posts with pointed questions asking the public for their opinions rather than simply saying “hey, check this out!”
  • A/B marketing test messaging so your promotional strategy can evolve from one white paper to the next 
Promotional Idea

Bonus promotional idea: Co-author the white paper with a strategic marketing partner. As a result, you’ll be able to leverage two sets of email lists, two separate social media profiles, and potentially double the designated marketing budget. However, depending on your goals for the white paper, you may receive a fraction of the benefits (such as inbound site traffic). Click here to learn more about joint marketing of content.

Additional White Paper Marketing Strategy Tips

  • Opt for quality, not quantity. Produce too many whitepapers, and you risk shooting yourself in the foot. Headlines will become redundant, the findings will become increasingly thin, and promotional efforts will become less effective. After all, if you publish two white papers a month, how groundbreaking can each one be? 
  • Take your time to build buzz. Related to the above, make each white paper feel unique with prolonged marketing campaigns. Instead of designating a single tweet to its promotion, extend your efforts across multiple weeks. Share juicy tidbits before its publication, invite industry experts to comment on its findings, and perhaps use it as a muse for other branded content like podcasts and webinars. 
  • If you have a multi-national audience, translate the white paper into multiple languages. This not only widens the individual piece’s reach but also can aid in your overall expansion into international markets. You can time the release of the translated whitepaper along with all other materials, or see how content resonates with the primary audience before determining if it’s worth translating in the first place. 
  • Clearly define your goals and measurement methodologies. Is your objective to raise brand awareness? Increase your email list? Rank first for related search results? Choose a primary goal and let this shepherd all onsite and offsite marketing decisions.

For example, if you aim to generate social interactions and Organic search traffic, you’ll want to make your content ungated. However, if the goal is to capture contact information, you may want to strategically gate your white paper and consider additional ways of driving inbound traffic. 

  • Embrace new marketing strategies and track the results. It’s tempting to stick to the white paper promotion strategies you know well, especially if you’re spending money on marketing campaigns. However, as the old expression goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Experiment with new social channels, promotional messaging, and timelines. 

The Bottom Line About Promoting Your White Papers

Not every white paper will be a “winner,” which is okay! Even the duds provide value as long as you have quantify their performance through well-defined KPIs and drill down into which specific marketing campaigns fell flat. This newfound knowledge enables you to improve your overall promotion strategies for future white papers.

Tori Barlow
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