No One Wants To Read Your Whitepaper. Let’s Hope They Recycle It.
I have no interest in reading a War and Peace-style sales pitch — and, let’s face it, that’s what most whitepapers are these days. Once scholarly in their ambition, whitepapers have devolved into thinly-veiled, lengthy sales pitches that no longer appeal to the educated buyer’s shortened attention span. Companies need to find new and more direct ways to reach the buyer 2.0 without going all Tolstoy on them.
Twitter is a powerful tool for finding, fostering and maintaining customer relationships. Graphic technology makes it easy to take your PDF to a new and more captivating level. And marketing automation software makes it easy to create, manage, and track buyers’ activity on microsites. There’s no excuse for sticking with the whitepaper.
Let the Past Go
Buyers used to get their information from a vendor, relying on research from whitepapers for education. Now, they educate themselves and each other. Information about your company, products, and even customer experiences is just a few mouse clicks away. Accordingly, individual attention spans have shrunk, forcing businesses to communicate in incredibly responsive ways. The average user’s attention span is now only about 7 seconds.
In a study presented by Information Week, 500 senior-level execs polled stated that only 17 percent of the whitepapers they read seemed unbiased. This is another reason why buyers avoid whitepapers during their research process — they’re not perceived as credible. Plus, whitepapers lack the ability to engage buyers through interaction. Interaction is the antidote to shrinking attention spans.
Twitter is all about interaction. A type of Twitter activity known as #chat is a series of tweets that occur at a designated time, all focused on a specific topic. Anyone with an interest or opinion can join in. They are easy to follow because each tweet has the same hashtag attached to it. For example, I could host a chat about CRM vendors with a #CRMvendor hashtag. Everyone participating would use that hashtag, making it easy to follow the conversation.
One of the most successful topic chats is #blogchat hosted by @MackCollier. Every Sunday from 8-9pm CST, people log on to Twitter and talk about interesting blogs. A recent #blogchat had a whopping 5,600 tweets from more than 700 participants. If your company organized a #chat, participants could ask questions and your experts could be there with the answers.
With 5,600 tweets in an hour, you might need a tool for tracking the overwhelming Twitter activity and trends. We use TweetDeck, which is free. Another great application is TweetReports. It is a paid service, but provides much deeper analytics, such as sentiment analysis, most active users, and top shared links. There are even several marketing automation vendors that have built-in social media monitoring and reporting.
Twitter #chats are great for sharing information, finding out what potential buyers want to know, and building relationships. Individuals and organizations using this tool have reported strong follow-up from their Twitter #chats, many of which result in new customers. Marketing automation tools can be used to track activity, such as number of leads that come from Twitter so that companies can gauge the effectiveness of their chat sessions.
What if we took an old fashioned whitepaper and enabled it to evolve in real time, with new content constantly updating? And what if reader feedback and the most current news and information on a particular topic or issue could be shared? Readers would have reason to revisit again and again. Introducing the microsite.
Microsites function much like a normal website, but they focus on a precise segment of the market. For example, Software Advice has a primary website, but also maintains several microsites that cater to specific niches. One such niche that promises growth is marketing automation software. So, we launched Marketing Automation Software Guide, a microsite dedicated to the subject. This allows us to create a tightly focused message and user experience, which has helped boost our activity in the marketing automation space.
Marketing automation software often includes applications for building microsites. With features such as customizable templates and drag-and-drop form builders, it is easy for users of any technical skill level to create and launch a microsite. Additionally, marketing automation software helps to monitor microsite activity such as click-throughs, downloads, and conversions. This way, marketers can see how users are interacting with the content and make adjustments based on the effectiveness of that content.
Dynamic PDFs, eBooks
Adding multimedia elements to PDF documents helps to increase readers’ interactivity and help buyers to stay engaged. It is easy to add video, presentations, music, and animation to PDFs. This kind of eye candy helps to break up the text of your presentation and keep the reader interested. Also, because it is dynamic, your content is appealing to a wider audience. Some people absorb visually rather than through text; dynamic PDFs perform on both levels.
Another worthy successor to the whitepaper is the eBook. While both terms are often used interchangeably, they are quite different. The eBook is more interactive and contains multimedia elements. eBooks allow readers to participate by clicking on links, watching videos, or filling out surveys. They are presented in a landscape format that makes it easier for online readers to view. The whitepaper can be read online, but because of the formatting, whitepapers often must be printed to digest — this is an extra step that risks losing readers. With the eBook, you save trees and save your reader the headache that accompanies a tome of inert text.
So, while the whitepaper isn’t completely dead, it sure is showing its age. By using multimedia, real-time chats, and niche marketing via the Web, marketers can remain competitive and increase reader engagement. Save Tolstoy for bedtime.
We want to know your thoughts on whitepapers. Do you still see it as a viable lead generation tool or do marketers need to explore other options for reaching new customers? If so, what do you see as the solution? Please leave your feedback in the comment section below.
Thumbnail image created by iowa_spirit_walker.