Is It Time to Shred the Whitepaper?


When was the last time you read a whitepaper that added real value to your research process? I’m racking my brain and finding it quite difficult to come up with anything. More often than not, today’s whitepapers are really just masked sales pitches, too long to keep the attention of today’s buyer. They aren’t engaging the customer and are therefore not serving much of a purpose. So, now what?

It’s time for compnanies to turn to 2.0 technologies to reach the 2.0 buyer. Twitter is extremely powerful for reaching audiences and building relationships. Advances in graphic design and technology leave no excuse for not having vibrant, captivating content. There is even software that makes it easy to create, manage and track buyer activity on your site so that you know the kind of information your potential customers want. With all of these advancements for content marketing, it’s about time we shred the whitepaper.

Introducing the new buyer
This is not new information. We all know that the way people consume information has changed. Buyers no longer go directly to vendors for information on products. That information, in addition to reviews and customer commentary, can be found all over the Web. This growing reliance on peer groups for information keeps the buyer away from the vendor sometimes until point of purchase. Another reason for buyer distance is a lack of trust in the content from vendors. While many companies still access vendor whitepapers, the majority say that they are typically just glorified sales pitches and do not provide any actionable insight that can be used in the research process.

Alternatives
Twitter is fast becoming the preferred vehicle of communication between companies and their customers. It offers fast-paced, one-to-one interaction that makes it easy to engage and build relationships. One interesting tool in particular is Twitter #chat. A #chat is a series of tweets on a particular topic that occur at a designated time. They are easy to follow because each tweet will have a specific hashtag attached to it. For example, a chat on lead scoring might have the hashtag #leads attached to it. These chats are valuble tools for sharing information, finding out what potential buyers are interested in, and building relationships.

Microsites are also powerful lead generation tools. I like to think of them as constantly evolving whitepapers, where content is constantly updated, readers can give feedback, and news and information is shared in real-time. The microsite allows you to create a tightly-focused message and user experience, which engages customers and keeps them coming back. Many marketing automation systems have microsite building tools that allow you to create the site, modify content regularly, and track activity to measure the effectiveness of your content.

For those that are stuck on the PDF format of the whitepaper, I suggest dynamic PDFs and ebBoks. Adding multimedia elements to your traditional whitepaper can drastically increase reader engagement. Embedding video, sounds, animation and other interactive elements is very easy to do and is becoming a necessary value-add for many PDFs. There is also the eBook, which is basically a more interactive successor to the whitepaper. It is presented in landscape format, making the content more easily digestible. eBooks often allow readers to click on links, participate in surveys or watch videos, which keeps the reader engaged and interested in the content.

So, the whitepaper may not be dead yet, but it certainly has one foot in the grave. And these new technologies that are taking over might just be the final nail in the coffin. Read more about this on Marketing Automation Software Guide and be sure to leave your commentary.

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