Major Study Reveals Marketing Power of White Papers

By Michael Stelzner

White papers bring great value to those seeking them, according to a major study of more than 4,000 business-to-business marketing and business professionals.This is especially true in the technology world, where white papers are one of the leading sources of lead generation.

If you have been wondering whether white papers or case studies should be part of your marketing mix, be sure to read further.

In a new study, How Technology Marketers Meet Buyers Appetite for Content, KnowlegeStorm and MarketingSherpa reveal some amazing insight into what both marketing pros and technology buyers think about white papers.

Some key findings include:

White papers are the most frequently read content: At the top of list, 71% of survey participants indicated they read/consume white papers more than case studies, product literature, articles from industry journalists, analyst reports, company websites, webcasts, blogs, online video and postcasts.

White papers are highly viral marketing tools: Nearly 3 in 5 technology professionals (57%) pass white papers along to colleagues and coworkers, more so than any other marketing tool. Case studies were listed 5th, at 47 percent.

We asked Matt Lohman, director of market research for KnowledgeStorm, why he thought the pass around factor of white papers was rated so high. He said:

White papers tend to be widely accepted as credible resources for thought leadership and subject matter expertise. It’s natural that they would be a popular type of content to share, especially during the research phase of the buying cycle, when there is the greatest amount of general information gathering.

Marketing professionals under utilizing white papers: Only 35 percent of marketing professionals sited white papers or analyst reports were offered as an incentive in more than 50 percent of their promotions. Case studies and product literature were cited as the more common marketing materials, with white papers coming in third.

This study clearly supports the value of white papers in the marketing mix. Readers love them and pass them around. Marketing professionals should continue to develop marketing programs around white papers to benefit from the viral nature of these super marketing weapons.

What are your thoughts about this study?


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  • Jim Logan

    It’s a nice study. The greatest opportunity for marketers and sales staff is the study’s conclusion that information should change as the sale advances – buyers want different information at different stages of the purchase decision. This is especially true in a complex sales environment where you’re crossing varying needs, interests, and areas of responsibility.

    What this means is you can’t have just one white paper, position, value, benefit, presentation, case study, application, etc. All these tools should be developed against your known sales cycle and delivered at the right time to advance the sale.

    A second area of interest is the report’s finding that buyers (72%) want information on how to solve a problem, while marketers predominately (87%) produce new content to promote their offering. The study calls this an “Information Gap.” This is interesting because it highlights a problem and opportunity for marketers – people aren’t interested in what you do, they’re interested in what you do for them.

    Again, nice study. Thanks for linking to it.

  • Michael Stelzner

    Hey Jim;

    You bring up some very good observations.

    I think wise marketers must really consider adding white papers and case studies to their mix.

    It seems the white papers are missing in many cases.


  • Jim Logan

    I truly believe white papers are underused. One area I believe they’re underused is as a tool to advance a sales opportunity by overcoming barriers and biases within an account, positioning against a potential competitive weakness, and trapping the competition. Especially in long and complex sales cycles, there’s room and necessity for numerous white papers, addressed to different buyers and interests.

    I believe a white paper should be in the sales tool kit as often as the marketing tool kit…in some cases more often.

    I love studies like this…the more you read them, the more you can get out of them and the more you can test in your work.

  • fel3232

    I truly believe white papers are underused. I agree as well. great post.

  • Carl Ellis

    Teach FIRST… Sell later!… Works great for me!

  • Michelle Wallis

    Hi – yes I agree white papers are a serious but under utiltized marketing tool. Thank you for reminding me.

  • Geoff

    I think most people want to hear expert opinion and white papers are one avenue to provide that.

    Jim’s comments are right on the money. I believe that you need a well thought out strategy for white papers that leads and nurtures people through your marketing and sales processes. Oftentimes, a single white paper is forgotten easily. A constant contact programme that keeps you in “front” of a prospect on a regular basis is essential to build credibility over time. It allows a relationship to develop as the recipients continually get relevant, educational material and so too the recognition of expertise in an given area.

    To achieve this, I think that consideration can be given to a series of smaller specific white papers centered around a primary theme. In my experience, time poor business people are more likely to read a 2/3 page white paper, understand and digest specific, to the point content, and do this every couple of weeks than a one-off larger paper. They will then come to expect more material from you – the relationship develops!

    I believe that you should think of a series of white papers as a campaign just as you would an advertising campaign. You need to have an objective, measure the results and tune it as needed. Jim’s thoughts therefore on the marketing and sales cycles are absolutely correct. A campaign of white papers helps marketing build reader profiles, and qualify them before getting sales involved – they don’t waste sales time just becasue someone downloads one white paper. They have a defined trigger point.

    For me, the key from an online marketing strategy point of view is to be able to have a way of measuring who reads white papers and then sends to a friend (and who that is). A good email marketing tool should help you with this analysis. Oftentimes, papers are sent on within a company and you can then start to build a profile of interested parties. It might also help you better understand who else are influencers and decision makers.

    Similarly, using your website, you should be able to build your database with subscribers if you have good white paper content that builds over time. More people in your database helps you get viral.


  • LGV Training

    Nice article. I didn’t know that white papers has a great impact especially for marketing.(I only heard in the white papers on IT related firms). Well we used them to educate our users or sometimes how to address a problem.

    Perhaps marketing used it to generate sales lead, make a business case and most of all educate the customers.

  • sports chat

    Ok so whitepapers are also being used by marketers….. so one question though… What is the difference between white papers and webinars? Which has more legs in reaching out to potential customers?

  • milly

    Ok, so white papers are an under utilized marketing approach.

    Two questions: while the pass-around factor of white papers is high, how big a segment of a market will it actually reach. That question isn’t phrased very well, but I hope is clear enough.

    Not every market will lend itself easily to the creation of a white-paper. Certainly not, to my mind, the more lucrative marketing niches. What to do with those then?