White Paper Revelations Should Surprise Marketers

By Michael Stelzner

White papers continue to reign as the supreme source of information for technology professionals, however many businesses are sorely missing the mark.

These are some of the key take home messages of a new study by CMO Council and TechTarget, entitled Technology Buying and Media Consumption Benchmarking Survey.

Nearly 71 percent of respondents indicated white papers were used in the last three months to evaluate new technology, followed by email newsletters (59%), product literature (51%), articles (50%), software downloads (50%), webcasts (39%) and case studies (29%).

However, many serious concerns were raised by this study.

For example, common criticisms of white papers include:

  • Was expecting technology discussion, not product information (48%)
  • Not problem solving focused (39%)
  • Too product oriented (36.9%)

Given the sheer number of white papers that technology pros read, the above problems need to be resolved. For example, nearly 60 percent of study participants read 5 or more white papers in the last 3 months and 28 percent read 10 or more.

The top three reasons people read white papers (according to the study) are:

  • To stay on top of new and emerging markets/technology/ (64%)
  • To obtain preliminary information about products and vendors (60%)
  • To find solutions for solving problems (54%)

This study should be a wake-up call to businesses producing white papers. STOP focusing on your product and start focusing on your readers.

This is the second of two major studies that come out in the last few weeks.

What are your thoughts on this study? Why do you think case studies were so poorly ranked?


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  • http://copywriterunderground.com Tom Chandler

    Great post. I wonder if the low case study numbers aren’t due to a “multiple yes” result; case studies can also be delivered via webcats and articles (just two of the choices mentioned).

    In other words, I wonder if some respondents didn’t confuse the format with the media channel.

    In any case, great information.

  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner

    Hey Tom;

    Nice to hear from you.

    I am guessing that consumers don’t generally consider webcasts and articles to be the same as case studies.

    Wonder what our case study friends think?


  • http://www.whitepapercompany.com/blog Jonathan Kantor


    There seems to be a confluct between those saying in the first part, “Was expecting technology discussion, not product information”, and in the second when they stated reasons for why they read white papers, “To obtain preliminary information about products and vendors”.

    On one hand they don’t want product information and then they say to obtain product information? Do you see a problem here?


  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner


    Good observation.

    Perhaps it comes down to this.

    Those seeking “preliminary” information are not looking for a detailed discussion of a product and how it works, but perhaps why they should adopt it.

    Does that work for you??


  • http://jslogan.com Jim Logan

    A couple things I find interesting in this study is 54% saying they read white papers to find solutions to problems and 39% criticizing white papers for not offering enough problem solving information. Couple that with 39.9% complaining white papers are too product oriented and you can reasonably conclude a great opportunity for white papers is to communicate the things companies do for their customers with the products and services they offer.

    People want to buy the things we do for them, not the things we do. Good food for thought.

  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner

    Hey Jim – Good point when you say, “People want to buy the things we do for them, not the things we do.”

    What better way to do than to focus on benefits rather than features.


  • http://study-habits.com/blog/study-guide/ Study Guide

    Wow! I must say, 71%, thats a big percentage. Albeit, don’t consumers see webcasts & articles to be the same as case studies?

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