New B2B Study Shows White Paper Importance

By Michael Stelzner

Just arrived back from the MarketingProf’s convention with a fresh new study in hand from MarketingProfs Research Insights.

What’s interesting about this study is the examination of white papers in relation to B2B sales leads.

What follows is a detailed review of the findings:

Online content effectiveness for lead generation:

White papers were among the top 4 for effective lead generation. Here is the breakdown:

1. Newsletters (39%)
2. Press releases (30%)
3. Case studies (25%)
4. White papers (24%)
5. Webinars (22%)
6. Trials/demos (21%)
7. Blogs (12%)
8. Video (11%)
9. Podcasts (4%)
10. e-books (4%)

Report co-author Robert Lesser had this to say, “Even as new forms of content and online media are making waves, the tried and true such as white papers continue to be favored by B2B marketers.”

I am a bit puzzled about newsletters being used for lead generation. You first need a name and email address before you can send a newsletter. I think perhaps this might be ads in other people’s newsletters??

Lead nurturing: The study also found that white papers were very effective for lead nurturing, more than trials, webinars, press releases, blogs, video, podcasts and ebooks.

Receive email updates when new articles are posted.

  • Laura

    Really interesting and useful list.

    Newsletters make sense to me, I will send a newsletter who someone I don’t consider a lead, they might be a colleague who I have no opportunity to do business with. But their situation may change and they might contact me for work upon seeing the newsletter, or they might forward it on to someone else who I could work with.

  • Rick

    By “newsletter” does the report mean free e-zines? They may garner more e-mail addresses but what about the quality of the lead?

  • Howard Sewell, Connect Direct

    Hey Mike, do you have a link to the MarketingProfs study? Apologies if it’s in your post and I’m just not seeing it. Regards, Howard

  • Michael Stelzner

    Rick – I could not tell you. All the report says is newsletters (I do know it means electronic newsletters because the founder of MarketingProfs told me)

    Howard – This is a physical report. It’s title is B2B Sales Lead Generation: Integration of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 Media: How B2B Marketers are using old and new online media to drive lead generation.

    I will ask Ann Handley if the report is available electronically.

  • Jonathan Kranz


    I’m puzzled by that “newsletter as lead gen” device thing too. In my experience, it’s a great tool for SUSTAINING relations after some form of contact (such as someone attending one of my presentations), but a poor one to use as either a first offer or initial contact. I wonder how the numbers were calculated?


  • David Polley

    I think the key phrase here is “online content,” meaning items that prospects finds valuable enough to give out their personal information for. What intrigues me is the prominence of press releases in this study. Editors are inundated with them, so as a percentage, it’s tough to see how they could generate many leads.

  • Michael Stelzner

    David and Jonathan;

    I agree and am puzzled as well.

    How do press releases generate leads?

    I think there may have been some misunderstanding of the survey questions among the participants.


  • Jonathan Kranz

    Mike and David,

    Re: “misunderstanding of survey questions”: Agreed. Something weird here. I wonder how often that happens with surveys and statistics?

    I read something on a prominent copy blog that caught my eye: allegedly, 42% of college grads never read another book again. Really? Is that at all plausible? Even if you were to replace “high school grads” with “college grads” it seems awfully suspect.

  • Rick

    A press release could generate leads by having it distributed by e-mail through a syndicator (e.g., PR Newswire or Business Wire) and including a hyperlink that takes one to a registration form of some sort to obtain a special report, white paper, etc.

  • Robert Lesser

    Thanks for all of the comments on the research.

    This will prove helpful as we dive deeper into the findings.

    As well, we plan to conduct a number of qualitative interviews with responders to better understand their perspective.

    I will plan to include some probing questions to delve deeper into the questions that you have raised.

    I suspect that with the closed end answers that we provided, the responders to the survey may have grouped all associated content under that answer. For example, email newsletters could include all batch and blast emails and potentially 1to1 sales or transaction emails. Press releases could include all of public relations include search engine optimized press relations.

    All the same, these findings are consistent with a Forrester survey that ranked Email and PR as the top two lead generation tactics that B2B marketers use (see Q2 2008 B2B Marketing Effectiveness Online Survey, Forrester Research).

    Thanks again for the feedback!

  • Shane

    The result is surprising me too as only case study is make sense to me as better effective lead generation than white paper.

  • http://N/A Ntarugera François

    Thanks again for informing me about B2B. I myself I take it as informative of what is going on worldwide. But if you don’t read then you can not figure out what is useful or not. All about gathering information and chunk it out before redistribution of any information. But white paper does it better and easy for all category of people.

    Keep it up.

    Ntarugera François

  • Joel Granoff

    The prevailing opinion for why press releases ranked high as a lead generation technique is due to SEO as Rick suggests above: When a release incorporates hyperlinks and is distributed through one of the major services it is very effective in driving website traffic.

    I was a co-author with Robert Lesser and would be happy to discuss the study if there are additional questions about it.

  • Michael Stelzner

    Hey Joel!

    So here’s a question. I understand that PRweb has cracked down on URLs in press releases. I assume that would have a very negative impact on SEO with press releases, wouldn’t it?


  • Ntarugera françois


    It was worth it reading it! I’m eager to know more of your stories concerning the white paper management.

    By the way how many people that are blogging to your white paper?

    Ntarugera François

  • Joel Granoff

    Hi Mike,

    Great question, I am not sure of the specific crackdown on URLs but I do know that if you sign up for PR Web that you will receive a “Special Welcome Gift” … Send Your Release with SEO visability (a $200 value for just $140).

    In other words, the crackdown probably has more to do with PR Web’s monetization strategy. The fewer “free” links they allow, the more valuable the SEO offering will be.

    PR Web highlights the following stats on their site:

    98% of journalists go online daily
    92% for article research
    81% to do searching
    76% to find new sources, experts
    73% to find press releases
    On an average day, 68 million American adults go online

    30% use a search engine to find information
    27% get news
    Sources: Middleberg/Ross Survey and Pew Internet and American Life Project

    My conclusion: PR Web recognized the value of optimized releases and simply established new parameters to maximize revenue.

  • Geoff

    Hi Michael,

    The percentages you suggest are not surprising, however, I have found that a combination of 3 of top 4 works well. I have a client that has quite a lot of white papers and case studies around ERP software and we have used these as the basis for a newsletter out to their database. Most people like to be educated and use the web as their primary research tool.We have also used them in traditional print advertising as a means to build more subscribers (prospects) into the database – we drive them to the web for a subscription download.

    The whole objective in fact is a nurturing program whereby the database, having been segmented receives a monthly communication that is specific to their industry or subject that have an interest in. I think the real point is that getting visitors to a website can be done in many ways, but once there, you need to have great content to keep them and get them to return and take some action to contact you.

    Studies from Marketing Sherpa indicate that in a B-B environment that a prospect may take up to 7 communications over 8 months to contact you, while in a B-C, it is 7 over 3 months. The quality of your material therefore has to be relevant and valuable.

    As you would be aware, the primary issue that most businesses face is to develop a continual stream of new white papers and case studies – no-one seems to want to do them and they don’t have time. Many don’t realise the value that they have in an online environment. To make things easier, I have found that a taped interview on a specific topic gives a lot of material, then having it transcribed provides a good start.

    The result is that leads are being generated with a combination of 3 of the top 4.


pay to write my paper