There’s always been an obsession for everything “new.” From technology to strategies (and everything in between), the culture at large has adopted the mantra, “new is always better.” While new ideas are necessary for the further development of our society, it’s important not to discount things that are perceived to be passé as ineffective and irrelevant. For marketers, that can be as simple as committing to tried-and-true strategies or initiatives that are simplistic in their approach but brutally effective at generating revenue, such as writing a whitepaper.
In the world of marketing, whitepapers are no longer in vogue. According to a report from the World Media Group, only 19.32% of those surveyed planned on producing a whitepaper. This is not ideal considering that they still drive real value; 40% of marketers cited writing a whitepaper as their most successful tactic for moving prospects farther down the customer journey. Given their impact, why are marketers straying away from them?
For one, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are spending more time and resources on brand awareness strategies and tactics, which means flashier content types, such as short-form videos, social media posts, and podcasts, have been prioritized. In the same World Media Group report referenced above, marketers ranked these three content types (and five others) higher than whitepapers. Not to disregard these new tactics, but overemphasizing strategies that cater to unfamiliar audiences at the early stages of the customer-brand relationship can cause stagnation further along the customer journey. Whitepapers are a vital touchpoint that engenders trust and provides value, through insights and research, as customers become more familiar with a brand.
What is a Whitepaper?
A whitepaper is a comprehensive report on a specific subject that presents a problem and, in great detail, gives a solution to that problem. The primary purpose of a whitepaper is to position the author (i.e., the brand) as an authority on a subject and persuade audiences to adopt their perspective on it. This can mean challenging conventional wisdom shared throughout an industry.
For example, more than half of the industry (59% of marketers and US agencies) continue to utilize last-click attribution. So, a digital marketing agency could produce a whitepaper that breaks down why marketers should use an attribution model that takes into account the entire customer journey.
Producing a whitepaper is not something that can or should be done over a couple of days or a week. They typically take anywhere from a few weeks to months to complete. While the thought of committing so much time to create one can be frightening, it’s important to note that a whitepaper is an anchor asset — meaning that it can be turkey sliced and repurposed to create net-new content. One whitepaper can ultimately become a series of blog posts, webinars, infographics, social posts, and so on.
Additionally, whitepapers differ significantly from other pieces of short-form content since they tend to have a more academic tone and a deeper scope. Backed by extensive research and statistics, quality whitepapers build their case slowly and methodically — making them more difficult to refute.
The Benefits of Writing a Whitepaper
A whitepaper can do more than just turn an author into a thought leader in their respective space. They can impact multiple facets of a business and help spin the marketing flywheel. Let’s go over a few ways a whitepaper can help bring value for a brand.
Sales teams can’t thrive on cold-calls alone. They need prospects, lots of them, to bring revenue through the front door. From a business perspective, most brands that create whitepapers do so in hopes of generating more leads. According to a survey from SurveyBrief, 20.25% of respondents use whitepapers to capture leads, and nearly 16% cited it as the most effective (the third-highest of all content types). When incorporated into an omnichannel strategy, whitepapers can bring in a high ROI.
Brands understand the importance of email marketing. On average, marketers see a 32x return for every dollar spent. This adds up since email is an owned channel, which gives brands complete control and requires minimum financial investment. That’s great and all but persuading new audiences to share their emails, let alone subscribe to a newsletter, is extremely difficult. When gated, whitepapers help brands circumnavigate this by requiring audiences to fill out forms before gaining access to them. Audiences are willing to trade their contact information for free gifts (i.e., a whitepaper).
Most marketers, even those that aren’t full-fledged SEO experts, understand the importance of backlinks. Marketers often reference their findings with stats and insights from reports, surveys, and you guessed it — whitepapers. One whitepaper alone can generate site traffic with incoming hyperlinks from other websites. And these backlinks can help boost search engine results pages (SERP). In short, a whitepaper should be a part of any SEO strategy.
Since joining AdRoll in 2017, Giulianno has regularly produced content that explores how professionals can improve their digital marketing strategies and emerging industry trends. When he's not working, you can find him at Golden Gate Park training for his next marathon.