You’ve hired in the research professionals, amalgamated all your business data, invested in a team of professional writers to write your white paper, got the Adobe design whizz-kids to slap it all together in a groovy 15-page document, created an optimised landing page, invested in social media marketing, you’re x-grand down the tubes…. and your target audience hasn’t got time to read a word of it.
There’s something wrong with this picture. So let’s take a step back and gain a better perspective.
Why produce a white paper?
Answer: For most marketers, it’s about influencing decision-making by providing relevant, helpful information that meets the needs of the people who make or influence buying decisions. Effective use of white papers can help position the author as an expert in their field, whilst subtly positioning their organisation as a credible vendor on the reader’s ‘short-list’ for further engagement.
Increased brand awareness, lead generation, customer loyalty/retention and upsell/cross-sell opportunities are all benefits that white papers can yield. But, none of this will manifest without the successful execution of a content distribution strategy. Indeed, despite the quality and value that your white paper provides, effective distribution is the only thing that may keep it from ending up on a shelf in the corporate website gathering dust.
Who reads white papers?
Not just execs, CxOs and the other big boss guys – it’s also the team below them who are, amongst many other things, charged with researching and keeping up to date with the latest industry trends and reports that may have an influence over decision-making.
What do all these people have in common? Well, one thing’s for sure: in gainful employment though they may be – but when it comes to time, they’re broke.
And so here’s the problem – with your 3, 5, 10-thousand-word white paper, you’re asking these guys and gals to fork out in a currency that they don’t have. Time.
Time is money to these people. And they spend their time making money. Your white paper explains in great detail how their pain-points can be solved and more money can be made (with a subtle sell that points to your solution) – but they don’t have the time to spend reading it.
And this highlights a problem with white papers, and indeed long-form content in general – distribution and engagement. Cracking this challenge is key to releasing the most value from your white papers or other long-form content assets. Get it right, and these assets will pay dividends by the bucket load, helping develop an audience and customers on an ongoing basis.
Of course, I’m assuming your content is engaging. Otherwise no matter how good your content distribution strategy is, your efforts are likely to fail.
Is your white paper engaging its readers?
One of the stand-out key takeaways from the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing Report is the fact that, just as in years past, B2B marketers continue to place their priority focus on the creation of engaging content. Indeed, 72% of the marketers surveyed cited this as their most important consideration for their content creators over the next year.
But what makes content engaging?
Let’s take a look at some other figures from the report to try and answer this question.
When asked “Which content marketing tactics does your organisation use?”, the responses were as follows:
The content marketing tactic standing head and shoulders above the rest is social media content, with a whopping 93% of B2B marketers using this method to promote their businesses online, suggesting that the easily-consumable, short-form social media post is key to practically all B2B content creators with messages to amplify.
White papers, you will notice, are further down the list, though still with a considerable 71% usage. Webinars and online presentations stand at around two-thirds, and research reports fall off this chart with just 49% of B2B marketers using them in their content marketing strategy.
White papers, webinars, research reports – these are your high-end, top quality content assets that require significant investment in time, money and resources to produce. In theory, they should represent the most engaging forms of content in the marketer’s arsenal. However, the very nature of these long-form types of content render them inherently un-social-media-friendly.
Indeed, it’s impractical to condense a whole white paper into, say, a LinkedIn post – and even less a tweet (note that LinkedIn and Twitter are the two most popular platforms that B2B marketers use to distribute content). The quick solution, of course, is to compose simple teaser posts with an accompanying link to the landing page of the source material on these platforms – and that, generally speaking (combined, perhaps, with a promotional blog strategy), is the go-to strategy for long-form content distribution.
The question, however, is: is this the most effective method?
Creating engaging content is a top priority for B2B marketers
The Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 findings are a good starting place. The top three items on this chart are particularly revealing.
The creation of more engaging content is the top priority for B2B marketers for the second year running. This is hardly a surprise – engaging content is the very backbone of all content marketing efforts. But, interestingly, the second highest priority is to gain a better understanding of what types of content are effective.
What is one of the biggest surprises from the Content Marketing Institute report is the fact that well over half (55%) of B2B marketers don’t actually know what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like. Even more worryingly, only 30% say that their efforts are effective.
However we look at the figures, there is room for improvement – and a significant proportion of marketers are aware of this.
57% are prioritising finding more/better ways to repurpose content. Why is this such a top priority (third on the list)? Because no matter the quality of the content produced, effective distribution remains critical.
If not enough people are reading a white paper or attending a webinar, then the value locked inside this content can never be released. The solution? Repurposing this content so the most valuable messages within can be successfully delivered to more of those time-poor professionals who need it. The term I use to describe this is ‘sweating the asset’.
Repurposing is the key to unlocking the hidden value in your white paper
Getting the very most out of the content assets you already possess is, of course, a sound business principle. Companies like yours try to do it as much as possible – if you’re using all your building space, your machinery, your staff and your reputation to full effect, then you’re sweating your assets.
But are you sweating your digital content assets with the same level of commitment? Are you crafting tweets from the key insights in your white papers and research reports? Are you condensing all that core and impressive data you’ve amalgamated in your research reports into a highly-visual and easily-shareable infographic? Are you creating audio and/or video snippets from the best bits of your webinar and piling them into a follow-up campaign to ensure maximum engagement with your most important messages?
If you’re not currently committed to these practices, then you’re not sweating your digital content assets. You’re not taking steps to ensure that the most valuable messages from your most valuable content are being amplified to their full potential. So now is the time to start.
Sound like a lot of extra work?
Yes. It is a lot of extra work. But it’s worth it.
Let’s recap and reiterate a few earlier points. Your long-form content is only ever going to be as valuable as your strategy is effective to distribute it. As much as they may need to read it all, those professionals on your target list simply don’t have enough time available to them to read every word or attend every webinar you broadcast.
The solution is to sweat the assets and find ways and means to repurpose the content into shorter-form, social-media-friendly snippets. It means revisiting your reports and papers and pulling out only the most important and relevant data, and then amplifying these key messages in a variety of brand new campaigns across your channels. It means creating standalone visual tweets, SlideShares and infographics and launching new campaigns to get these messages out there. And yes, all this means a lot of extra work – but it is only through this additional effort that you stand a chance of getting the highest returns from the initial investment you made in the original content.
Sweat the asset!
The content team I lead at InsightBrief are driven by the challenge of how to best ‘sweat the asset’ and ensure that the white paper owner extracts maximum value from their asset.
Over the past twelve months, we’ve been developing a managed service for B2B technology marketers that amplifies the most valuable messages in their white paper to a wider target audience. Our research-led writing and editorial team create key-point summaries of white papers, webinars and research reports – with the source material owner’s branding – which can be easily consumed by its intended audience in less than 10 minutes. These summaries comprise our primary product – the Executive Brief.
Leveraging social media to amplify key messages
Using the Executive Brief and a series of social assets we create, our social media team then devise and run a social media campaign via the InsightBrief Twitter account.
The tweet below is an example of a social campaign we used to promote a Verizon white paper. The message (aka insight) is one of thirty-six that comprise the Executive Brief, all gleaned by our team from a white paper entitled ‘State of the Market: Internet of Things’.
A series of social assets were posted over a four-week period, driving engagement and increasing awareness around specific messages and hashtags for the content owner.
Monolithic Vs. Ecosystem: How to think about the Internet of Things https://t.co/SvQFGJAvyt
— InsightBrief (@InsightBrief) August 21, 2016
Increasing value through effective content distribution
Detailed, real-time social analytics on the campaign performance are provided to our clients. These deliver valuable and actionable insights for our client, comparing the periods before, during and after the campaign. Our objective is to demonstrate the increased value that an effective content distribution strategy can yield.
In a future blog, I’ll go into detail on the specific metrics, which warrant a blog post on its own. Needless to say, we focus on increasing brand awareness and engagement with the key messages that the white paper or other long-form content contains.
At InsightBrief, we believe that the key to unlocking the value that too often remains trapped in long-form content is in repurposing for effective distribution. The Executive Brief combined with our Managed Content Service is our solution.
DIY or managed service?
Whether you use a managed service like ours or do this in-house, the main takeaway here for you is that this is a must-do if you are to gain maximum value from your white paper. I’ve seen and been involved in far too many white paper projects where the relief of getting it over the finish line has left all involved eager to move on to their next project, little realising that once the white paper is completed, the real work is only just beginning.
Paul Denham is the founder and Editor-in-chief at InsightBrief and MD of Content Assets.