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09/27/2010

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Aaron

Nicely done, Julie.
I have to agree that many companies have treated white papers as advertising and thus changed the intended purpose from educating and establishing thought leadership to product pitch. Borrowing from social marketing, it's the content stupid. Without compelling (and yes authentic) content, the document is unlikely to provide benefit to me.
Equally important is targeting a persona in your writing. Product marketers frequently produce content for different buyers in the sales cycle. It may be that in today's agile environments, these documents are not getting the necessary attention as you suggest.
I do have one question. Is it that users balk at ANY registration form or can it be the forms typically require too much information? For me, name and email address would be okay to provide but asking me too much (company name, revenue, buying time frame) will cause me to Google for content elsewhere.
Off topic, what implications do you see, if any, for analyst reports? Lately the information provided by some firms is not "meaty" enough to justify the cost. Could the argument be made to give away more reports in order to gain more services revenue?
Thanks,
Aaron

Julie Hunt

Hey Aaron! Thanks for stopping by & leaving such a detailed comment. Regarding your two questions:

1."Is it that users balk at ANY registration form or can it be the forms typically require too much information? For me, name and email address would be okay to provide but asking me too much (company name, revenue, buying time frame) will cause me to Google for content elsewhere."

JH>> Frankly, as a researcher who downloads a lot of content, and from the research cited in this article, I don’t think most software buyers want to do any sort of registration at all. They want to get in, get the document and go. Most buyers want to drive the sales process, including the decision if there is even going to be a sales process. This is especially true of small and mid-market companies.


2. "Off topic, what implications do you see, if any, for analyst reports? Lately the information provided by some firms is not "meaty" enough to justify the cost. Could the argument be made to give away more reports in order to gain more services revenue?"

JH>> For analyst reports, I like what the more “open” analysts are doing (like Altimeter Group) – providing more free research for the world to use. I agree that certain analyst firms are producing for-fee benchmark reports that are too high level and general to be of use ‘as is’ to tech buyers. I address the issue in this post: *Time Travel Required: Finding WEM in the 2010 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management* http://bit.ly/bOD5j9

Cheers,
Julie

Taylor

Julie,
Thank you for this post. I hadn't even thought to remove the registration from our white papers. Clearly, results speak for themselves. My concern is that in removing registration on white papers, we then do not have a way to track who has read it and follow up with them. In addition, we then lose the ability to capture the information of that individual and automatically add it to our CMS.

There are marketing platforms out there that tags prospects when they hit the site and then tracks their time and pages visited (among many other features). Would you recommend having something like this in place before removing registration forms?

We tend to put a lot of time and useful content into our social media, specifically our blog, as well as case studies and video testimonials.

Julie Hunt

Hi Taylor!
I really appreciate your taking time not only to read my article, but to leave your thoughts and questions.

As the sources cited in the article (and many other research sources) indicate, customers want to drive the buying process even for B2B software. A lot of customers do not want anyone contacting them just because they downloaded a white paper. Again according to a lot of research sources, many customers will make the decision if they want to engage with a software vendor; otherwise, these customers do not want to be contacted, and companies might do well to respect that.

It’s great that you are offering such a variety of good content for visitors to your website. Content marketing should have at its heart the goal of providing high quality content for use by visitors – period. If a consumer of your content wants to know more about what your company does, that consumer will get back in touch with your company – the internet makes that very possible. Marketing is changing greatly, as you already know, and one of the biggest changes is to pursue an authentic customer-centric approach to marketing and sales – it’s no longer about what the company wants, it’s about what the customer wants. How each company approaches such a marketing strategy will differ.

If your blog has a lot of comment activity, that is a good way to engage visitors. Forums, tweetchats, interactive webinars are also good ways to engage with potential and current customers. A lot of customer engagement may not even be taking place on your website.

Cheers,
Julie

Fred

Julie,
Great information - thanks for pulling it all together.

I think this goes beyond software/technology - I will typically not register unless I must have the paper, and even then sometimes what I get is not worth the effort.

We are all more savvy now with technology - countless studies on how in B2B or B2C folks will go online to research what they want. If they create interest in the research process they will reach out as the next step.

Anyone with a business web site needs to have the analytics platform to know who is visiting, where they looked, how long they stayed, and where they went next. I know its available as I have received emails from white papers I downloaded without registering.

Thanks - Fred

Julie Hunt

Hi Fred – thanks very much for the kind words. I think your point about disappointing white paper content is a good one: it cannot be stressed enough that high quality content is the key to engaging potential customers.

Yes, most customers know how to research and really do want to be the ones to decide if they contact a particular company or not. So while analytics can identify visitors to websites, I’m not so sure that sending an email is the next best action on the part of the company, unless the company is offering further services of interest to the visitor. If the only purpose of the email is old school sales contact then the company will not accomplish anything. Emails instead could be used to invite visitors to join communities, point out other sites where discussions of interest are taking place, provide other content, and so on.

Cheers,
Julie

Ellen Finkelstein

I have a white paper with links to free and paid products (with a discount code) at the end. My experience is that people rarely use those links. Here's the issue: I know I would get more downloads without registration, but the point is how many people buy? It might be better to get fewer downloads from people who are interested enough to give their contact information than more downloads from people who are less interested.

Any research like that?

Julie Hunt

Hi Ellen, I appreciate your taking time to read my article.

My approach to content marketing here is geared towards B2B software vendors, so it's not quite your use case. I haven't run across research that would fit your needs exactly.

Have you considered engaging prospective customers in other ways, such as Twitter chats or community forums hosted on other sites for your areas of expertise?

-- Julie

Michael Wilson

Julie,

Well done. I am a firm believer in the power of information. When I was with HostBridge Technology, we used white papers to drive almost all our conversations. Our white papers were some of the best-performing on TechTarget and ebizQ due to a balance of technical and business content and an effort to educate rather than sell. We made sure our white papers provided valuable content that readers could use even if they went with a competitive solution.

Hiding white papers behind a registration also robs vendors of the benefits of having their valuable content be captured by search engines. White papers are a huge benefit for SEO because of the number of relevant terms included and the immense opportunity for having partners, bloggers, or anyone else cross-link to it.

Plus, they are a great source for follow-on marketing. For example, RichRelevance currently has a white paper on The Path to Personalization that also drove a collaborative webinar with Forrester. Not to mention the fact that many times a white paper can be broken into smaller chunks and made palatable as blog posts. Sort of like serializing the content and then pulling it all together as a whole.

Good stuff,
Michael

Julie Hunt

Hello Michael - really good to hear from you! Thanks very much for the kind words.

You make a lot of great points in your comment - I appreciate your stopping by and sharing!

Best,
Julie

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