By Mitt Ray published January 27, 2012

How to Counter the 5 Most Common White Paper Promotion Mistakes

If you’re looking to use white papers to help your business generate leads, writing the actual paper is just the first step. A white paper will only generate leads if it’s read by the right people. So after you finish writing, you’ll need to make an extra effort to promote it in order to draw potential readers in and, eventually, convert them into clients.

Below are six of the most common mistakes content marketers make when promoting their white papers, and some simple ways to counter them:

Mistake #1: Not creating a proper landing page

A white paper can be anywhere from a few pages long to dozens of pages in length, which can make reading them a daunting task for prospects who are not already familiar with the value and insight your business can provide. Quite often, white papers are placed in an obscure location, like the website’s resources page, or on a page that doesn’t have a way to highlight its value. Placing your white paper on its own dedicated page, in the context of the benefits it provides the reader, can help to convince potential readers that downloading and reading your insight will be worth their time.

There are a few core components every white paper landing page should feature:

  • A short, persuasive letter that lets the reader know what the white paper contains, and why they need to read it. This sales letter needs to have an attractive headline, and should be around 100 to 300 words long, so it’s quick and easy to read.
  • A keyword density of 2 to 6 percent, so your white paper can be found through relevant consumer searches.
  • Don’t forget to provide a link so viewers can download the white paper, or a form that they can fill out to request a copy.

Another important decision is whether to include ads on your landing page. The sole aim of your landing page should be to get visitors to download the white paper. When you include ads on your landing page, you risk distracting them from your landing page or, worse, chasing after the ad offers and not returning to download your content . So it’s best to get rid of all the ads if you want to optimize the your white paper conversions. (More tips to improve your white paper conversions can be found in this post by Rachel Foster.)

Mistake #2: Including company promotions in your white paper’s marketing material

Some people promote their white paper through landing pages, press releases, etc. But these marketing materials can’t do their job if they are poorly focused on the mission at hand (i.e., selling the white paper), or contain more information about the company, the brochure section of the white paper, and your other offerings than they do on educating consumers, building a trusting relationship, and turning them into leads.

People read white papers because they want to learn from others’ expertise and experience. If your promotional efforts focus on how your white paper provides vital insight and information, you will build the trust — trust that will make them want to learn more about your company and its products and services. So you see, by not selling, you actually create a more successful sales pitch for the value your business provides.

Marketing the education value of your white paper is all about sharing the benefits it provides with those who might read it. You want to let them know what they are going to learn, and how this information can help them reach their goals — such as improving their company’s performance, increasing profits, or producing better products. If you can demonstrate that reading your white paper can help them be better at something they want to be good at, it will motivate them to download and read it.

Mistake #3: Asking for too much personal information

There are two ways you can provide access to your white paper: by letting visitors download it directly through a link or by offering it in exchange for providing some personal information (such as their contact information, their company name, their job function, etc). It’s always good to get as much information as possible on the prospects that download your white papers; but if you ask for too many details up front, or consume too much of their time filling out forms, you risk losing their interest — and any ability to connect with them in the future.

  • If you want to encourage downloads, the information you require should be as minimal as possible. In the beginning, just their name and the email address where the white paper should be sent should be more than enough.
  • Once they’ve read your white paper and have grown to trust your expertise, the connection you’ve forged should provide you with additional opportunities to gather more information from them directly.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to make your white paper social media friendly

There are over 800 million active users on facebook, 200 million users on Twitter, 100 million on Linkedin and 62 million users on Google+. These figures indicate a huge potential audience you can reach through social media outlets. Even if only a small percentage of these users are searching for good content to read, it still provides a tremendous opportunity for targeting and marketing your white paper.

But if you want your white papers to be shared regularly on social media, you need to make them social media friendly. The first step you can take is to add social sharing buttons at the top of your landing pages, to make it easy for people to “like” it on Facebook, retweet it on Twitter, or share it on LinkedIn.

This can be done by visiting the respective social media websites, copying the HTML code for the button, and posting it on the header of each page of the white paper. You can also add these buttons to your blog or other website pages by downloading and activating an appropriate plug-in, or go one step further by including them directly in your white paper documents. (You can learn more about how to add these buttons by reading this post.)

Once you’ve set up this functionality, readers only need to click on the button to share it on their social media profiles. There’s no need to go through the tedious process of opening the social site page, shortening the link to your white paper, writing a message, and then sharing it.

Another advantage of enabling social sharing is that it can add credibility to your content. When people see that a particular page has been shared multiple times, they are more likely to want to know what’s so special about it — which can drive them to check out your white paper landing page for themselves.

Mistake #5: Not taking advantage of white paper distribution services

There are many distribution services available to help you host and promote your white papers, and they can offer some distinct advantages over self-distribution, such as:

  • Access to an established audience of people who want to read white papers
  • Experience with successful white paper promotion techniques
  • Newsletters and social media channels they can use to increase the reach of your content
  • Many of these services are available for free and have made the process easy for content creators at any experience level.

If you want your white paper to get more exposure, it’s best to place it on a few distribution services at once, and see which ones perform best for you. Depending on the topic of your white paper, its intended audience, and your ultimate goals, you can start with those that specialize in targeting your niche business area, or you can cast a wider net by going with services that market to a larger range of audience interests. A few good white paper distribution services are CIO White Papers, Information Week, and Bit Pipe.

How do you promote your white papers? Are there any tricks and techniques you would like to share with us? Please leave your comments below.

Author: Mitt Ray

Mitt Ray blogs about white papers on The White Paper Blog, where you can download his free guide on how to write a white paper. He is the author of the book White Paper Marketing. He is also the Director of imittcopy and the Founder of Social Marketing Writing, an online magazine on social media marketing, where you can download his free guide, How to Promote Yourself with Pinterest. You can follow him on Twitter @MittRay.

Other posts by Mitt Ray

  • http://www.aparcher.com Apryl Parcher

    Great article on the “next steps” many businesses fail to make when it comes to their white papers. One thing I would add to this is an extension of “making your paper social media friendly.” It takes more than just making it linkable within the paper itself–business owners do better with a well thought-out strategy for launching the paper on social channels as well.

    One of my small business clients, for instance, saw a greater than 20% increase in her bottom line when she activated a 6-month white paper launch strategy, which included planning out a series of blog posts, tweets, updates and a webinar. She scheduled them across a timeline which stretched before her white paper was launched, during the launch, and afterwards, and carefully measured engagement–making tweaks as she went along. She did it all with excel, and graphed the performance of her blog signups and website traffic against each social update and blog post.

    Rather than just posting links to the paper, however, her updates used intriguing nuggets from the report’s contents to increase curiosity and sharing. In conjunction with a good landing page and easy registration, this strategy worked very well for her small business audience.

    It worked so well that she had to hire extra people to take care of the incoming business, and even though the paper is over a year old, it’s still bringing in leads for her. She plans to launch another one this year.

    • http://www.mittray.com Mitt Ray

      Hi Apryl,

      Thank you for the detailed comment and the tips. I am glad you liked the
      article.

      Like you mentioned you need to start marketing the white paper even before you
      launch it – doing this extra bit of work can help you get a lot of readers as
      soon as you launch the white paper. It’s just like launching a book – you need
      to start marketing it even before you publish it.

      Another important point you mentioned which I really liked was converting white
      papers into content for promotion – white papers can be converted into slides,
      press releases, tweets, sales pages, blog posts, etc. which can all be used to
      promote the white paper. This should be done both before and after writing the
      white paper.

      Mitt

  • Kristin Arroyo

    I love the CMI Blog! It really helps me stay ahead of the curve as a Content Specialist in a small marketing agency. Great article here too :) Thanks for all you y’all do!

    Our company just produced its first white paper last week, and I am trying to find ways to publicize it on the web. We already use a few of the free PR sites to get the word out about our client’s PRs, so I’m wondering if anyone knows of anything similar (preferably free/low cost) for white papers? 

    I checked out the ones Mitt suggested here, but they seem to be more IT-oriented and are quite difficult to navigate. Anyone have any other suggestions?

    Sincerely, A fan of CMI

    • http://www.mittray.com Mitt Ray

      Hi Kristin

      Thank you for your comments. I am glad you like the article.

      Yes, the websites I suggested were more IT oriented. If you’re looking for a
      different white paper distribution service you could try out the one on CMI.
      CMI has a white paper library where they host white papers.

       I will be setting up a white paper
      distribution service soon. We will host white papers on Marketing for free over
      there. If you have a white paper on marketing I would be happy to set it up
      when my distribution service goes live.

      Mitt

    • victor

      hi Kristin,
      please send me the details about you whitepaper we can certainly help you. victorsmith4427atgmail.com

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  • Jeremy Abel

    Hi Mitt,

    That was a phenomenal post! I especially liked the part on social media-izing the content. While there are many great ways to promote a whitepaper (or an eBook) on social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn (Groups, Updates), and others, it’s challenging to reach the exact person you need to contact within a company. Sure, the target member of your buying center may have a LinkedIn account, but they may not visit the Group in which you promoted your whitepaper. However, one of their colleagues may patronize the group quite often, notice your content, and share it with their co-worker. I believe that the heavy lifting side of letting a piece of content go viral (yes, an outdated term, but still accurate) is based on how easily it can be spread by individuals.

    • http://www.mittray.com Mitt Ray

      Hi Jeremy,

      Thank you.

      That’s true – you need to make it easy to share your content across various
      social media. When you place the buttons inside the document, it makes it
      extremely easy to share. There’s no need to visit the landing page again and
      retweet it. When you make it that easy and you give it away for free – more and
      more people will want to share it.

      Mitt

  • http://www.findnewcustomers.com Jeff Ogden

    Nice post, Mitt. But I also suggest you re-imagine your content. Do a video interview of the author and post it to YouTube. Write a series of blog posts. Create single page summaries.

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    Can you suggest some white paper distribution services

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    • victor

      hi send me the details of you whitepaper or campaign on my email victorsmith4427atgmail.com

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    Use a service like DocumentLeads.com to help promote it – you won’t be sorry you did because of the time and insights you will gain from using a service like that rather than crafting something yourself.

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