I thought this whitepaper offer posted on LinkedIn had some interesting reactions. The only people commenting were complaining about the company who offered it.

It seems people are very sensitive to  being offered whitepapers that require giving contact information. Do you think whitepapers are a good marketing technique or a thinly veild ploy and do more harm than good? 

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The purpose of a whitepaper is to ultimately generate leads.   It can be free to obtain with the hope that the branding or author is remembered, or it can be just to get people to your site.   It can also have a registration form with the explicit intent of building a mailing or call list.  These have a much, much lower take rate. 

I personally offer my whitepapers for free and some topics generate a lot of downloads.  When I'm looking for papers and I have to register, I usually decline and move on as I don't want to be hassled.  There are few, in my book, worth this much trouble. 

However, there is the other school of thought that you should do whatever it takes to get the names of people coming to your site, no matter what.   I believe that if you really have valuable information to offer, you'll get some names and good comments.   If you're just blatantly selling a product without any additional substance and looking to build a call list, then you deserve the negative reaction you'll generate.   You have to give to get.    


Thanks for your insight Don. I talked with another PM colleague about this at work too and he felt the reason people were so hostile about it was because it was posted on linkedin and that if it were only on their website it would have been better received.

Thanks for sharing!

I agree, whitepapers are marketing tools to generate leads, but not necessarily directly.  Ideally, they serve to strengthen a brand and provide thought leadership.   I think the most successful ones  make a strong business case for a particular solution, describe technical details, or unique insight into a market. 

Beyond that, we have to keep the reader of the whitepaper in mind.  Why are they downloading a whitepaper?  Generally not because the want to be contacted by a sales person immediately.  They are gathering information, studying the subject matter, learning about options.  They are hoping to gain insight, learn from experts.  If your brand represents that expertise, that is enough of a benefit - why spoil it with premature sales qualification questions.

In my experience, people are willing to provide some minimal information, name, company, possibly email address and a "why are you interested" question, but definitely not mandatory site registration, phone number, or long list of survey questions.  I have found success with just a short list of mandatory items (name, company, email) and longer list of optional items including a "contact me" check box.

Awesome feedback Greg. Thanks for sharing!

Agree. I hold back from downloading whitepapers because typically they are accompanied by an annoying salesperson blowing up my phone.

I think the 'contact me' box (or 'don't contact me') box is a good idea. 

Add me to your mailing list - that's ok - if I was impressed enough by your content to read and remember your name, then when you mail me with future interesting content I might end up contacting you.


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