15 Ways B2B Brands Can Maximize the ROI of Their Next White Paper
If you’re a B2B marketer, you’re probably familiar with white papers. Typically in PDF format, they dive deeper into a topic than your average blog post. The subject matter tends to fall into one of two camps: explaining how a new product or technology works or offering a detailed approach to solving a complex problem.
White papers can exceed five, 10 and sometimes even 20 pages — often including imagery and graphics that help readers understand the topic. Whether creating white papers in-house or enlisting an agency for help, they can zap up quite a lot of resources — thanks to all the research, writing, editing and design that go into creating them.
Forty-three percent of marketers named “E-books/white papers” as an asset type that produced the best results for them in a 2023 report from the Content Marketing Institute. But what can you do if your white papers are falling short? After all, nothing is more disappointing than putting time, energy and talent into producing content that doesn’t pay off. If you’re looking to get more value out of your white papers, here are 15 ways you can boost their ROI.
How to Maximize the ROI of Your Next B2B White Paper
1) Make sure your white paper topic is relevant to your audience. Right off the bat, if the topic of your white paper isn’t going to grab your audience’s attention, then your white paper will not succeed. So how can you be sure that your white paper will resonate? Explore a topic that helps your audience solve a pain point. Even if you’re describing a new product or technology, your audience will likely only engage if it helps them do their jobs better. Then, before going all-in on a topic, research to discover how it’s been covered. Even if it’s already been written about (and it most surely has), identify how to make your content unique and more valuable than what’s already out there.
2) Secure a budget for paid distribution — and use that money wisely. Organic search is an important channel (more on that below), but it’s rare that a white paper catches fire on its own. A budget for paid distribution is like lighter fluid for your promotion efforts — but don’t wait to ask for it until the white paper is already written and designed. Instead, present leadership with your concept and the business case for producing it before you even begin so you can secure the paid distribution budget you’ll need to get blazing results. Because without that buy-in from leadership and the funds to promote the white paper, it might not be worth investing the time and resources into it anyway.
3) Gate the white paper behind a form to generate new leads. White papers can be incredibly effective assets to generate leads for your sales team. That’s because if someone takes the time to fill out a form and download your white paper, they’re essentially saying, “This is a problem I have, and I’m looking for ways to solve it.” When your product relates to that problem, they’ll likely be open to hearing from your sales reps for help. So if leads are how you’re measuring success, put your white paper behind a form. And keep the form as simple as possible; any unnecessary fields can hamper your conversion rate. (My ideal form has no more than three fields: name, email and an option to subscribe to the newsletter.)
4) Optimize the white paper landing page. Once your form is live, don’t stop there. Its landing page should feature a title that ideally includes a target keyphrase, as well as body copy that integrates keywords and (most importantly) entices visitors to download the report. I usually like to include a bulleted list of the different takeaways they’ll get from the white paper. Including this copy can boost your landing page’s conversion rate and attract more organic traffic via search.
5) Pitch your white paper to bloggers, influencers and journalists who might be interested. New data, insights and perspectives are like gold in the content economy. If you’ve created a white paper offering bloggers, influencers and journalists something to comment on and share with their audiences, it’s almost always worth pitching it to them. But remember, media outreach is a numbers game. Keep your chin up if your first few emails and DMs don’t garner any responses, and continue reaching out to people with large followings who might be interested. Even if just one of them links to your white paper, the significance of that traffic can generate enough value to make the entire white paper effort worth the investment.
6) Repurpose and atomize white paper content to create social posts and new blog posts. Your white paper is a gold mine for content that can be used to promote the white paper itself across your owned channels. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel — you can use your best lines in social posts. (And if you want to make them more eye-catching, design them into social images.) You can repurpose stats, quotes and graphics for social, too. Just make sure it’s clear that people can find even more wisdom within the pages of the white paper. (Always include that CTA and link in the social copy!) Likewise, with just a little editing, you can repurpose sections of a white paper into blog posts that can be sprinkled across your editorial calendar for months.
7) Create new, complementary blog content related to the white paper. To further round out your blog’s editorial calendar, dive into a new topic related to your white paper but not directly covered in it. For example, let’s say your white paper is about protecting your organization from phishing attacks. You could write new blog posts about other types of cyberattacks, like man-in-the-middle attacks and denial-of-service attacks. Each blog post should include a CTA to the phishing white paper landing page for readers who want to expand their knowledge of cyberattacks.
8) Promote the white paper in your newsletter. If you have a newsletter, make sure you’re featuring the white paper in it. Even if one of your goals for the white paper is to build your newsletter subscriber list, you can use that new asset to add value to your existing subscribers. If they find it valuable, there’s a good chance they’ll forward it along to a colleague or someone in their industry who might also enjoy it, thereby building your brand authority (and subscriber list) by word of mouth.
9) Link to the white paper from existing, high-performing blog posts where relevant. This tactic represents some of the lowest-hanging fruit for driving traffic to your new white paper landing page. First, take a look at your analytics to find existing blog posts related to your white paper topic that bring in large amounts of organic traffic. Then, go into each blog post and place one — maybe two — links to the landing page in each post where readers might want to learn more about your white paper topic. For effort vs. impact, this is the most efficient tactic to maximize the ROI of your white paper.
10) Send the white paper directly to customers and leads who could find it useful. A new white paper gives you a reason to reach out to leads and existing customers. Use the opportunity to strengthen those relationships and open the door to more conversations about how your company can create more value for them.
11) Give your employees an easy way to share the white paper on their own social media accounts. Collectively, your employees can get the word out across social platforms at no cost to you. They’re often looking for content to share on their LinkedIn accounts, so make it as easy as possible for them. Even if you don’t use an employee advocacy platform, you can simply email all your employees with the link, a little background on the white paper, and social copy they can either copy and paste or edit to make their own before they share.
12) Create original thought leadership articles for third-party websites and publications that link to the white paper. Reach out to industry publications or websites that publish content related to your white paper topic. Pitch them on articles aligned with the white paper, and see if you can get the green light to publish on their platform. They’ll likely give you some guidance to help you hone your article, and you’re off! Don’t forget to ask them about their linking policy — sometimes they don’t allow links, but they usually do in exchange for the free content. And if they allow follow links, even better for your SEO. If not, the link will still drive traffic from the article to the landing page. Plus, you get the added exposure and credibility of the third-party article itself.
13) Discuss the white paper topic on your podcast or as a guest on another podcast. Does your B2B brand have a podcast? If so, use your white paper topic as the centerpiece of an upcoming episode. If not, do some research on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and find shows that might be interested in hosting a thought leader from your company to discuss the topic.
14) Create a video that engagingly covers the topic and host it on YouTube. White papers tend to dig deep into a topic, and not everyone has time to read every word. Synthesize the big ideas and key takeaways into an engaging video that provides the gist in just a few minutes. For example, you could film or record one of your internal thought leaders delivering a talk, having a whiteboard session, clicking through a presentation or even using animation to bring the content to life. Then, host that video on YouTube and optimize the metadata for search. Also be sure to include a link to the white paper landing page in the video description. YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, so hosting your video there opens up a giant funnel to attract more eyeballs, clicks and conversions.
15) Feature the white paper on the homepage of your website. The homepage of your website is almost always the highest-trafficked page on your site, so get the most out of that high-value real estate. With just a little design and dev work, you can include a clean, eye-catching call-out that directs visitors to your latest white paper landing page. This is a great way to turn first-time visitors into leads right off the bat, shortening your marketing and sales cycles and boosting the ROI of your white paper.
White papers can be high-impact content assets for any B2B brand, but you have to make sure you’re using every tactic at your disposal to get the greatest ROI on them. You can certainly cherry-pick from the ideas above, but I recommend thinking of it as a checklist. If you do everything you can to promote and distribute your next white paper, you might be surprised how much it moves the needle. Ready to brainstorm white paper ideas and distribution strategy? Get in touch with us today, and let’s get started.