B2B marketers need to stop relying on gated PDFs to white papers and ebooks if they’re serious about lead generation, experts told The Content Experience event in Toronto this week.
The two-day conference, which is produced by Uberflip, offered a deep dive into many approaches to creating assets to drive awareness and purchases, but there was almost as much discussion about how content is made available to target audiences. It’s typical, for example, for many companies to produce detailed white papers that discuss their products or a major industry paint point, which can only be downloaded after filling out a form with their name, contact information and details about their company and role.
There was consistent feedback from speakers at The Content Experience, however, that marketers will soon be hitting a wall with that approach, if they aren’t already.
“I hate to break it to you, the era of the white paper as an early stage research tool is long over,” said Aaron Dunn, Senior Vice President of Marketing at SnapApp, a Boston-based company that helps marketers make surveys, quizzes and other forms of interactive content.
Dunn said SnapApp did a survey of more than 500 buyers and asked them to rank various kinds of content as they investigated possible purchases. White papers were at the bottom, he said.
“It’s not that that content isn’t valuable or good, but just not what they’re using in the early stage of the research process,” he said.
SnapApp uses white papers itself, Dunn added, but it has deliberately ungated them — a transition he admitted took a bit of a mental shift within the company.
The over-reliance on gated assets is one of the reasons marketers are turning to more comprehensive account-based marketing (ABM), said Peter Herbert, Vice President of Marketing at Atlanta-based Terminus, which makes ABM software.
“How many of my key decision-makers, a CIO or a vice-president of application development, are reading my white paper? None. Well, maybe one or two. We all get lucky,” he said. “That person is not thinking about you that much, though. They’re certainly not going to come into your site and fill in that form.”
In contrast, ABM forces marketers to develop their ideal customer profile, look for data that suggests true intent and engagement with content before passing the information to sales.
Jordan Hellyer, President at Marketing Automation Canada, wasn’t quite as harsh about white papers but suggested gating them could work if there was more time spent on areas like data quality. “It’s a matter of validating fields and making fields required,” he said.
Dunn said there are ways to improve data quality without gating assets. He cited one of SnapApp’s customers, Paycor, which was helping U.S. firms understand how they would be affected by legislative changes to overtime pay. The company turned to the idea of online calculators, which is not uncommon, but Dunn said the difference was in how Paycor executed.
“They didn’t just have one calculator, they did an overtime calculator for those at the top of the funnel. Then, as you move down, there was a time savings calculator, and so on,” he said. “You were getting something of value but at the same time you’re giving up interesting information to sales.”
In the first couple of months, Paycor’s calculators got more than 3,700 responses, Dunn said. This led to achieving its revenue target in the digital marketing channel for the full quarter in two months.
“We have to think differently about how to align content and campaigns, how they intertwine and intersect,” he said. “And the content has to resonate, where it’s so aligned with the customer’s fears, interests, hopes and dreams that you have that vista moment where they want to talk to you.”
The Content Experience wraps up Wednesday.