By Steve Reside

The landmark study conducted by KnowledgeStorm and Marketing Sherpa, Connecting Through Content, reveals some interesting insights into how those purchasing enterprise technology rely on white papers during the buying cycle.

Some key findings:

whitepaper.jpgWhite papers are THE most frequently read type of content for enterprise technology buyers: 71% of survey participants indicated they read white papers more frequently than case studies, articles from industry journalists, analyst reports, product literature, company Web sites, blogs, online videos and podcasts.

White papers are a highly viral marketing tool: Nearly three in five enterprise technology professionals share white papers with colleagues and coworkers — more so than any other marketing tool.

Marketing professionals under-utilize white papers: Only 35 percent of marketing professionals offered white papers as an incentive in their promotional campaigns for selling enterprise technology. Case studies and product literature are the most common marketing materials, with white papers coming in third.

White papers are especially critical at the technology evaluation stage for enterprise technology purchases. In a study by CMO Council and TechTarget, entitled Technology Buying and Media Consumption Benchmarking Survey, nearly 71 percent of enterprise technology respondents indicated white papers were used in the last three months to evaluate new technology, followed by email newsletters (59%), product literature (51%), articles (50%), software downloads (50%), Web casts (39%) and case studies (29%).

In that same study, however, several concerns were raised about how some marketers were using white papers.

Common criticisms of white papers include:

  • The reader was expecting a technology discussion, not product information (48%)
  • The white paper was not focused on solving a business or technology problem (39%)
  • The white paper was too product oriented (36.9%)
It’s clear that white papers can be a valuable lead generation tool and should be a part of any enterprise technology company’s marketing mix. When focused on a business or technology issue, white papers are a credible resource for thought leadership and subject matter expertise that can get a prospect’s attention and build trust.

But fair warning to those creating white papers — if you are too focused on your product and not the needs of the reader, you stand a good chance of alienating them and losing their trust and, ultimately, their business.

(Steve Reside is Vice President and Creative Director of market2world communications inc., Canada's tech PR and product launch agency.)