Getting more from your white paper investment

Content marketing has become an increasingly valuable tool for both B2B and B2C companies, and executives are seeking to determine the impact of such efforts with concrete numbers. A recent Forbes article discussed the need to measure ROI in content marketing efforts and offered the following chart as an example the typical return a white paper can deliver:

An ROI of 2.3 is nothing to sneeze at, but executives might look at the initial $10,000 price tag—and the four to six weeks it takes to produce a white paper—and decide the whole undertaking isn’t worth the organizational effort. However, business leaders should keep a few things in mind:

The white paper is more than just the trigger for the beginning of the sales funnel. Rather, a white paper should be used throughout the customer life cycle to spur a deeper conversation or augment sales and marketing efforts. White papers should provide answers and information on common challenges that businesses are facing; the best ones have an extended shelf life of several years.

It supports multifaceted customer outreach. An effective white paper has many uses: as a vital tool for reputation building, collateral to support sales and marketing, and leave-behinds at events and conferences. For new customers, a white paper can demonstrate the breadth of a company’s skills and services; for existing clients, it’s a reminder of the value the company can continue to deliver. These uses are particularly critical for B2B companies and professional services firms, which rely more heavily on building relationships over time.

It’s just one output of strategic content development. As I’ve noted before, the most time-consuming part of content creation is distilling complex ideas into a narrative that is easily digested by a general business audience. After doing the heavy lifting, companies often fixate on a specific format—such as a white paper—and fail to make the incremental investment of tailoring these ideas to other content types such as infographics, blogs, and videos.

Of the $10,000 price tag for a white paper, approximately 60 percent is spent on working with executives and subject matter experts to identify promising concepts and construct a narrative framework that will resonate with the target audience. The remaining 40 percent goes to drafting, design and layout, and final editorial production, which effectively creates editorial assets that can be used in a modular way for a wide range of other collateral.

In the discussion of ROI on strategic communications material, companies must start at the beginning. A more comprehensive conversation at the outset of a project, highlighting the communication channels and formats that would support sales and marketing efforts, will help companies build not just one white paper but an entire campaign—which will generate a greater return on their investment.

Scott Leff

Scott is the founder of LEFF. He’s spent his career helping executives and subject matter experts tell their story in a compelling way. In the process, he’s had the opportunity to work with C-suite executives, politicians, academics, and Olympians, not to mention dozens of talented writers, editors, and designers in the business world. Scott developed the concept of “lean content creation” as a cost-effective way to support comprehensive, integrated communication strategies.

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