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Monday, Mar. 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm

12 Techniques to Increase White Paper Leads

By Bryan Eisenberg
March 2nd, 2009

Are you selling your white papers short with poor merchandising?

Many sites offering “free” white papers, case studies, or resources in exchange for some visitor information utterly fail to merchandise their downloads. Yet if your website doesn’t treat your white paper as containing valuable information, your visitors won’t either.

The problem starts by thinking of these downloads as free. You’re asking for something extremely valuable to both you and the visitor, their contact information. To get this valuable information, you need to show the visitor the value of what they’re downloading. So when they fill out the lead form, they feel they’re making a good exchange: valuable information for valuable information.

1. Your White Paper Needs an Interesting Title – Would you rather read a white paper title “Mobile Analytics” or “Why 90% of Your Mobile Visitors Aren’t Being Tracked and What Your Can Do About It?” The same technique, that works for selling books, getting people to read blog posts and even to attend webinars can significantly increase your white paper downloads. But don’t go for such an interesting name that no one knows what the paper is about though. For borderline cases, a strong sub-title can bridge between interesting and descriptive.

2. Every Book White paper Needs a Cover – Instead of just giving the white paper a title alone, merchandise it the way you would a book. No plain vanilla covers, make it engaging. Take a look at some samples white paper cover merchandising from other smart marketers.

Keep in mind, many people prefer to download and print white papers before they read them. Which is more likely to catch someone’s attention on a busy, cluttered desk a white paper with no cover or one with an engaging cover design?

3. Make It Easy to Digest – How often have you downloaded a white paper for it only to be pages after pages of block text. No headlines, sub-headlines or bullet points. No graphics, charts or screenshots. People are busy. It is fine to make a long white paper if the topic deserves it, but make it reader-friendly.

4. Tell Them What They Are Going to Get – Write persuasive copy that not only informs people what they’ll learn from the download but also what they can do with the information. Make sure this copy is crisp, simple to read and formatted for online readers. You may want to offer key takeaways, a table of contents, or even an example chart to show them how valuable the paper is going to be.

5. Give Them Download Details – Let them know how many pages it is, how big the file is, what format the paper is in (PDF, DOC), etc.

6. Give Them an Excerpt – Very few people like reading poorly written, monotonous sounding, corporate gobblygook. By providing an excerpt you can help prove how well written, easy to understand and valuable your white paper is.

7. Prove Other People Like It – Like endorsements on a book cover, “credible testimonials” on the download page of your white paper can help sell the value of the content and improve conversion.

8. Don’t Ask For Too Much Information – Make sure your forms are optimized to ask only what you really need. And please don’t ask people to “submit to you.”

9. Let Them Know What Will Happen With Their Personal Information -  Provide them with point of action assurances around their privacy.

10. Make it Easy For People to Share – Give people an easy mechanism for them to share your white paper via social media, email or pass along.  Do it on the offer/landing page as well as on the thank you page. Visitors are most engaged when they are already downloading the white paper, so a suggestion for them to share it often helps.

11. Have a Follow-up Program -Let’s face it, you created your white paper and offered it for download in order to get leads.  That means the white paper has to generate a response or conversation.  Making your white paper interesting, actionable, and readable will help, but you’ll be far more successful getting responses if you initiate the post-download interactions and follow-up conversations through a well-planned lead nurturing campaign.

12. Offer Contact Information – Some persona actually prefer to contact you immediately upon finding the white paper, so make sure your contact information is on the download page. Others prefer to contact you as they are reading the white paper, make sure your contact information is found there as well. Others just feel a sense of confidence knowing you are providing your full contact information and not trying to remain anonymous while asking for their personal information. In simple terms make it easy for them to find your contact information everywhere.

What other techniques have you tried to increase leads from white paper requests?

Add Your Comments

Comments (16)

  1. Bryan, Good tips on getting the most benefit out of white papers. I’d just add one caveat – based on my own experience. The fact that someone downloads and reads a white paper does NOT make them a prospect automatically. I often read white papers to gain some knowledge I don’t have about a topic.

    What this means for the provider of the white paper is two things: 1) as per your #8, don’t make me provide my life history to get the paper – it may be irrelevant to you. 2) Ask me if I want to be contacted after reading it, or provide contact information so I can identify myself as a prospect. But please don’t mistake me for a buyer just because I read your white paper!

  2. Larry,

    That is why I said it is so important to have a follow up program with a lead nurturing program. With a good program, you would never be contacted unless your activities scored you as a “strong lead.”

  3. [...] if you are marketing your own whitepapers don’t forget to read 12 Techniques to Increase White Paper Leads. In White [...]

  4. Thanks, Bryan. I followed a link in a tweet from Michael Stelzner to your article. Very helpful. I’m just getting started with white papers after years of process development and documentation.

  5. In reference to 11. Havign a lead nurturing program:
    From speaking with the inside sales staff at my job it is very valuable if you can capture data on what that lead did while on the site.

    It’s not hard to implement for direct response traffic. Use a merge field to give each link a unique identifier that can be tracked in your analytics.

    You mentioned this in the linked post from December and it is very valuable!

  6. Bryan, this is one of the best articles I have read in awhile. It took me time to click to all your links to follow your logic. Thank you. Whitepapers are one of my pet peeves so I will hope that my following post will be appreciated.

    That said, I agree with Larry K. In my opinion, before a company can qualify the reason for the whitepaper download, you need to determine what is the whitepaper’s purpose. Is it to develop your brand as the experts in the field by your great insight or is it a sales pitch or both. All to often I have seen that the whitepapers do not have a call to action. Sure, they include company name and email, but why not have interactive links that will lead me back to your website and a desire to know more about your company.

    As a rule whitepapers have become a passive piece of information. A thing to read now or later. If later, the person might have forgotten why they downloaded the paper.
    Simple solution, in your pdf, add an interactive form that someone can click to request contact. That to me makes it a true lead. Even further, let’s say I am the key influencer in the company. Now your company has my email – which will do you little good. However, as a key influencer, I download the whitepaper and have done what you requested in your call to action – I send it to my CEO. Now, the decision maker who has not seen your website, has your whitepaper, sent by a trusted source, a form to send, a link to your website or even simpler, a link to send an email response asking someone to call. This to me is now more than a lead it is a hot prospect. I think this is a better way to use whitepapers to generate business.

  7. How do you basically plan to do a Follow-up starting from First mail sent as a confirmation of Download or Thank you mail?

    Any sample available?

  8. Girish,

    You can see an example by downloading our whitepaper on increasing qualified leads online at .

  9. [...] may or may not feel like filling out a lead form at this point.  But a valuable and well-merchandised free download titled something like, “10 Questions to Ask Any Pool Contractor,” might look far more [...]

  10. I think #7 (prove others like it) is vital. Testimonials, especially from names or brands that a customer might know is very important indeed.

  11. Thanks Bryan. I have tried 6 of your tips and they have made a real difference to results at one of my sites.

  12. So Nice of You Bryan..
    I followed your some tips… I kept in mind.. that can be better.

  13. I have never used the white paper method before but i heard it’s good for building up a mailing list. I think i would try it if it weren’t for the high cost associated with keeping a mailing list.

  14. [...] 12 Techniques to Increase White Paper Leads | Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | Fu… [...]

  15. I just implemented 3 of your tips and i already have seen the difference. Tomorrow when I have more time I am going to do more of the tips and see what that does, I will let you know the results.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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