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 titled “Mobile Analytics” or “Why 90% of Your Mobile Visitors Aren’t Being Tracked and What You 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. For borderline cases, a strong subtitle can bridge between interesting and descriptive.
  2. Every 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. 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-headline, or bullet points. No graphics, charts, or screenshots. People are busy. It’s 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 gobbledygook. 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, e-mail, 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. Don’t forget to add shareable links within the white paper itself.
  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 people 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, so make sure your contact information is found there as well. I like adding simple contact information in the footer of my white papers. 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?