5 Creative Ways to Make Your White Paper Irresistible

“Always show an image of the offer.” It’s a rule I quote often, one repeated to me ad nauseum many years ago by an early mentor and long-time direct marketing veteran. The logic: whatever it is you want your reader to download, request, order, or register for, a visual image of that offer makes it seem more “real,” more tangible. The more tangible: the higher the perceived value, and the more likely the reader is to respond.

I cringe to think of it now, but twenty years ago the task of including an image of the offer – even a white paper – usually resulted in a photo shoot. (Yes, I have attended half-day photo shoots in which all we shot was a white paper on a desk.) Fast forward to today, and we’re still marketing white papers, except an image of that paper is only a right-click away.

Still, the same principle applies. The more real, the more tangible, the more professional, the more, well, attractive the white paper or case study or industry report appears, the more appealing the offer, and the more likely the reader is to click through, complete the form, and download the asset.

Though it’s easier than ever to create a white paper image if only through a simple screen grab (I strongly recommend using Snag-It) there are several simple ways to enhance that image, quick investments in time that can yield big dividends in conversion rates and cost per lead.

1. Add a drop shadow. It’s a small touch that makes the offer significantly more “real.”

2. Add graphics to the cover. The more professional, credible, and engaging the white paper looks, the more attractive the content will seem to the viewer. (Conversely, the more boring or random the design, the greater chance the content will appear likewise.)

3. Consider making the title copy legible at thumbnail size, even if means doctoring the cover image. (Note: with longer titles, this will look awkward at best, so use your discretion.)

4. Add a PDF icon or symbol. It says: “Download me.”

5. Avoid images that are simply icons or illustrations – they don’t have the same effect.

Lastly, test different images and design approaches. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this one component makes on your landing page. PPC campaigns are an ideal testing platform, because you can leverage a large volume of impressions in A/B fashion over time.

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