People Don’t Read Your White Papers. Who Cares?

New marketing technologies like Uberflip make it increasingly easy to track content consumption beyond just clicks and downloads.  This functionality not only generates additional insights for marketers as to just how much of their content prospects are actually reading, but also enables more sophisticated lead qualification methods, for example: granting higher lead scores when an individual prospect reads more than say, 80 percent of a white paper.

But what if the insight gained from these technologies is unwelcome news, namely that people are downloading, but not actually consuming, marketing content?

On LinkedIn recently, one sales executive opined that anecdotal evidence (i.e. feedback from his team) suggests that no-one reads his company’s white papers and, he concluded, this rendered the entire purpose of content marketing moot.

marketing contentSo, does it matter if your white papers or ebooks or case studies are downloaded but not actually consumed?  My answer: no, it doesn’t.

Just to be clear – to the extent that customers and prospective customers DO actually read your content, gain valuable information from that content, and think more highly of you and your company because of it, all the better.  However, in the context of demand generation, it matters very little whether they read it or not.

Remember: to be effective, demand generation content should appeal to, and generate engagement from, a prospective customer looking to solve a pain, problem, or issue that your company, product or solution can address.  Think about that for a moment.  It matters much less that the prospect reads that content, or upon reading the content, is more inclined to do business with your company.  What matters is that the content delivers information of value of a type that appeals to someone to whom you can ultimately sell.

One of the primary reasons that so many B2B companies develop and publish content that is little more than a brochure in sheep’s clothing (besides the fact that too many product managers are writing white papers) is that marketers believe demand generation content needs to sell.  It doesn’t.  In fact, I’d argue that, to the extent your content doesn’t sell, describe, or even mention your product, the greater its perceived value and the more effective it will be in generating leads.

By all means, develop content that addresses a genuine problem, one that the right prospects are eager to address, and one that qualifies those prospects as potential customers for your company.  But don’t despair if evidence shows few of those prospects actually read it.  The more important thing is that they downloaded it in the first place.

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash


2 thoughts on “People Don’t Read Your White Papers. Who Cares?

  1. Sue

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂 I’m not sure I agree with the premise though…

    1) YES! Please create content that doesn’t sell, I’m all for that. Content that solves a problem for your customers and prospects serves to put you in the coveted position of “trusted advisor” when the time comes to buy.

    2) Hmmm – not sure I agree that limited marketing resources should still be put to the time-consuming process of writing a white paper (one of the more technical pieces of content) that never gets read versus other less intensive but possibly more impactful types of content like blog posts, videos, etc.

  2. Howard Sewell Post author

    Thanks for the feedback, Sue. At no point in the article do I actually encourage companies to write white papers. The bigger point is to worry less about whether people actually consume that content (whether a white paper, blog post, or video) and whether they download it in the first place.


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