Why Salespeople Hate Most White Paper Leads

How is it that a quality white paper on a hot topic can still generate bad leads? It’s got to be the media, right? Wrong.

It’s the offer.

Even a well-written white paper, by a respected author, on a hot topic of vital interest to your target audience, can still generate leads your salespeople will consider “junk.” In my experience, the problem in these situations is invariably that the content on offer did not align with the types of leads the company was trying to generate. For example:

An educational white paper by an industry analyst on a hot industry trend will tend to generate a broad spectrum of prospects, including a large subset who have no interest whatsoever in your solution but want to stay abreast on what’s new in your space.

In contrast, a “buyer’s guide” by a leading analyst on the 10 key criteria to employ when choosing a solution (of the type you sell), along with side-by-side comparisons of the leading vendors (your company included) will tend to generate more qualified leads, albeit fewer in number, namely people who are actively researching or evaluating solutions.

When embarking on a content marketing strategy, one of the critical first steps is to determine the types of leads you want to generate. Are you looking to generate as many contacts as possible, regardless of where those people are in the selling cycle, so you can continue to nurture and educate them on the value of your solution, and generate qualified leads over time? Then your offer should have as broad appeal as possible.

Alternatively, if you’re only interested in generating qualified leads, let’s say: companies who have an active project necessitating a solution like yours, and who are actively shopping for such a product, then the information you offer needs to be tailored to people later in the selling cycle.

As I wrote in this earlier post, content syndication and other content marketing campaigns can often fail due to a lack of consensus between sales and marketing on what the program is intended to accomplish. Marketing may feel they’re generating interest from prospects who at minimum have the very business problem that the company can solve, but if salespeople expect otherwise, namely that these are prospects expressing an explicit interest in the company’s product, you’ll very quickly start to get calls along the lines of:

“They were only interested in the white paper.”

Choose your content carefully. If qualified leads are the order of the day, and nothing less will satisfy sales, then ensure your content is aligned with that goal.

One thought on “Why Salespeople Hate Most White Paper Leads

  1. Chris Koch

    Hi Howard,

    Some great points here. I think marketers need to have *both* types of content that you refer to above. In my research with technology marketers for ITSMA, I find that marketers do not offer content for each stage of the buying process.

    Something else that they don’t do, but should, is creating versions of their content specifically for salespeople. Let’s face it; salespeople don’t want to read a 20-page white paper, which means they will be unlikely to use it during the sales process other than to maybe send it out to prospects. But if you created a PowerPoint version of the paper with just the highlights, they’re more likely to use it.

    Thanks for getting me thinking!

    Chris Koch @ckochster


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