White Paper Alternatives for the Savvy B2B Marketer
May 2, 2017 | Dan Trefethen
Sometimes you get tired of the conventional lead-gated eBook/ white paper and you need something fresh that piques the interest of your audience. And as a B2B marketer, you’re constantly thinking of new ways you can relate to your audience on a more human level.
Why? Because effective marketing always includes a human element, some storytelling, and a component that makes the content relatable. Without it, your marketing becomes a waste of time and energy—and your ROI plummets.
So while tools like white papers are powerful, there are many other content options to consider when you really want to connect with your audience.
These alternatives offer new avenues for connecting with modern audiences who are actively seeking out information that solves their problems. Consider the fact that 55% of people recently surveyed by FleishmanHillard wanted suggestions and how-to advice from their online content, while 47% wanted expert opinions on relevant content. With these mediums, you can meet those needs and build ethos around your brand.
Today, we’ll take a look at some of the different avenues you can pursue to foster a deeper relationship with your audience – and will help position your brand as an expert in its field at the same time. Double whammy! Let’s dive in.
Podcasts can be powerful lead generators that bring in new customers and build brand awareness much in the same way a traditional white paper would.
One example, Showrunner.fm, has seen great success in the B2B podcast realm. In just their first five weeks, they’ve generated more than 800 email signups and 200+ course registrants, said The Showrunner host Jerod Morris via a conversation on Twitter.
Regardless of which side of the microphone you’re on (be it host or guest), podcasts are a space where you can discuss the issues and subjects your company knows best. Plus, different mediums lend themselves to different audiences—so podcasts can open the doors to a whole new world of connections.
On the rise in popularity, one recent study found that about 17% of US adults are listening to podcasts, which is a 5% increase from the previous year. And with low barriers to entry for new content creators, anyone can create a podcast and put it out there for the world to hear.
In our world of technology and multitasking, podcasts offer listeners a chance to educate themselves on the go—and options for listening are always improving. While most podcast listeners are currently tuning in via smartphone, one study suggests that by 2025, it’s likely that all cars will have Internet connectivity so podcasts can easily be queued up through your vehicle’s stereo.
How to get started: There are lots of tools and guides that can help you navigate the process of beginning your own podcast. Or, if you’d rather test the waters as a guest, reach out to the hosts of a few relevant podcasts you discover and offer yourself as a potential guest.
Whether it’s a live broadcast via tools like Meerkat and Periscope, or a more planned out and formal production, using videos to engage your audience means you can transform your marketing information into a visual story.
Why is this important for you? Considering Cisco’s projection that online video is projected to make up 55% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2016, it’s clear that the audience is there—and hungry for fresh content. Plus, 52% of consumers surveyed by Invodo say that watching a product video makes them more confident in making online purchases. The case for video is a strong one.
Through real-time broadcasting, marketers are able to give their audiences a behind-the-scenes look at operations, hear an informal message from the CEO, or showcase live events. This increased access means greater company transparency—and adds a very authentic human element.
But in another realm of video marketing, many companies are hopping on board with a traditional “explainer video” in which the company explains its purpose and product in about 90 seconds or less. The numbers prove their impact. According to comScore, 64% of website visitors were more likely to convert after watching a video.
How to get started: Think about how video could enrich your B2B marketing strategy and help reach your marketing goals. See if any of your competitors are using live broadcasting, and if so, study their tactics. Think about creating an explainer video in house or with help from outside experts.
Bonus: With the SnapApp platform, you can create your own interactive videos using video content you already have! Learn more here.
3. Interactive Videos
Like standard videos, interactive videos create a visual story for your audience … but they don’t stop there. Interactive videos bring the viewer into the story. They compel engagement by requiring the viewer to actively make choices to move the experience along.
There are all kinds of interactive videos you can create to satisfy your customers’ needs at every point along their buying journey, including:
- Q&A video that allows the viewer to select the question(s) he/she wants answered
- Post-event wrap-up video with embedded satisfaction survey
- Product demo with chapters
- Tutorial with hotspots
- User-generated content with annotations and links added
How to get started: Start with your goal in mind. Do you want to guide viewers through the video experience, get their feedback, challenge them, make them more aware of your brand, or learn more about their preferences? Choose which elements to make interactive based on the goal you want to accomplish with your video.
4. Insider Interviews
Potentially the counterpart to the podcast, offer a more Question and Answer format in written form. This could be as simple as a transcript of recorded audio from a podcast, or it could take step further with supportive visuals and a structured conversational tone in text format
Think of it this way: Imagine you have a detailed written outline of a white paper and some design assets for data visualization, but instead of laboring over perfect industry prose and on-page visual alignment you just have a candid conversation with the writer.
Print and online music publications use this format remarkably well when they do in depth interviews with musicians and performers that include music samples, and related images.
Other publications, like NPR, do as well.
How to get started: Record the interview with a prepared person and have your research and and data handy for reference. Allow the dialogue to happen naturally and go on tangents.
Then transcribe the interview, clean it up a little bit, introduce the speakers in the beginning, and keep the casual, conversational tone in the text. Add visuals where appropriate to help articulate points.
This will help give better perspective and humanize the subject a little more by talking about the subject in a less labored language. We’d all like things to be explained to us one on one, and providing a conversation on the subject instead of a lecture can help break down complex ideas.
Use it as a highly promoted blog post, or a microsite and you won’t have to spend as much resources on the creation aspect of the content.
5. Break Down Into Quizzes, Assessments, and Calculators
These types of interactive content add an element of entertainment and can raise awareness at the same time. Content like a personality assessment or a fun quiz allow the user to participate actively in their content experience.
So why do assessments and quizzes work so well to engage audiences? Because they tap into our natural human desires to learn more about ourselves and explain ourselves to others.
From a marketer’s standpoint, assessments and quizzes are hugely beneficial, too, because they teach us so much about our audiences. These content types also give us opportunities to provide personalized support and recommendations to our customers.
How to get started: There are two important elements to a successful assessment or quiz.
- Providing value to the user
- Collecting information about the user that can help your marketing department create a better buying experience for them
Determine first what value you can provide at that point in the buyer’s journey, then create questions that allow you to gather the data you need to make that journey a great one.
An ROI calculator is different from one-sided marketing because it invites the user calculate an opportunity. It’s easy for the user to see the financial upside of buying from you – or self-select out if they’re not a fit for your offering. A calculator helps your prospects assess their own needs, too, providing your sales and marketing teams with valuable data that can deepen the relationship between your company and your customers.
Rather than presenting a data sheet around efficiencies and stats, this piece of interactive content entices users to imagine what their own lives would be like with a more efficient data entry process. Who can resist?
How to get started: Find the right platform that fits your needs. It should have room for creative features, be easy to use, work with your budget, and be able to integrate with your CRM.
6. Interactive Infographics
Infographics are powerful visual mediums for relaying otherwise pretty boring information. Done right, they’re both compelling and highly shareable. In 2016, infographics saw the biggest increase in use of any content type among B2B marketers.
Adding interactive elements to an infographic can up the wow factor while creating a two-way conversation with your audience. Plus, interactive elements can even extend the lifespan of your infographic, which increases the ROI of the content.
The team at Animagraffs have developed some of the most incredible animated educational infographics on the planet. I think it’s safe to say they are the masters of the art. In this example, you see the inner workings of a car engine like you’ve never seen it before.
For 74 more examples of interactive infographics, check out this article from Robbie Richards.
How to get started: There are 4 steps to creating an interactive infographic that engages your audience while also helping you gather valuable insight.
- Start by choosing the right data to guide the content
- Put the data in context with a story
- Add interactive elements that require the user’s input
- Make sure the visual design speaks to your customers
While standard ebooks or white papers are still valuable resources to percentages of audiences… but once again, because of the sheer mass of content available to your audience today, they are likely to be downloaded and filed away than actually viewed. Create a destination for all your content that creates more of an experience, and you’ll be onto something.
Like interactive infographics, visual microsites can help you increase engagement, and make your content more compelling and shareable. Rather than just reading the whitepaper (skimming), the user is presented with a more unique layout, one that requires some exploration and action.
Plus, information and ideas can be expressed in more creative and flexible ways than simple PDF layout – and making the ideas of the content easily understand should always be the goal, not “how best can this fit on a PDF page?”.
What Should I Watch Tonight? (WhatShouldIWatchTonight.com)
Ever Google searched “What should I watch tonight?” when browsing for some movies? If you do you’ll get this microsite, that gives an easy discovery process of all sorts of new cinematic experiences to choose from.
The real key here is how the categories and navigation is set up – prompting you to explore, but easily identifying what you’re looking at.
How to get started: The easiest way to get started is to take a white paper you already have, and re-imagine how your chapters, graphics, and copy could be presented in a more visual, exploratory way.
Think of the table of contents as perhaps the main navigation page, and clicking each chapter brings the information up all on its own wide-screen page. By merely making the visuals and copy bigger and freed from the 8”x11” dimension, your readers will be interested.
Teaching can be a powerful means of marketing. Inviting people to attend a free webinar is a great way to showcase your expertise, provide information about your company, and give your audience something truly valuable—knowledge and actionable advice.
You can expand your reach even further by partnering with another (non-competing) expert who complements the subject matter. Two is better than one when it comes to webinar promotion, and each of you can bring new audiences in for the other.
How to get started: Pull from your existing materials (white papers, eBooks, etc.) to create webinar content without reinventing the wheel. Then choose a medium for hosting your webinar and do a few test runs to make sure you’re comfortable with the platform.
With so many options outside the traditional white paper, the possibilities are endless. No more boring, stale content. It’s time to get the creative juices flowing and bring new life to your marketing materials.
What else would you recommend to marketers who want to think outside the white paper? Let us know in the comments!