By Kevin Gault
Silverpop Systems, a leading email marketing company based in Atlanta, faced a difficult question that often confronts companies in new industries: How do we create a reputation as an industry thought leader?
An effective white paper marketing program looked like the answer. “We needed to demonstrate expertise in a fairly new market,” says Elaine O’Gorman, senior vice president of Marketing and Product Strategy at Silverpop (www.silverpop.com), a four-year-old company that provides email marketing services such as content creation, customer segmentation and list management.
“We decided to show we’re the thought leader by creating a white paper program that lets prospective customers compare our products and services to our competitors’ and conclude that we’re the experts in email marketing.”
Putting the Program Together
In creating the white paper program, Silverpop’s marketing team checked out other companies’ white paper programs and found some flaws. For example, many papers covered topics that were too broad. Click here to view Silverpop’s papers.
“This tends to attract many different types of sales leads, but there’s no telling how many are qualified leads,” O’Gorman says. “It’s very important to narrow your topic to the things your specific target audience is interested in.”
The marketers also concluded that many white paper programs use one paper for a long period, hoping to attract a wide variety of customers over time. The Silverpop team chose a different tack—a “rotation” strategy that alternates among three white papers that appeal to different, specific audiences.
“For this strategy, we start with a white paper that covers a slightly broader topic to generate a larger quantity and variety of leads,” O’Gorman explains. “After a short time, we change to a more specific paper to capture people who are in an active buying cycle. Next, we go to a very narrow ’specialty’ paper to capture our optimal audience. By following this pattern, we capture the right sales prospects for our products.”
Testing Always Trumps Best Practices
But the marketing strategy that has paid off best for Silverpop is testing the company’s white paper landing page and registration form and making small modifications.
The team kept the landing page simple—the reader is asked for only their email address. For the registration page, the marketers tested different arrangements of columns, lists of required fields, and a variety of creative designs. Simple changes in these areas increased the total number of white-paper downloads by 13%.
“For example, best practices for B-to-B marketing say that you should always ask for a person’s job title in the registration form,” adds O’Gorman. “It turns out that in our industry, someone’s title doesn’t represent their ability to make a buying decision. By making the title field not required, we got a 7% increase in downloads.”
“We’ve learned from experience that testing always trumps best practices.”
No matter what established best practices say, don’t be afraid to test and tweak your white paper landing page to get better results. Who knows—best practices might not be best for your company.