August 23

Using White Papers for Lead Generation

Content Marketing


Michael Stelzner wrote a solid overview article in MarketingProfs this week titled, "How White Papers Can Turbo-Boost Your Lead-Generation Campaign." 

I’ve written a number of times that educational content is an important tool for lead generation. If you’re involved in marketing to IT or financial buyers, you should consider using white papers or e-books. 

I’m a big proponent of educational marketing, because it allows you to reach people early in their buying process. Just remember, they should be EARLY in their buying process!

Early-stage leads – those who are not ready to speak to a sales person yet – can be developed further with an effective lead nurturing program.

Do you qualify leads before sending them to your sales team?  After doing numerous lead qualification programs, we have found that only 5 to 15 percent of those who download white papers are truly sales-ready leads. So don’t pass white paper inquiries to your sales people until they’re more rigorously qualified as sales-ready leads. 

We’ve found that when you send educational content of any kind, it’s important to followup with a human touch; namely, followup phone calls. During each call your goal is to be a trusted advisor, and not simply focused on whether they are ready to buy. Ask why they downloaded the white paper. What questions were they hoping to get answered and how else could you be helpful?  Can you send them other relevant and educational content?

As noted in “Sales leads are too valuable for sales people alone,” you need to look at how you can help your sales people, who likely don’t have time to do followup on early-stage leads. If possible, you’ll need a separate function, internally or outsourced, that can manage the lead qualification and followup process for you.

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Hi, so this post was quite a long time ago. Do you find white papers crucial for generating leads? We are embarking on a lead generation campaign at the moment however we are employing a lead gen company whom we pay per lead. Leads don’t come cheap in our industry ($100+), and by offering a white paper when only 5-15% are truly interested seems a very expensive approach. any thoughts?

  2. Brian,
    Great post! Within the last year, I’ve seen a real increase in the interest of educational material. White Papers and application notes are being downloaded much more frequently and the lead quality is also increasing. Great job on the blog – I’m glad I found it.

  3. Brian,

    This is a very timely topic. You might also be interested in an article I wrote for this month’s issue of B2B Marketing Trends ( on “White Papers as an Effective B2B Marketing Tactic.” The print version of the publication is more impressive, but you can access an online version at:

    You should consider writing for this publication as well (if you haven’t already). Let me know if I can help with an introduction to Tom Peric, the editor of the publication.

    Keep up the great posts!

    Jeremy Porter
    Reaction Marketing Group

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and question. I think companies have spent too much time emphasizing content that’s only helpful in the later stages of the buying process. The key issue most companies have isn’t converting on leads; it’s actually engaging people above the sales funnel to begin with. That’s where we think the biggest difference can be made.

    If you’re a company with little or no resources to create thought-leading content, you can still add tremendous value by filtering and sharing content that is relevant for your target audience. Clearly, the Internet has become the go-to resource for most companies looking for

    You can become a trusted advisor by being a filter for the best content that is relevant to your value proposition and your potential customers needs. Look at what bloggers do. They filter content and put their point of view on it. That’s also what we can do for our potential

  5. White papers have been an important part of our marketing from the beginning and at first we used to lock our whitepapers behind a wall to force people to enter their name and email before they downloaded the paper. We found that more that 80% of people who looked at the abstract never downloaded the paper.

    We now make our whitepapers freely available without any requirements to enter details and we have had a substantial increase in the number of people who download them. We have also more people calling us or mentioning when we meet them that they have read some of our papers.

  6. Hi Brian;

    Thanks for the mention of my article. You are dead on when you say that educational marketing is where it is at as far as lead generation goes.

    Unfortunately, most white papers are glorified brochures that simply focus on the company or its product. As I have often written about on my blog, it is critical to provide something of value to prospects in order for them to be encouraged to fill out a form. The well-crafted white paper is one of the more compelling value pieces – especially in the IT world.

    Love your blog Brian, keep up the good work!


  7. It’s fascinating to see the discipline of lead management intersect with the emerging discipline of thought leadership marketing. Brian, you are doing a spectacular job of articulating the connections.

    But I am starting to think that real life choices need to be made. My thinking is that white papers should not merely be an added marketing expense. Perhaps some other expenses — stuff that doesn’t really entice, educate or build credibility in the early stages — should be tossed out or, at least, emphasized less.

    In Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, the Oakland A’s showed you could get to the playoffs year after year without big talent budgets. How can we help clients smarten up their spending so they have the money to invest in the activities that DO work — things like white papers and lead nurturing? Any thoughts on that?



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