Rule #5: Sustained Traffic Supersedes Downloads

This post is the fifth in a series about the six new rules of thought leadership marketing.  Today, Rule #5, sustained  traffic supersedes downloads.

After you generate Internet chatter about your white paper, your next set of marketing tactics must be much different than those many companies are used to. The way we sum it up is to stop the selling before it even begins and to start the online engagement.

TrafficThe typical way marketers handle people who want to read their white paper to force them to register for before they can download them. A number of studies show this to be an unproductive practice. This shouldn’t be surprising. Companies selling complex offerings can’t hope for a prospect to become hot for their services just from reading an article. These buyers have a lot at risk when making such purchases: market share, sometimes company survival and always, their credibility in the organization.

The job of a white paper or article is simply to grab an executive’s attention on a topic that he is, or should be, concerned about. Marketers who attempt to move a prospect from a PDF download to a sales call are moving too fast. White paper downloads requiring registration must now go away.

But white papers in PDF form need to go away too: A white paper needs to be just the first step in company’s online engagement with a prospect. An article needs to be in HTML—a piece on a website (like this article) that has other pieces around it that can maintain the viewer’s interest. It’s those other elements around the white paper that will get the viewer further engaged:

  • Additional articles they can read on the topic
  • Surveys they can take to compare how they fare on the issue against other organizations
  • Discussion boards in which they can exchange ideas with peers
  • Diagnostic tools that can help them better understand how to address their issue

The job of the marketer at this stage is to have a topic microsite ready. A good example is a site McKinsey launched a site in 2009, called “What Matters.” which comprises 11 microsites on such far-ranging topics as climate change, geopolitics, innovation, and globalization. It features articles not just from McKinsey consultants but from experts outside the firm.

What Matters

Most articles on McKinsey’s “What Matters” site elicit comments from viewers, and some pieces generate many comments. Readers are asked to get involved in other ways—commenting on McKinsey research studies in progress (one banking executive recently offered a 1,100-word comment on a McKinsey study on reserve currency) and commenting on debates in a “Debate Zone” featuring two authorities with opposing views on a topic.

When prospects return frequently to your site and get involved in the discussion, they ultimately become better prospects; they better understand their own needs and know far more about your expertise by the time they are ready for help.


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