Most companies doing B2B content marketing are using the internet and digital technology to automate the old process of publishing and distributing white papers (or articles, or newsletters.) As in the old days, the content development and writing is a still one-off process, followed by distribution via a white paper syndication site, posting on the company website and so on. But the technology actually lets you do much, much more than that, and very few companies are yet taking advantage of it.
(Companies usually exploit new technologies first by using them to automate existing practices. The earliest refrigerators, for instance, were made by taking the ice boxes that preceded them and installing a condenser on top; it was a long time before anyone started hiding the mechanics in the back, adding a freezer compartment and so on.)
If you build a microsite around a topic, you can start posting material and generating interest right away, even before you have a fully-baked point of view. You can post e.g. interviews with subject matter experts, clients, practitioners etc. that you gather anyway as part of developing the point of view. You can blog on elements of the point of view as you develop it. As you start to drive traffic, so you can involve visitors in contributing, via polls, surveys, comments etc. And of course you can link articles, posts etc. back and forth in a way you never could with paper – not only can you link from deep within new articles to old ones, but you can link old ones forward to newer ones. And if something you posted is made obsolete by subsequent discoveries, of course you can edit or remove it – whereas in the old days, once it was published you couldn’t get it back. You can also use interactive graphics, self-diagnostic tools and so on to make the experience more useful to visitors. Many firms have collections of articles around a common industry, function or whatever on their sites, but they are just collections – almost none have a comprehensive architecture around an evolving point of view.
There are a couple of corollaries of this approach. First, not only should you quit putting gates in front of downloadable material, you should stop making it downloadable at all. Leave it on the microsite so that people pass the link around, not the pdf. That drives traffic, involvement, and ultimately perhaps a community, around the site. It also lets people take advantage of the interactive and other facilities that you can’t put in a pdf. Second, this allows for useful metrics of how much traction you are getting in the marketplace, traffic being the most obvious, but also comments, newsletter subscriptions and so on (not leads.)
This approach has huge potential: Most B2B content marketers have barely begun to leverage the power of online publishing and social media to get their message out, because they are using the technology to make the old way more efficient, not yet to do it in a new way.
(You can read a much fuller explanation of this point of view here.)