Blogs vs. White Papers

Here?s the situation:

You are the marketing manager of a company selling enterprise software for computer security to IT professionals.

Your marketing plan already includes a Web site, e-mail marketing campaign, and trade show exhibits.

In this hypothetical situation, there are two additional marketing tools you can use to promote your product, but you can only choose ONE.

The choice is either publish a series of white papers — or start a blog.

Which would you opt for? Why?

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896 thoughts on “Blogs vs. White Papers

  • No question about it. I would publish a series of white papers. This tactic may seem old hat, but it works. And if you promote the white papers effectively, it works wonders.

  • I opt for the blog. The distribution process is more automatic (search bots do it for you ) and it’s a closer to the customers.
    Though I’m not sure it’s an either or. I’ve started the 101Sheet series – 1-side pdf intro to a topic – along side the Work Better Weblog. Yes, the 101Sheet series has its own RSS feed and is announced in the weblog.

  • White Paper in PDF format – Google will index PDFs, so you don’t lose much as far as search engines are concerned. It’s easier to print and take along which, if the paper is of any length, makes it more convenient for readers. A white paper is more directed/organized than a conventional chronological blog.

    That said, I would still want a blog. But in this case, I don’t think a blog is a one-for-one replacement for a white paper.

    Also, you have an opportunity to capture an e-mail address for follow-up in exchange for the white paper (higher perceived value).

  • The vehicle is closely related to the readers. For most business people I’d go with the white papers because most folks haven’t become avid blog readers. However, when it comes to “company selling enterprise software for computer security to IT” the market is much more narrow. These folks probably would want the most up-to-date info. They (we hope) are familiar with RSS feeds and the like and could get the new information very quickly after you post it on a blog.

    Joel

  • A blog is great for prompting discussion among the few potential customers who participate. But a white paper has a much wider reach. Let me count the ways:

    1) a giveaway to website visitors,
    2) an offer in a lead-gen email, ad, or DM promotion
    3) a handout at a trade show
    4) a leave-behind after a sales call
    5) an insert into a press kit
    6) repurposed as an article in a trade publication
    7) repurposed as a press release
    8) repurposed as a PowerPoint presentation
    9) a topic for a speech

    I could list more, but you get the idea.

  • I’d say whitepapers all the way. But I don’t think that this choice is a real either/or situation. Launching a blog has relatively low cost and low barriers to entry. In fact, the two could complement each other very well. When you hand a customer a white paper, point them to the blog. When they come back with a question, put the answer on your blog for all the other customers who had the same question. They are highly complementary strategies. If budget is a problem, start with a blog and turn your best posts into whitepapers.

  • Tony:

    Of COURSE it’s not an either/or situation … in the real world.

    But this is a theoretical situation in which you have to choose one … as you have.

  • If my marketing VP decided to start a blog instead of publishing a white paper, I would seriously consider relieving him of his duties.

    BLogs are great for creating buzz and catching the eye of journalists.

    But to help sell any technology that is relatively new, complicated, or expensive, companies likely need one or more white papers.

    The latest research from MarketingSherpa shows less than 10% of IT pros read blogs. On the other hand, 45% of IT people regularly download white papers, and most of the rest sometimes look at white papers. We’re talking anywhere up to 30 a year!

    I think the facts speak for themselves. White papers are far more effective for decribing the business benefits or technical details about an enterprise software product than any blog will ever be.

  • Bob, this is a trick question.

    Is the market established or not? Educated in the product category or not? To we have to dislodge competitors or not? Also — How does the customer think? How do they buy? Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions (IE logical vs emotional)? Additionally: Does this enterprise software for computer security to IT professionals represent a “continuous” innovation or a “discontinuous” innovation?

    As outlined, there is insufficient information to make this decision.

    Sorry. I just call ’em as I see ’em.

  • Hi Bob,
    I just found your blog a few days ago while doing vast research on the business of copywriting.
    I just wanted to let you know that I sent you an email, from nyx (at) black-nyx (dot) com just to ask you a few specific questions I can’t seem to find answers to, I hope you don’t mind. I wanted to let you know in case your spam collector caught it and you never got a chance to see it. If you get a moment please give it a look, it would be appreciated.
    ~Nik

  • Harry: Thanks for your post, but with all due respect, I think there IS a right answer and that it can be given based on the description provided: see posts #6 and #10.

  • Hi Bob,

    Thanks for taking me to task on this. Yep: Steve Slaunwhite’s answer was spot on. So was Gordon Graham’s. In fact, many of the responses had merit. But I respectfully submit that the question itself needed more meat on it before an answer could be given. Let me break it down:

    Q1: “You are the marketing manager of a company selling enterprise software for computer security to IT professionals.”

    A1: Who are they? Where are they? Are they reachable? Through what media? How do they think? How do they buy? Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions? Is it possible to arouse their emotions? What do they fear? What makes them mad? What are their top three daily frustrations? Can the software be sold on the back of a single story? Is this a “complex” sale involving an Economic Buyer; Technical Buyer; a User; and a Key Influencer? Is the software a continuous innovation or a discontinuous innovation? Has the category developed a mainstream market — or is the software going to be targeted at Techies and Visionaries before crossing the chasm to Conservatives, Skeptics, and Laggards? Every single one of these questions must be considered (if not answered) before a blog can be chosen over white papers. Typically, white papers would be favored. Yes. I agree. But if the software is relatively uncomplicated and easy to install (or is an ASP), then an argument can be made in favor of blogs, which are insanely search engine-friendly and contribute to media attention much more than white papers.

    Q2: “Your marketing plan already includes a Web site, e-mail marketing campaign, and trade show exhibits.”

    A2: Why these? Are they effective? If they are not effective, why not test a blog and white papers? Or test postcards? If they are effective, why not simply invest more in these media? Any marketing manager would want to know this before introducing two new media to the mix.

    Q3: “In this hypothetical situation, there are two additional marketing tools you can use to promote your product, but you can only choose ONE. The choice is either publish a series of white papers – or start a blog. Which would you opt for? Why?”

    A3: Okay … Constrained by the information you provide, I’d pick the white papers. But I’d say that the question itself doesn’t provide enough information. There’s just so much more to know in marketing. It’s way too easy to “run out of one’s tent and fall on one’s spear” in today’s ROI-driven marketing environment. Perhaps I’m paranoid.

    By the way, if you’ve never seen it, please download Brian Carroll’s “Lead Gen Modality Map” at http://blog.startwithalead.com/weblog/files/lead_generation_modality_map.pdf. It will rock your world.

    Have a great weekend!

  • I agree — you haven’t given enough information to make a qualified response. That said, given the information you have…I would first opt for white papers. Blogs are not an immediate return on investment tool — and not everyone knows how to generate the kind of buzz a blog needs to get attention. That can be taught (it’s no secret) but as someone who has trained more than two dozen small business owners how to build a blog, and (so we try) how to make it work for you — I can honestly say that blogs are not necessarily easy to write and maintain. White papers — piece of cake for the company you describe.

  • Hi All;

    Sorry to be coming late to the table. A “series” of white papers is highly effective and of course no where in comparison (from a cost angle) to a blog. Those series of white papers will cost a huge amount of time/money to produce and synidcate. I would think it would easily trump the blog investment. So, I pick the white paper because it is such an effective tool for marketing, assuming I have the budget.

    For an excellent discussion on the marketing value of white papers, be sure to check out http://www.whitepapersource.com/forum/index.php

    Mike

  • I’m also not convinced that this is truly an “either or” question. But, as long as we’re playing out the hypothetical scenario, I’d go with white papers.

    I’m actually dealing with this right now – there are a number of blog posts that I intend to use as white papers for my business once my site redesign is complete. I don’t see a problem with distributing the information through both channels.

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