How to Use White Papers for B2B Online Lead Generation

Many B2B marketing teams employ white papers as a means of generating new leads or contacts for their marketing funnels. White papers are known to generate a carefully selected and targeted prospect that can be nurtured and moved along in the buying process. However, a white paper’s marketing campaign needs some fuel to truly generate a large number of leads. Some organizations choose to simply post the white paper in their resource section where casual site viewers can stumble across it. This approach can serve a purpose, but there are best practices that can truly drive your white paper to substantial online lead generation success.

A Catchy Topic

A primary key to successfully using a white paper as a B2B online lead generation tool is to select a mainstream, very popular topic. Often times, marketers will use tools like the Google Keyword Tool to help select the topic and its title by plugging in some applicable keywords from the paper’s main theme. The topic needs to be something that applies to a very wide percentage of your target customers and if it doesn’t, at the end of the day you simply won’t add up enough eyeballs on the white paper to make it successful as a conversion device. Apply a topic that is general but one that also displays a great deal of valuable insight and uniqueness.

Not only does the topic need to be wide enough to draw a large pool of interest, but your topic must also be very insightful and must offer strong value. Essentially, the goal of a white paper is to bring a dose of expertise that someone would either have to do a great deal of research in order to compile on their own or that they may not be able to find or acquire at all. Authoritative, insightful, demonstrative and mainstream should be the keys to focus on when coming up with your white paper topic. Give away a slice or gold nugget of your valuable industry expertise for free. Often times, great topics include things like cutting edge skill sets, intriguing statistical information, detailed study information, personal situational data, key success factors from an emerging topic and so on.

The Role of Email Marketing Platforms and Auto-Responders

An email marketing platform subscription is essential to make this work easily (without having a web developer get involved to create your contact capture). Most email marketing platforms will allow you to create mini-contact capture forms which will also send auto-responders. Establish a contact capture form with simple information submission requirements such as name, email, phone number. Most email marketing platforms have a wizard like program which will walk you through the process. The form grabs the contact info and then auto responds to that person with whatever you specify. Your white paper will be protected by this contact capture, no one may access the paper until they have issued you their info. The link to the white paper can be sent to the prospect without you having to manually send it.

Posting Your White Paper’s Landing Page

Where and how you list your white paper is also extremely important. Ideally your firm will have its own professional blog that you can post the paper to. A blog is ideal for many reasons including the RSS syndication features, content freshness, social sharing, the ability to maintain strong search rankings etc. So if you have a professional blog, use it for your white paper in these two ways.

First create a post with a summary of the white paper. Try to keep the summary short but be sure to tease the most valuable assets that it gives away. Ideally, you would like to have about 5-8 sentences in this summary. Below the summary, attach the code for your contact capture from your email marketing platform.

Second, attach a widget to the upper right or left hand side of your blog that offers the white paper to all readers in a catchy manner. Something like “Free White Paper on the Average Salary of XYX Professionals”. Link that catch phrase to the summary post. This way, all readers of all posts have the opportunity to be pulled in by the white paper’s contact capture. If you did add your white paper to a resources section of your site, this is also an appropriate spot to add a link to that page.

Press Releases

Press releases can be extremely effective to syndicate white papers. Depending on if your white paper is designed to acquire leads for you within a specific region or nationally, you can choose a press release syndication package to match that requirement. Certain PR sites like Globe News Wire or PR Web also allow you to choose industry news outlets to target. These types of PR services are ideal to syndicate your white paper press release. However, less expensive PR syndication services can still result in the right people seeing your white paper. Most press release services typically return a high number of viewers at first and then as time goes on, the audience slows, but the higher end services will produce greater longer term traffic overall in most cases.

Social Media Sharing

Hopefully, as a B2B marketer you have taken the time to build your social media sharing capabilities. If you have, a white paper can be an ideal mechanism for turning those social media followers, and the followers of your followers, into leads. Social media is so much about sharing resources, news and insight. A white paper should definitely be a resource, so sharing one socially can create a nice wave of leads for you. Syndicate your white paper to your followers and do so on a schedule. Mix up the times of day and the days of the week to share your white paper. Try to avoid flooding your account to where your white paper is the only share you have in your recent stream, but instead mix your white paper shares into your normal and natural sharing schedule. If your white paper’s topic was as carefully selected as we discussed above, then you should see a handful of retweets and shares from your following.

Online Ads

Running online advertisements can be the true catalyst behind a successful white paper campaign. Most organizations like to put a CPL or Cost Per Lead within their marketing budgetary guidelines. This CPL will drive most of their campaigns and often determines the success of a marketing campaign. In the case of a valuable white paper, the CPL from online advertising can often come out a true winner.

Many professional services organizations (for example, IT companies) have a CPL target range of $20-50. A best practice behind a white paper online advertisement campaign is to create an ad campaign using a content network (ie. Google Adwords Content Network). This will allow you to place the white paper advertisement in front of people who either are viewing an industry related website, industry related content / news / articles or by related keywords. This means that you can eliminate most generic traffic and put your ad on the computer screens of related viewers and even within a specific region. If set up properly, your ad will run with a high click through rate (CTR) so that your publishing medium will give you increased impressions and a lower cost per click. Successful white papers have a CTR in the .1-.3% range (again content network) and if you set up the paper properly on your landing page it can often result in a CPL range of $2-15.

The type of lead created from your white paper marketing campaign isn’t one that is usually right at the cusp of making a buying decision. They are often best fit to be a lead that can be moved down the pipeline or funnel with a proper lead nurturing campaign, as any good B2B marketing team should be equipped with. Some marketing teams assess the potential value of the person who requested the white paper by investigating who the person is and what they do via social media. Some of the leads created by the white paper may be a low person on the buying totem pole, but some may be a top decision maker. Many B2B marketing teams will pass these higher value contacts over to the inside sales team for a soft, “Hello and thank you” phone call.

White paper marketing campaigns can be excellent lead generation devices for any B2B organization when executed properly, that is the reason this type of online lead gen campaign has been in place for over a decade. Every marketing team’s goal is to drive new contacts for the company’s marketing database and white papers have a long lasting effect which accumulate nicely, at a very low CPL.

About the Author

Ryan J. Corey ( is the co-founder and COO of, a service that provides online persona brand building and social media marketing to individual territory based sales people. Ryan has over 10 years of B2B marketing experience.

B2B Insights