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White Papers Critical To B2B Technology Purchase; Social Influence Rising

By Nick Price

Content marketing has always been an effective way for businesses to promote their products/services. If you are selling a technical or otherwise complex product, white papers can be one of your single most successful content marketing tools.

In May 2011, Content Marketing Institute, an organization that provides research and education on content marketing noted that “93% of marketing professionals create, or plan to create content marketing as part of their overall programs in the next year.” A large piece of that budget is also moving toward social media and custom publishing (70% have increased their social media.publishing budgets over the last 3 years). Blogging, tweeting and posting not only generate brand awareness and buzz, they also build links, which are like gold to Google’s ranking algorithm. In short, content marketing is the new SEO.

According to a new study and analysis by Eccolo Media, with Global Marketing Insite, of U.S. C-level executives, decision makers and influencers consume a wide variety of content when considering a technology purchase.

Of the five major collateral types covered in the 2010 survey, three showed a significant decline in consumption over the last 12 months. Consumption of:

  • Product brochures/data sheets went down 11 percentage points, from 83% last year to 72% in 2011
  • White paper consumption decreased 14 percentage points, from 76% to 62%
  • Case studies dropped 17 points, from 67% to 50%
  • Podcasts and video remained more or less unchanged with podcasts climbing only two points and video holding steady
Collateral Used Within 6 Months to Evaluate Tech Purchase
Collateral% of Responding Using
Product brochures/ data sheets


White papers


Videos/ multimedia files


Podcasts/ audio files


Case studies/ success stories


Source: Eccolo Media, October 2011

As new collateral types gain traction in the B2B marketing world, technology purchasers don’t appear to be abandoning any single form of collateral en masse. Instead, they’re taking advantage of a broader range of choices, says the report.

Respondents asked if they had started using any new types of collateral in the past six months, 34% said no. But among those who had recently discovered a new form of collateral for evaluating technology purchases, the numbers were quite evenly spread among all content types, both traditional and non-traditional.

28% reported that they began consulting white papers for the first time in the last six months. 24% named company Web pages as a new source of information, and 20% cited podcasts. The other seven types of collateral were clustered closely together.

Info Sources Used in Last 6 Months to Evaluate Tech Purchase
Source% of Respondents Using
White papers


Company Web pages


Podcasts/ audio files




Social media sites


Case studies/ success stories


Blog posts


Product brochures/ data sheets








Source: Eccolo Media, October 2011

The influence of all collateral types is on the rise. When asked to describe the influence of a white paper on the purchasing decision, 65% of respondents rated them as “very” to “extremely influential” in 2011, as compared to 41% of respondents in the 2010 survey. When asked to compare the perceived influence of content types relative to one another, respondents still seem to regard the white paper as superior to other forms of collateral.

Collateral Content Very or Extremely Influential in Final Tech Purchase (% of Respondents)
Influential Content2010 2011
White papers



Case studies












Source: Eccolo Media, October 2011

The 2011 survey marked the first time respondents were asked about the perceived influence of written collateral when accompanied by a “Share This” button for Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Of the 52% of respondents who recalled encountering these buttons, 77% said that they perceived collateral as “much more influential” or “somewhat more influential” on a social networking site

Social Sharing Button Perceived Influence on Collateral
Influence% of Respondents
Much more influential


Somewhat more influential


No change


Somewhat less influential


Much less influential


Source: Eccolo Media, October 2011

The presence of a “Share This” button is in no way a claim to inherent quality or substance. However, respondents perceive the option to share as imparting some kind of value.

One-half of all local Web searches
are currently

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performed on a mobile device. Multiple industry watchers believe that by 2014, mobile Internet usage will surpass desktop Internet usage. Survey results reveal a shift toward consuming content on the go, with 37% of respondents saying that they had consumed collateral on a mobile device. Of those respondents, 33% reported viewing content on a smartphone and 16% on a tablet.

Though mobile devices were used to view marketing content in 2011, respondents still most frequently use the desktop to view written assets by a considerable margin. Respondents read 56% of white papers, 58% of case studies, and 53% of product brochures/data sheets at the desktop, and overall reported they were more likely to print out written collateral in order to read it than to view it via a mobile device.

With the emergence of an exciting form of hybrid collateral, last year 45% of respondents said they had consumed written collateral with embedded audio and video files. That figure increased to 55% this year.

More importantly, embedding audio and video files appears to increase the perceived influence of content. 83% of respondents reported that the inclusion of embedded audio content positively or very positively affected the overall influence of the written collateral. For embedded video, the figure was even more dramatic.

Influence of Imbedded Content on Written Collateral (% of Respondents)
InfluenceAudio FilesVideo Files
Very positively






No influence



Source: Eccolo Media, October 2011

The report concludes with

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suggestions, or “Keys to Collateral Improvement:”

  • Add the option to share content. Data shows that the simple addition of a “Share This” button significantly enhances the influence of collateral
  • Embed multimedia content into written collateral assets. Adding audio and video files to written assets measurably increases influence. Assets that don’t include these elements look old and out of date
  • Rethink white papers. Technology purchasers continue to regard white papers as the most influential type of collateral
  • Optimize for mobile devices. Mobile devices will become as important as the desktop for viewing marketing content
  • Reuse is imperative. Redeploy content to meet the needs of different audiences across multiple formats
  • Revere the Web site. Corporate Web sites are the most frequently used channel for obtaining marketing content

Nick Price

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