Interactive White Papers

What is an Interative White Paper?

Interactive white papers collect profile information from a buyer, and completely customise a white paper for that particular buyer based on that information.

For example, the buyer may be asked about their specific industry, location, size, role in the buying process, and particular problem points. After analysing this information, a white paper is customised for the buyer’s specific situation. It may include case studies that are only relevant to that buyer, or match appropriate solutions to the specified problem areas.

The result of this initial interaction is that the buyer is presented with only the most relevant, personalised, and refined information. This allows the buyer establish a more significant connection with the content, increasing the businesses chance of actually educating and selling to the prospect.

An example of an interactive white paper can be seen here.

Interactive White Papers vs Traditional White Papers

Traditional white papers are still one of the most important pieces of marketing content, used as the key buying decision tool by over 64% of early stage buyers, and 61% of middle stage buyers, according to Tom Pisello of Alinean.

A sound understanding of this has led to huge investment in valuable white paper content. However, this has subsequently led to an increase in clutter, shrouding the success of white papers. As a result, white paper downloads and frequency of use are experiencing a decreasing trend. The problems is that traditional white papers do not engage or resonate with buyers enough to break through this vast expanse of clutter.

The advantage of interactive white papers is that they offer businesses a solution to all the problems posed by their traditional form. Customised content means buyers are able to connect with the dynamic, bespoke information presented to them. Buyers are engaged.

From the buyers’ point of view, interactive white papers provide them with tailored data, which is quick and easy to access. This enables buyers to simplify their research process and develop more effective resources for their particular business.

On the other hand, as customers are drawn to the meaningful and relevant information produced by interactive white papers, businesses are able to break down the barrier of clutter. By reducing noise in the marketplace, sales cycles can be minimised and sales are driven upward.

When are Interactive White Papers Best Used?

Another advantage of interactive white papers is that they are very flexible in terms of when they can be used. In the early positioning stages of the Buyers' Journey, interactive white papers should be used as a means of creating awareness, as well as educating the buyer of opportunities and possible solutions. If interest has already been established, the focus should be placed on educating the customer on the business case and quantifying benefits. Nearing the end of the buyers' journey when preferences are formed, the interactive white paper should emphasise the unique value propositions of your business compared to competitors. Whatever stage the buyer may be placed in their purchase journey, interactive white papers should be used as a tool to help facilitate the buyers decision.

Things to Consider when Developing an Interactive White Paper

Rachel Foster from Content Marketing Institute has outlined three things to consider when developing your own interactive white paper:

1. Define your goals

Achieving clarity in what you are trying to accomplish with inform the level of detail and customisation you want to provide

2. Define the areas of customisation you would like to achieve

Consider this from your audience’s perspective. What particular types of customization would be most valuable to your audience? For example, would your prospects prefer to be defined by company size? Role? Industry? All three? What sections of the white paper will you customize for each of these dimensions?

3. Scope out your project

Providing interactivity may mean that your overall scope of work is larger. Prepare yourself by creating a content storyboard for your “choose-your-own-adventure” white paper. The storyboard will likely have some sections shared among all readers and others that offer detours to provide more customized, relevant content.

How long does it take to develop an Interactive White Paper?

If converting from an already established traditional white paper, it will generally take around two to three weeks to develop profile questions, work to collect content, and program the platform of the interactive version. However, if an original white paper must also be developed, the entire process will typically take around four to six weeks.

Ideal Length

Research suggests that five to six pages are optimum for a white paper. The resounding advantage of the interactive form is that the most effective and relevant information can be delivered to the buyer in a concise manner. As long as the buyer finds the content engaging, length of the white paper is a secondary consideration.