One of my current projects involves helping a client develop content for their blog. As part of their content curation strategy, I scour the web for resources that the blog’s readers – technology professionals – will find valuable. Then I write short positive reviews of these resources and post links to their landing pages.

I receive daily emails with links to technology white papers that sound incredibly useful … until I download and start to read them.

The main problem is that a rather large portion of these “white papers” are nothing more than lengthy sales pitches or product brochures. Some of them even discuss the product in the first sentence!

I recently got excited while reading a four-page white paper, as the introduction was promising and gave a good overview of the market challenges. However, the next three and a half pages were all sales copy!

Note to technology companies (you know who you are): 25% educational content and 75% sales fluff does not make for an interesting white paper.

As I go through these duds looking for something worth sharing, I find myself getting more and more frustrated, because:

  1. You’re wasting my time.
  2. You’re wasting my clients’ money, because they’re paying me to sift through this stuff.
  3. You’re discouraging bloggers from linking to your content, because it’s not valuable enough to share. All of those great links and recommendations are going to your competitors.
  4. You’re filling my inbox, as well as your leads’ inboxes, with information on more bad white papers and increasing your opt-out rates.
  5. You’re causing anyone who reads your white papers to tune out. There’s a time and a place for a sales pitch, and the beginning and middle of your white paper is not the right place.

So, please save the sales pitches for the last 10% of your white papers. If potential customers read your content and start to see you as a helpful resource, they will be more willing to learn about your company and what you do. Keeping the sales pitches to a minimum will also encourage more bloggers and content curators to share your white papers with their networks.

What about you? What is your biggest pet peeve about white papers or technology marketing in general? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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