Ever wondered if white papers are really as effective as stats and surveys say they are?

The latest B2B Media Consumption survey by TechTarget reports that 91% of 2,430 IT buyers consider white papers as the second most effective content to use in the first stage of a buying decision process after product literature.

Another recent survey by Eccolo Media featured 100 respondents who pinpointed 10 different forms of content that are most helpful in their sales cycle.

Of all the 10 types of content polled-;from case studies, videos, infographics, blogs, eBooks, webinars to e-newsletters-;respondents ranked white papers as the most helpful content that they use in the initial phase of the sales cycle.

And on top of all that, Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs (in their popular 2016 B2B marketing survey) found that 63% of b2b companies see white papers as one of the most effective forms of content used in their organization (above videos, eNewsletters, blogs, infographics and online presentations).

But do white papers truly worth all that preference? For answers, I reached out to three b2b companies and they all shared their how they use white papers to improve their marketing success:

1. Increase in unique visitors and downloads by writing papers on topics that would capture prospects' interest

Albert Pusch, Marketing Director at FACT-Finder, shares how creating white papers on topics that he (and his team) knew would capture their prospects' interest led to them generating in an interesting amount of leads.

"In the first period starting in autumn 2013, we wrote white papers on topics that we knew would capture the interest of our potential customers. What we experienced in return was an increase in unique visitors via our download-pages in the first few months.

We generated a pretty impressive amount of emails from those downloads. And we learned quite quickly how to get from those emails to identifying our potential customers, estimate their need and pain, send sweet and nice follow-up emails and push them into seeing our demos. The close relation with sales was a blessing."

2. Creating white papers that help clients navigate in today's changing business environment, thereby generating leads

Prospects are always on the lookout for new and better ways to do their businesses as changes occur in their industries. This is where white papers become useful for them.

Sara Spivey, CMO at Bazaarvoice, shares how she (and her team) uses white papers to walk prospects through the changes in today's business environment, and generate leads in return:

"Your clients are looking for answers and experienced partners to help them navigate an always-on, changing business environment. Since Bazaarvoice opened its doors in 2005, we've explored a variety of different ways to translate customer pain points and successes into useful and relevant content that educates our clients and builds our brand at the same time.

"And while white papers make up only a portion of our owned content mix, they are absolutely crucial for achieving our lead generation and client obsession goals. Two of our best performing whitepapers from this last year include "Conversation Index 9" and "Top 5 Consumer Driven Trends in Retail". Each of these contains insights derived from our network and stories that address the complexity of today's business challenges."

3. Educating prospects, generating high quality leads and repurposing content

Sometimes, prospects don't get to see the core function of your brand or product - especially if it's a relatively complex one - until they read up content that will give them an in-depth explanation.

Nicolai Kuban, CEO at Linkbird, explains how he (and his crew) uses white papers to thoroughly explain Linkbird's relatively complex offerings and generate high quality leads. He added that the opportunity to repurpose the white papers into other forms of content is another huge plus:

"For Linkbird, white papers are an extremely efficient way to generate prospects for our content marketing software. With our white papers, we are able to generate high quality leads on one hand and educate potential clients on the other hand. Besides webinars and infographics, whitepapers are the heart of our content marketing strategy as they also allow us a lot of content repurposing into blog posts or slideshares."

In a nutshell

Using the tips from the stories above and avoiding common white paper mistakes can enhance your marketing success.