I recently learned that Spiceworks surveyed its community of SMB IT pros to get their thoughts about registering for white papers. Spiceworks offers free networking monitoring software aimed at the SMB market. What's unique is the social-media component that Spiceworks has embedded into its application so its community of users can interact. Vendors can tap into this community of 800,000 IT pros in a number of ways, including posting their white papers for download.
I got in touch with Jay Hallberg, one of Spiceworks' four founders and its VP of Marketing, to understand what prompted Spiceworks to conduct the survey about white papers, what the survey revealed, and how advertisers/vendors had responded.
Q. The Spiceworks model is interesting. Please describe how the software/community/media aspects fit together.
A. Our users call Spiceworks the "Facebook of IT." It's a social business application. The software helps them do their job. While they are in the application they see relevant content from the community. This draws them into the community where they interact with each other, answer questions, write how-to's, etc. This content then shows up in the application creating a virtuous cycle.
Q. What prompted Spiceworks to ask a) whether or not IT professionals are implying an intent-to-purchase by sharing their contact information in exchange for a white paper and b) what their feelings are about companies that ask for that information?
A. We offer vendors a standard lead-generation program through which IT pros exchange their contact information for white paper downloads. But it always struck us as a bit odd that reading a white paper meant that you were ready to make a purchase. So, we asked our community of IT pros what they thought.
Q. What were the results of that survey?
A. Those that do share their information obviously don't mind doing so, but they DO mind a pesky vendor that calls them 10 times over the next 30 days. We also found a lot of people – more than 75% – DON'T sign up for papers requiring registration, which means the vendor is missing the opportunity to share and disseminate their knowledge.
Q. You also asked your community members if they'd prefer to fill out an email form or call a toll-free number when they're ready to speak to a technology company. What did they say?
A. IT pros want to reach out to the vendor on their terms via their preferred channel, e.g. phone, email, or chat. Prospects don’t want the vendor to contact them. Period. If they want more information or to talk to a rep after they download a paper, they will contact that vendor. Some IT vendors offer "free" white papers but require registration. If the vendor requires contact information, the white paper is far from free.
Q. Of your 100+ advertisers, it appears 40 of them offer white papers to your community. What percentage requires registration in exchange for white papers?
Q. How many stopped requiring registration as the result of your survey?
A. A handful so far. The results are pretty staggering. When you remove the "registration wall," downloads go way up. One white paper that was offered without registration was downloaded 500 times in three days!
Q. Did any advertisers change tactics in response to the survey results regarding contact preferences?
A. Yes, vendors such as Rackspace are giving users multiple ways to contact them: phone, email, chat and within the Spiceworks community.
Q. What other white-paper best practices do you suggest?
- Write objective, educational papers, not product pitches.
- Show your expertise.
- Let people comment on your white papers, provide feedback, and rate them. This will help you produce better material of more value to the prospect.
- Integrate social media and let your authors and product experts have a conversation with prospects. In other words, create a conversation as opposed to using white papers as a way to bait and hook people. The white paper should be part of an integrated approach that helps start a conversation, move it along, or close it.
Q. What do you think accounts for the popularity of the top-rated white papers in your community?
A. That's always driven by the quality and relevance of the content.
Q. What advertising and sponsorship options are available via Spiceworks?
A. Because Spiceworks is both an application and a community, there are literally hundreds of places to advertise and sponsor relevant content and reach the right audience.
Q. How much does it cost to advertise a white paper on your community?
A. That varies. Those are always part of a broader and more strategic engagement.
Q. How many white papers are downloaded per month?
A. Sorry, we don't disclose that information but with over 800,000 IT pros in Spiceworks, you know it's a lot!
Q. What do white paper advertisers get for their money?
A. They get access to the world's largest, 100% SMB IT audience. They also get leads that are far more qualified than the standard white paper sign-ups from typical content sites.
Q. Tell us about your Voice of IT market research program.
A. A subset of our users opt-in to a program where they are available to answer questions posed by IT vendors. Vendors can query this panel – comprising over 30,000 IT pros – to find out what they really think about their products, find out what they need, etc.
Q. What types of surveys has Spiceworks conducted on behalf of its advertisers?
A. We have conducted over a dozen surveys measuring things such as brand awareness, brand opinion, and brand sentiment.
Q. How can technology vendors tap into this program?
A. That's simple! Just call us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Photo credit: Dan Eriksson
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