How to Use Video to Spice Up White Papers

SAN FRANCISCO Business-to-business marketers can communicate complex information better and boost the value of their white papers by adding online video with interactive features to their documents, according to digital marketing experts.

Combining the growing interest in digital video with buyers’ trust in traditional white papers yields a new tool for b-to-b brands such as Hewlett-Packard, Xerox and IBM, said Ann Roskey, vp, marketing at Accela Communications, an interactive marketing services firm. The addition of video to the static, information-packed format of white papers started in the technology sector at the end of 2006, she said.

For example, in January 2007 HP unveiled video white papers that were linked to banner ads on IT Web sites. Those featured side-by-side product demonstrations, and presentations by a Forrester Research analyst and an HP executive. The month before, IBM launched a worldwide program that put links to video white papers on banner ads, on the company’s main Web site and IBM’s foreign-language localized sites. Both HP and IBM worked with Accela.

“Video offers a totally different basis of understanding not available in the linear context of text-only communications,” said Stacy Malone, vp, interactive media director, Universal McCann. “The fact that a large majority of respondents who access online video felt technology product information and research are more compelling and valuable when delivered with video points to their ongoing need for a full range and depth of information.”

Roskey said the b-to-b tool is now migrating beyond technology into financial services, pharmaceuticals and medical product industries, with various projects currently in the works.

Two studies help explain the emergence of video white papers. In research by KnowledgeStorm and Marketing Sherpa, 71 percent of technology buyers said that white papers are the form of online content they read most frequently. The study, released in May, also showed 75 percent of technology marketers include white papers in their marketing mix.

Another report conducted by KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann found that 63 percent of business and IT professionals surveyed accessed online videos on business and technology topics at least once a week. The November 2006 study also showed 76 percent of respondents regularly shared online videos with peers at least once a month.

“White papers are usually used in situations where the product or service being sold is fairly complex, so the use of charts, graphs or other research is critical to effectively support a position,” said Roskey. A key benefit of video white papers is their ability to combine detail with the personality of the presenter. “When done well, audio and video enables the speaker’s authority and personality to bolster a program’s content,” she said. Online video documents can also offer prospects a variety of video choices to keep them engaged for a longer period of time compared to conventional text-based documents, she said.

Best practices for a video white paper include: user-driven navigation, flexible methods to capture user data and metrics that are useful for gathering relevant market research, according to Accela officials. An effective white paper measures how many people register to access the document, how long a user views it, what resources a user clicks on and which segments were watched, said Roskey. “This kind of behavioral intelligence offers value that you simply don’t get with a PDF,” she stated.