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White Papers: The Free Samples of B2B

Attracting leads by offering white papers, ebooks and podcasts is becoming common among B2B marketers.  An effective practice, offering customers relevant industry knowledge is more likely to reel them in and make them feel like they owe you something in return.  Michael Stelzner calls this phenomena the “rule of reciprocity”, a psychological effect which happens when a person is given something of value and feels compelled to restore the balance.

On the consumer level, this is equivalent to tasting a cracker sample at the supermarket and buying a box to take home.  In the same way, B2B companies give people a taste of their expertise, offering a benefit which can be increased by buying the entire product.  By offering industry knowledge, you increase customer goodwill towards your company while coming across as a thought leader.

Some consider this a risky practice, as disseminating trade secrets involves the risk of your competitors getting a hold of your expertise. However, as Brian Carroll writes in his blog, intellectual property is “difficult to protect and quickly commoditized by the market”.  Thus, the best use of your industry knowledge is using it to show your customers that your priority, above protecting your trade secrets, is making their company better.

Your leads now perceive you as benevolent, a thought leader, and trustworthy.

Another assumption in those who disagree with this practice is that your customers won’t need you after reading your material.  Think of it this way: you are explaining to your customers how to do something your company does very well.  Ideally, they will appreciate the explanation while wanting the procedure to be implemented in the best possible way, and who will they come to?  Quite simply, to the first company that comes to mind as benevolent, a thought leader, and trustworthy.