aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

More on White Papers as Lead Generators

Posted by Ellen on April 27, 2008

I blogged about my reactions to some of the salespeople who call because I downloaded research, white papers, or registered on a Web site, and – be forewarned – I’m not done venting yet.


We all know it’s a popular practice to offer something free to get contact information – we probably do it in our own associations.


As with all things, there’s a right way to go about this and a wrong way.


Example 1: I recently downloaded a major research company’s “eLearning Overview,” because I was curious to see an example of their work and to find out what they have to say about eLearning. Maybe the resource would be of value to you all, too, and I could save you the time by reading it first and linking to it.


Well, I can save you the time. Other than an introductory paragraph that said nothing new about what elearning is, the rest of the document was a list of their fee-based research on various aspects of elearning.


Clearly, they titled the report to pull me in; nevermind that it’s relationship to the contents was tangential at best. A better title? “Available [company name] Research Reports on eLearning.” Would I have downloaded it? Maybe. If I had, I would have known what I was getting. And isn’t meeting customers’ expectations part of most companies’ mission statements?


Am I tempted to contact the salesperson and tell him how insulted I am to be lured into downloading a pure sales pitch instead of something useful? Yes.


But I won’t. Instead, if we choose to use their services in the future, I’ll watch them like a hawk to be sure they are accurate, ethical, and transparent. Because so far my experience with them has been anything but.


Example 2: A different white paper I downloaded was about using Webinars for online training. In this case I was alerted right away to the fact that the paper was “prepared for” a major Web conferencing company. That’s to be expected.


Maybe curiosity killed the cat, but it can sometimes make a human being all the wiser. I Googled the company that produced the report and found out they are in the business of producing Web events.


I now knew I had to read the report with a jaded eye: they had an ulterior motive with the white paper, which was to attract more customers. Despite the title, which implied the paper would consider all forms of “interactive online training,” only a couple of lines suggested other options exist that might serve some content better. That was it. The rest of the paper discusses the benefits of Web conferencing. It includes how to get started, which it promised, but did so only within the narrow confines of the type of online learning that the producers of the white paper are in business to provide.


Moral of the story:  Consider the source. Who stands to benefit the most from what’s contained in the white paper (or Webinar, or other resource)? How would the content differ if it had been produced by someone independent from that company or industry? Take what is relevant and helpful to you, and leave the rest.


Have you found valuable and unbiased white papers, Webinars, or other resources on the topic of elearning? If so, I hope you’ll share them with us!


3 Responses to “More on White Papers as Lead Generators”

  1. […] are differences between giving away information free as thinly disguised come-ons (see my post on White Papers as Lead Generators) and offering something of genuine value for little or no […]

  2. The part that always gets me is the “free”. If I have to give you information in exchange for downloading the paper, it’s not free anymore, is it? Might not cost me money, but it costs my time and attention when you call and (eventually) more time to get off your list. Blech.

  3. Ellen said

    Susan — We’re on the same page on this! If the white paper’s content is of value to me, I don’t mind providing my contact info to get it. But let me provide e-mail contact only, if that’s what I prefer. Because I’m on the road full-time now, I don’t provide a phone number because I don’t want to spend my phone time with sales solicitations. So those forms requiring a phone number don’t get my business anymore — all that requiring something be in the field tempts me to do is fill in something phoney. Not good for anyone.

    And to really belabor the point, I believe it all comes back to the switch that has occurred from providing customer service to exploiting customer business.

    What a world!

    Thanks so much for reading the aLearning Blog and for your comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: