Tressa Sloane

Companies have many tools at their disposal when it comes to generating leads and informing customers, and among the most successful at bringing in results are marketing whitepapers and eBooks. Often provided as downloadable assets, these long-form types of content are used to equip readers with more detailed information, usually on their path to purchase.

In fact, research from Demand Gen Report found that among B2B buyers, 51 percent use content during their research process to determine whether they will buy a product or service. Additionally, of those buyers, 82 percent read whitepapers, and 67 percent downloaded eBooks to help make their purchasing decision.

Both whitepapers and eBooks are excellent ways to boost leads and help prospects throughout the buyer’s journey, but they often don’t appeal to the same type of audience. Depending on what a potential customer is searching for, you want to make sure you’re giving them the right information through the right asset.

But which type of content is ideal for which situation? Read our tips below for guidance on when to use a whitepaper versus when to use an eBook.

When you want to provide detailed industry analysis and thought leadership

Use a whitepaper.

Whitepapers, which are usually between 1,000 to 3,000 words in length, have more than enough space to dive deep into a topic and provide thorough analysis. And this is often how companies use them.

Did your business recently conduct a study on one of its product or services? Or did you release a report on the current market or sector trends? Then develop a whitepaper to highlight and expand upon the data, as well as provide actionable insight on what you are presenting.

By creating an in-depth, analytical piece of content, your brand is better suited to be viewed as a thought leader in your industry. The Demand Gen Report revealed that 96 percent of those surveyed stated they want more insights from thought leaders and experts in the content they read. And a whitepaper is the perfect method for your company to showcase its industry knowledge.

When you want more straight, to-the-point content

Use an eBook.

If you’re looking to present information that is more straightforward and can be easily conveyed in a concise format, aim for an eBook. With each page conveying a single idea or topic, readers are able to quickly digest information and move on to the next idea. If you know your potential leads won’t be willing or ready to read an entire whitepaper, and that you can break down the information into smaller chunks, an eBook is the best asset to go with.

When you want to educate your audience

Use a whitepaper.

As stated above, whitepapers are a key tool for establishing your business as a thought leader, but don’t forget about educating your prospects on your product or service. Visitors are coming to your site for a reason – they are searching for information about what you sell, and you want to be sure you’re equipped with the assets to give them just that.

Think about your buyer personas and where they are in the sales funnel. Who prefers more detailed information that explores a certain topic and are likely to respond positively to that format? Create a whitepaper that not only answers your persona’s questions, but provides them with information they came to your brand to find.

When you want to engage your prospects

Use an eBook.

Whitepapers can provide engagement for readers, but it’s really eBooks that boost any company’s customer engagement strategy. If you are looking to connect more effectively with your visitors, create an eBook.

Again, keep your buyer personas in the forefront – gear eBooks toward those who want more informal language and who want to feel like a friend to the brand. Establishing this type of personal relationship from the very beginning helps tremendously in boosting engagement and retention once you’ve generated the lead. Customers who feel more engaged by a brand are likely to spend more, according to research from Gallup. Start by creating an eBook that focuses on a positive and meaningful experience to boost engagement and your lead generation efforts.

Effective and exciting eBooks engage your prospects and encourage them to convert.
Effective and exciting eBooks engage your prospects and encourage them to convert.

When you want to build trust

Use a whitepaper.

Your company can churn out all the content it wants, but if you are not establishing trust with your prospects through your assets, your lead generation efforts will flounder. To gain trust, not only with potential customers but within your industry as well, use whitepapers to reach your goal.

One way they help in this regard is that they are not overly pushy – they serve as analytical content, not sales materials. People are more likely to trust a business that isn’t eager to sell a product or service, but instead answers questions and provides solutions.

Showcasing your expertise and knowledge goes a long way in building trust with your leads – if you are offering detailed analysis and thought leadership, prospects are more likely to view to your business as a trusted source of information and return to you for future needs.

If you’re not establishing trust through your whitepapers, your lead gen efforts will flounder.

When visuals help convey the message

Use an eBook.

If you have data or a topic that lends itself to strong visual elements, then an eBook is your best bet. As eBooks use a more conversational tone, you can create exciting and effective images that make the most important information stand out to readers.

In fact, content that contains images garners 94 percent more views than content without visual pieces, according to QuickSprout. If you want to make your data truly stand out from the competition, work with a design team to choose the best stats and other images that can accompany your copy to create an effective eBook.

Of course, the idea of whitepapers versus eBooks, and how they are used for various purposes, is not so strictly defined. But no matter which they prefer, the audience is looking for something specific. And you want to be sure you’re providing these prospects with the information they want, or you’ll risk turning them off from your brand.