White papers—or written, research-driven educational resources—are some of the most commonly utilized marketing assets for B2B lead generation. By helping prospects solve their most pressing problems, white papers have consistently proven that consumers are willing to give away highly-guarded contact information in exchange for a valuable offer.

But creating a valuable offer is only half the battle. The other half? Promotion. If concerted efforts are not made to place that offer in front of the right audience’s eyes at the right times, it will never achieve its full lead generation potential. Unsatisfactory results often cause marketers to believe their content is ineffective—perhaps due to the wrong subject matter or poor quality—but more often than not, content is underperforming due to under-promotion.

Promotion is Crucial

It’s more difficult now than ever before to get your content seen and heard. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70 percent of B2B marketers are producing more content this year than last year. Consumers are simply inundated with content everywhere they look—and if they’re not looking at yours, they’re probably looking at your competitor’s.

When it comes to promoting gated offers like white papers, promotion can be a tough nut to crack. PPC is typically not cost-effective for landing pages with forms, display and social ads probably won’t drive the quantity of leads you desire and amplification tools may leave you yearning for better qualified leads. Referral traffic from earned coverage is certainly nice to have, but unfortunately difficult to come by. So what white paper promotion options can B2B marketers count on for driving qualified leads consistently?

Leverage Existing Audiences

The answer lies in leveraging existing audiences that are primed for consuming your content. Your top priority should be accessing the people for which your content has an appealing value proposition—or in other words, is a good fit. There are two sure-fire ways to do this: publications and content distribution platforms.


To promote your white paper, you can go directly to the publishers that have the trust and viewership of the audiences you want to reach. Many B2B industry publications now offer white paper lead generation options for sponsors.

How it Works

Promotion contracts often take multi-channel approaches that incorporate sponsored articles, email, social media, display ads, or some combination of the above. Costs are typically determined on either a cost-per-lead (CPL) basis or by a standard monthly charge. In most CPL cases, publishers will allow you to filter out leads that aren’t a good fit, and consequently pay for only the leads you approve. Once the contract’s lead limit is reached or the monthly period is over, the publisher will send an invoice for payment.

A Word of Caution

Leveraging publications for promoting white papers can be a sure-fire way to get qualified, targeted eyes on your content. Rigid cost structures also make this tactic relatively easy to budget for—and easy to compare against others. However, lack of ownership in the lead generation process, especially after a contract is signed, can tend to take away control and flexibility from marketers. If this is the case for you, it may be worthwhile to look into sponsored articles, which would allow you to promote an offer via a link within a native article, assuming that article meets the publication’s editorial standards. The Media Buyer’s Guide to Sponsored Content outlines a simple six-step process for targeting, buying, and measuring the value of sponsored articles.

Marketers should be aware that white paper hubs and sponsored content typically take back seat roles on publications when compared to true native content. It can be startlingly difficult to come across sponsored white papers on many publications that host them—even if you’re looking for them—so make sure you do some research beforehand.

Some digital marketing publications that offer white paper promotion contracts include Content Marketing Institute, ClickZ, Search Engine Watch, Business2Community, Search Engine Land, and Marketing Land.

Content distribution platforms

A second way to leverage existing audiences primed for content consumption is by working with an established content distribution platform, such as NetLine. With more than 20 years of experience, the platform is one of the industry’s most reputable content distribution options. It provides marketers with all-in-one access to a huge network of publications and saves time by allowing them to cast a wider net.

How it Works

Economies of scale presented by a platform that processes more than 300,000 leads per month also allows for a significantly lower cost per lead, even after filters are applied. A multi-channel approach provides touch points through more than just publications; newsletters, social media groups, mobile apps, and RSS feeds are all built in to the platform, too. A centralized portal even allows marketers to manage content promotion campaigns all in one place with an added degree of control: the ability to start and stop campaigns at will. Finally, NetLine’s proprietary software automatically optimizes campaigns through three levels of sophisticated targeting: context, attribute, and conversion.

A Word of Caution

Altogether, content distribution platforms like NetLine allow content marketers to take a much more “hands-on” approach to large-scale, multi-channel promotion. Yet, some minor disadvantages remain: the need to protect its own competitive advantage causes a lack of transparency as to exactly where the leads are coming from (e.g. what publication, social network, or newsletter), and certain channels like email and sponsored articles are not available because the platform does not own the audiences it promotes to.

Truly effective content promotion calls for a mixed, multi-channel approach. But when it comes to your white papers, a little extra care (and investment) may be necessary. Social promotion and amplification tools likely won’t be enough to drive the quality and quantity of leads you desire, so it’s critical to begin considering some less conservative methods. This is where publications and content distribution platforms come into play.

To learn more about holistic B2B content promotion strategies, check out Chad Pollitt’s new Content Promotion Manifesto.